November is my least favorite month. Yes, it is punctuated by Thanksgiving, which is a wonderful and quintessential American holiday. And yes, it has Veterans Day, another lovely American holiday to celebrate the brave men and women of our armed forces. Yet, here in upstate New York, the seasons have changed and the glorious and electric colors of October have given way to the drab, leafless blah of late November. The temperatures have dropped, yet our spirits have not yet soared with the anticipation of Christmas that December brings.
This past November was filled with even more challenges. The whole family—my wife, the kids, and I—passed around germs and spent most of the month sick. So that’s a partial explanation of why this is the solitary blog post of November 2021 on this blog. The other reason is that perfection is the enemy of the good. We want these posts to be as perfect—and enjoyable—for you, our readers, as possible. Sometimes that yearning for perfection leads to procrastination or fear of getting started.
What Are We Striving For?
We should all have ideals that we are striving for. Whether those ideals be justice, love, kindness, generosity, bravery, punctuality, or any other virtue, we all need a “perfection” to try to reach, knowing we won’t perfectly reach it while in this imperfect world.
Some would say, isn’t it pointless to strive for an ideal that one can never fully achieve? Why bother trying to reach the ideal of generosity, for example, knowing that one will fail and fail again. Yet, it’s kind of like learning to play a musical instrument. When one learns to play the violin, for example, it’s very easy to make mistakes and to fail to reach the ideal of a concertmaster’s seeming perfection. Yet even Joshua Bell or Mark O’Connor make a mistake now and then … or have trouble learning a new piece. However, it’s clearly easier for the concertmaster to play his or her instrument after years of practice. Something akin to perfection in this area is attainable with much work.
Shooting For the Moon
The point is that we strive to be as perfect as possible, holding out perfection as an unattainable goal that will guide us toward the greatest form of “perfection” that we can reach at a given moment. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” (Norman Vincent Peale).
Being an author is a lot like this. One should certainly dream big—of bestsellers, awards, even Nobel Literature prizes. Yet at a certain moment, pen needs to hit paper, fingers need to hit keyboard keys, and the magic of a first draft must be given room to blossom. Yet the real writing is usually in the revision. A first draft typically never sees the light of day.
She Must Be Loved
This is certainly true of In the Shadows of Freedom, which looked and felt very, very differently in its original form. For starters, it was for several years entitled, She Must Be Loved, the meaning of the protagonist’s name, Amanda. And as alluded to in previous blog posts, the dystopian political nature of the novel was originally absent with more of a superhero style battle between good and evil in its stead.
Often it’s best to iterate and then revise. To draft and then perfect. In writing, as in life, the first time around is usually not the best. Like the sculptor’s chisel, we must chip away at life with the end in mind—the beautiful statue in the sculptor’s case and the well-lived life in everyone’s case. If we keep perfecting our craft, whether that be the art of writing, the art of music, or the art of living, we’ll find that—while perfection isn’t precisely attainable in this world—our work and life will be good. And that will be perfect enough for now.