And then there is churning…

I am what is called a “defeated perfectionist.” As opposed to an full-throated perfectionist—a perfectionist’s perfectionist—I can live with imperfection. It galls me, of course, as it does all perfectionists, but I’ve learned to sigh loudly and get on with things.

I realize that nothing is perfect short of God. Certainly, there are no perfect books, although some come close. (Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See comes to mind.)

But one step short of perfection is excellence, and that is what I strive for. Excellence. It’s a measurable and a somewhat achievable goal, although in the world of art, where novel writing exists, it is highly subjective.

Still. We writers seek it.

I’ve heard actors say they can’t watch the movies they’ve made; they see too many mistakes and too many parts they might have played differently. Writing is the same. Whenever I go back to review something I’ve published, I find myself wishing I had tweaked this sentence this way or used that word another way. And occasionally I find a really stupid mistake like churning milk rather than cream.

Stupid. Really stupid. Someone who grew up visiting her grandmother’s farm should know better.

But mistakes actually serve a good purpose. They spur us on to further excellences. Mistakes teach us and groom us and shape our writing into ever more well-crafted works. So, in a strange way, I am grateful for mistakes.

Mistakes leaves me room to grow.

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