Good, Not Perfect

Two years ago today, something little short of miraculous happened.

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

I witnessed the launch of my first published novel.

It wasn’t the first book I’d ever written. I started my first novel when I was fifteen and labored over it lovingly all through high school and part of college. Then one day, I knew I’d outgrown it. It was crushing to realize that it wasn’t my magnum opus, and that it wasn’t going to be published. I lovingly, sadly filed it away in the proverbial drawer. And I started work on a new book. That one ended up in the drawer too. And the next one.

And then came the book that would become The Illuminator’s Gift. Five years of writing and rewriting–by the shores of an English lake, in the middle of the night, in bed with whooping cough, in fingerless gloves on bitterly cold mornings. A book whose first draft was 100,000 words long. A book that went through at least three titles and about thirty secondary characters, half of whom never made it into the final. A book whose story I didn’t know until I finished it. In some ways, it came to me like a gift.

As I was getting close to finishing, I held long debates with myself over whether this was The Book That Ought To Be Published. I studied literature and writing in college, and I knew enough to see that this was not a perfect book. Should it end up in the drawer with all the other defunct novels? Should I wait to publish until I wrote Something Perfect?

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Well, I decided to go for it. Because I knew that this book had come to me like a gift, and a gift is meant for sharing. I also had the sneaking suspicion that if I chickened out on this book and hid it away out of a sense of fear and rampant perfectionism, I might never work up the nerve to publish anything. After all, when am I really going to write Something Perfect? When is anybody? (Okay, Tolkien excepted.)

And there’s a time to let go of Something Perfect and go forward with Something Good.

This was it.

Not that I don’t still sometimes wonder why on earth I decided to share this imperfect book with the world. (Especially the first time someone found a typo in the book.)

But when it comes down to it, I’m awfully glad I did.

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Because it started me on a path of saying yes to projects that are Good-Not-Perfect. Stuff like taking a solo roadtrip to a monastery (and nervously checking my tire pressure approximately 954 times). Like signing up to take graduate-level seminary classes. Like speaking in front of 200 fourth-graders. Like writing, editing, and publishing a second book within a year of the first (and writing a third, due out next year).

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” And as one Good-Not-Perfect project–writing, relationships, teaching–leads to another, this paradigm is shaping my life. With practice, I’m becoming better able to accept what is good in life, even if it’s not perfect. And for this life I am most deeply grateful.

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

What are some of the good-not-perfect things in your life?

2 thoughts on “Good, Not Perfect

  1. I’m so glad you shared this gift with us! What is perfect, really, anyway? (okay, other than Tolkien!) If we wait to offer our gifts to the world until they are “perfect”, the world would be sadly lacking in many, many of the blessings we enjoy each day! We are all a work in progress, and as we offer our always imperfect selves to one another we grow and learn and give and receive imperfect, but life-giving, love.

    Like

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