If you have ever birthed, held, or simply beheld a newborn child, you have glimpsed the curious simplicity of perfection. This is what we say of newborn children: She is perfect. He is perfect. To view a newborn child as perfect is effortless. To view a newborn child as imperfect requires an effort of mind, an effort that brings no reward other than to sustain the lie that something is imperfect because of what it can or cannot do.
Because the newborn child can do virtually nothing. The newborn child cannot talk or laugh or smile or sit up or walk or write a novel. The newborn child is helpless and without skill. And still we see it as perfect. We see it as perfect even as it begins to change. One moment it can only lie on its back, the next it can sit up. The child was perfect when it couldn’t sit up, and it was perfect when it could.
This reality runs in exactly the opposite direction of one of humanity’s most common and revered ideas: that we must seek perfection. We seek it through hard work, through better government, through therapy, and then through more hard work. We work and work to perfect what we do, because what we do is what we are, and the more perfect our work, the more perfect ourselves.
At what point did we cease to be perfect? At one? At thirteen? At twenty-one? When was this threshold of imperfection crossed? How is a newborn more perfect than its mother? And yet it is easier to see the newborn as perfect because it has not yet begun to describe itself as imperfect. This it will learn to do by and by.
I love to do stuff, I love to make stuff and show it to other people and have other people show me the stuff they made. This is part of the fun of being human. But to seek perfection in my work is to deny its existence. To seek it is to suggest it is not already there. Our skill does not increase our perfection, does not bring us any closer to perfection. Like the newborn, it merely expands where perfection will go.
Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.