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Loving the Imperfect

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” ― Edgar Allan Poe

A fellow author recently asked me about Dunnigan, “. . .but are you happy with it?” My knee-jerk response was basically, “Yes, I got to a point with it where I was content.”A nagging sense of imperfection reared its head again and again as I completed the title. My mom often tells a story about getting a note from one of my teachers. It went something like, “Jenna does well, but she works really slow because she tries to get everything perfect and erases or starts over when she thinks something isn’t exactly right.” Well, kind teacher lady, some things never change.

I thought those feelings might go away once I finished the first draft, but unfortunately, that was when I had the unpleasant task of revisiting all of the garbage (yes, garbage) that I had put down on the pages. Even worse, other people had to read that which was, in my mind, barely fit for human consumption. I never took it personally when early readers pointed out the flaws in my story, I was thankful. After all, I did ask for their feedback and desired to make the story as good as possible. How else was I going to do that without criticism?

A lot of changes happened from the first draft to the final manuscript. I cut twenty thousand words, rearranged chapters, and the title was changed (multiple times). I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel when I received my proof copies. I sent them out to a new batch of readers, and I took one for myself- red pen in hand. That’s when it happened. I was perusing the pages trying desperately to find any glaring errors. Guess what? I did! I don’t remember where, but there was a line in which I incorrectly used “waist” and “waste.” I got cold feet all over again. There I was with an approaching publication deadline, events on the calendar, and no time to waist waste! Thankfully I received plenty of encouragement leading up to publication. I combed over the details as many times as possible until I finally had to accept that it was as complete as I could make it and I set the story free.

Some public debate may still remain as to whether or not I produced a readable story. As recently as today, I had to be reminded, that’s OK! Perfectionism may not always pay, especially in creative efforts. Writing continues to vex the perfectionist within me. However, I continue to learn from writing that allowing the fear of imperfection to paralyze me also robs me of the joy of writing. Especially to those who are writing, I say, do not let the fear of writing imperfectly keep you from writing. Let us all strive not to let the fear of being imperfect keep us from achieving that of which we are capable.

I’ve come to believe that never making mistakes is impossible, catching them all is a dream, and the only way to prevent them is to leave the paper blank. - Thomas Perry

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