Do we demonstrate a lack of respect for ourselves and our readers when we send out work we consider below par? Or are we being realistic in recognising we can’t perform at our optimum level all the time? Where do we draw the line between acceptable and sloppy, and how do we recognise such a line when we see it?
We need our standards but, as Emma Darwin points out, too much self-criticism and perfectionism is counter-productive as it stops us even trying to create. Yes, we must kill our darlings, but we mustn’t abort them before they’ve had the chance to see what they might become.
Accepting things as they are isn’t tantamount to passive resignation. It’s not the same as giving up. Yet isn’t it rather grandiose to think we have to get everything right? My blog post, along with the rest of my millions of sentences, is insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Good or bad – the universe doesn’t give a shit.
When we’re grandiose, we won’t create because we don’t want to destroy our illusions about ourselves; when we’re depressed and despairing, we won’t create because we don’t see the point. Too close to the sun or too close to the water; too high or too low; neither is the place where we get any work done.
As I commented on Emma’s blog, this struggle to find and hold a position about ourselves and our world that is neither unduly pessimistic nor unrealistically grandiose, is at the core of the object relations school of psychoanalysis. The unfortunate wording notwithstanding, the concept of good-enough is one we all recognise, and often features on writers’ blogs. Given the complexity of the path to self-acceptance, it’s useful to remind each other that we’re already there. We don’t have to perform to be good enough, we just have to be:
I’m convinced that the core of everything that is wrong on this planet is people feeling that they are not good enough. But there is nothing to prove. You don’t have to do anything.
interview of Eve Ensler by Decca Aitkenhead
I’ll leave you with a songster’s take on this theme: Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Dancer with Bruised Knees.
Please share your own thoughts on navigating around perfectionism and despair to reach good-enough. How do you balance this in relation to your own creativity? Has the journey to good-enough inspired any of your writing or been the subject of any of the fiction you’ve read?
I'll be returning with a lighter post on Monday when I'm asking how do you arrange your literary bookshelves? I hope you'll join me.