Perfection in Fiction? I don’t think so.

Michael Cunningham, author of “The Hours,” one of my favorite novels, has written an essay in the New York Times about writing and reading. All novelists must read! Here’s the link: Found In Translation. It’s a truthful, heartfelt look inside the author’s intentions and disappointments.

I often say that I’m into completion, not perfection. Especially in writing. Perfection will kill you. Because it does not exist and the sooner that is understood, the sooner sanity will rule. However I also often wish I was more into perfection; I could surely be a better writer. I know I can write, well, if not a perfect novel, one that is closer to perfect. One that fulfills that dream inside my head of what this story is really about. But this line from Michael Cunningham made me feel better about myself: “A novel, any novel, if it’s any good, is not only a slightly disappointing translation of the novelist’s grandest intentions, it is also the most finished draft he could come up with before he collapsed from exhaustion.”

It wasn’t exhaustion because I was only halfway through my new novel but I stopped writing for the summer. No doubt a horrible mistake. Now I have to get going again, get that story back in my head. But I did it, I was busy, I moved and am still unpacking stuff that I now sincerely regret ever seeing in a store, let alone buying and bringing home and moving from home to home over the years. My new study is painted a luscious apricot color and the desk is almost clear enough to use. A couple weeks ago I was visiting my mother and telling her what my new book is about. And lo and behold, in telling her I figured out what it’s really about! So sometimes the break is a good thing. Now to figure out how to write the perfect novel. The first ever. Sigh. Or just the very best translation of the movies in my head. Now that’s a little more sane.

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