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Embracing Imperfection

One of the first lessons you learn as a writer is to murder your darlings, which is not meant to detach us writers from falling in love with our words so much as it is for us to realize that sometimes, we need to get rid of something we love to make things better.

That's not exactly what I want to talk about today, but it's close. Something that's difficult for me, especially in my early stages of working on a project is embracing imperfection. Keeping things pristine was highly valued in my household. As a kid, I wasn't allowed to dog-ear my books or draw on the walls or even leave toothpaste in the sink. So when I first started writing, I kept trying to write that perfect first page, to doublecheck all my spelling and grammar and punctuation before I'd move onto page 2. Guess what? I didn't get very far.

For me, writing is 2% inspiration, 8% drafting, and 90% revising. That drafting stage is my ultimate least favorite because it's the messy stage. It's the stage that goes against everything that I hold dear (structure and neatness--in my word documents, anyway). We all want to be like Mozart, who banged out one draft for many of his pieces and made minimal revisions. But we're not Mozart, and great as it would be to write a masterpiece in one draft, that takes away the beauty of the writing journey, and all the pain and sweat and tears that goes into making something you're really proud of.

When I get a story idea, I can usually envision the novel from start to finish. I might not know the details or how I get from start to finish, but I know it's there. The idea is sparkling in my imagination, and it's yearning to be written and fleshed out. So why, when I sit at my computer and start typing, does it not come out all sparkly and shining as it is in my head? That can get really really frustrating, especially when we writers run into "plot holes" and the curse of "too much backstory."

But you know what? Imperfection is OKAY, especially in our early drafts. Hell, I would say it's more than okay. It's necessary. Because it's more important to get those words down and have something you can shape rather than try to bang out a perfect, perfect draft.

There's a word in Japanese for it -- wabi-sabi -- which celebrates the beauty of things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Think on that for a second. Then see how you can relate it to your drafting and editing.

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