Perfe-malism v. The Writing Life

I am a perfectionist and a minimalist. Being a perfectionist is hard work. Being a minimalist is hard work. Especially when one is a perfectionist, a minimalist, and a writer.

Perfectionism: a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.

Minimalism: a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity

There is a ton of writing advice, tips, articles, and whatnot out there on the world wide web, in books about writing, books of writing, videos, movies, and just about any place you can think of.

One endeavor I’ve been meaning to accomplish for probably more than five years now is to congregate all the best writing advice I’ve come across in a single three-ring binder so that I’ll always have the best information on my desk always.

The problem is that that’s a horrible way to be a writer.

I read Heather Sellers’ “Page After Page” and Dani Shapiro’s “Still Writing” and they’re, for me, an uncombined bible of the writerly school of thought and ways. Every time I read just a little excerpt from one of their books, I get this artistic aura about myself.

The artist’s craft is unlike any other art form or work of any kind.

An engineer is bound by the unbendable rules of mathematics, algebra, calculus (or whatever they use) to design and build structures.

A store manager is bound by the rule book that the corporate managers give him or her.

A lawyer is literally held to the laws of the land to prove others guilt or innocent according to the laws of the land.

Perhaps I am being shortsighted in my examples, but what I’m saying is that writers have the ability and the freedom to mess up and try different things.

Can you imagine if an engineer decided to try experimenting making a building without a level or if a store manager decided to experiment running a store for a week without ever cleaning the store or if a lawyer tried changing the wording of some laws so he could win a case?

It just cannot be done!

But writers have the ability and the freedom to write whatever they, however they want, in whatever order they want, and why ever they want.

So, I came to this realization (which I’ve probably had in years past, but I wanted to share it with you this time) that being a minimalist and/or perfectionist in the area of learning how to write and being a writer is a losing battle.

Sure, there are some core truths about structure, dialogue, character, and plot that you can stow somewhere.

But don’t let all this “great story-writing tips and advice” collecting bog your actual writing down.

You are writer. You are a pioneer of the human mind and all its frontiers. That is a world only a small percentage of all people of all time have ever braved. Those who don’t brave it, call those who do brave it “crazies.”

Remember Bilbo Baggins and all the crazy they said he was for leaving the Shire on some adventure? In the same way, you must be a pioneer of the mind and forget about the rules sometimes and just climb a mountainrange of the creative imagination just because its there and you’re curious.

In the closing words of a commencement speech given by one of earth’s greatest creative geniuses…

– Steven Paul Jobs, 1955 – 2011