Sixteen years ago I built a deck onto a rental house. It took time, I had never built a deck before. My tenants, two young women who were published authors, were in awe of what I was doing. They would peer out the back door from time to time and say, “That is so cool, I want to build a deck someday.” I was working to write my memoir at the time and thought, I want to publish a book someday. Instead I was wasting precious writing time with my nose in my Home Depot deck book, planning and building.
I love to write, yet it’s often hard to sit down and do it. Why is that? Could it be that life gets in the way? Sometimes. Is it fear that perhaps what I’m writing isn’t good enough? Quite possibly. And for me it has a little bit to do with the fact that I feel satisfaction when I’m using my body, so when I’m working on a blog or my book, I feel like I’m not “doing” anything, like I’m wasting time.
Of course when I’m writing I know I’m not wasting time, but the process can seem never-ending and fruitless. That perfect poem, that perfect essay, that perfect sentence, seems to elude me and there is a reason for this, nothing is ever perfect. Perfection is simply what we strive for but it’s not the real goal. The real goal is a story that can be shared. And when we get the results we want down on paper it’s the most amazing feeling in the world.
I’m working to appreciate the journey of creating a story. I remind myself daily that the pieces I write will not be perfect, just as life is not perfect. If I were the best writer in the world, in the universe, I have a feeling I wouldn’t be satisfied with my work, but I’m learning to fight the critic, fight the lows, enjoy the process and find strength in the possibility of story.
After I had cemented the posts, drilled into the foundation, attached the joists and laid the decking so many years ago, those strenuous hours cementing, sawing and hammering helped me to feel real pride, and though the finished product was far from perfect I was able to give myself a break and recognize the good.
Writing is the same. If you spend a month writing and editing a piece, you should look for the good and not expect it to be perfect. When I finished my memoir (after editing what seamed like a million times), I wanted to get it out there to help other people who were dealing with grief and recovery, so I was able to eventually let go of the need for perfection. But, like with many things, I often need a reminder.
Last week I was at the same rental house where I built the deck so many years ago waiting for a contractor to stop by to do some work. And as I sat in the back yard, on the deck that I had built when my son was only two (He will be leaving to college this year), I thought of all the writing I have done and the book that I’ve published since then. I thought of my husband and the kids we have raised. I thought of the basketball teams I have coached and the people who have become a part of my life since I built the small deck.
I remembered picking my son up from preschool and bringing him to the rental house and giving him a hammer so he could teeter from post to post and “help” me build. I noticed the faded boards and all of it’s imperfections, but most of all I saw a beautiful living space that for sixteen years, despite it’s imperfections, has been used and enjoyed.
So when you sit down to write, remember, writing (and life really) is just like building a deck. You need to put in the work, push ahead, find joy in the process and understand that it doesn’t need to be perfect to be worth doing. Get your words on the page and out into the world.
WRITING PROMPT 1: What is perfection?
WRITING PROMPT 2: Ellie decided she would…