Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Getting Started on Difficult Writing and the Concept of Perfection

Sometimes when I sit down to write I really dread it because I have a difficult problem in the poem that either requires a creative solution (i.e. a solution from the unconscious), or I know I will just have to work on a conscious level and be patient for a solution. Getting started in situations like this reminds me of working out on the elliptical cross trainer at the gym. The first 5 to 7 minutes are typically uncomfortable, but then my body hits a threshold and adjusts to the exertion. This is usually about the time I really start sweating. Around the time break a sweat my body starts relaxing into the exertion and the discomfort lessens. I imagine chemicals in my brain like endorphins start to kick in at this point. Similarly, when I am working on a difficult writing problem, if I can just hang in there while it’s uncomfortable I know that inevitably a solution will occur to me. This takes patience and a faith in myself based on past experience. Sometimes the solution is still not exactly right, but it is closer to the solution I am looking for and helps clarify the aspects of the solution I am after. Of course, sometimes you have to accept that your final solution is not perfect, just better than the solution you had before.

Speaking of the word “perfect,” this reminds me that I have a philosophical theory that there is no such thing in this world as perfection, nothing that is purely or perfectly anything. If something were indeed perfect, it would not be dynamic in any way, subject to change. It would be static. Perhaps you could describe it as sterile or dead. I view perfection like Plato’s Ideals. They are these ethereal concepts that probably exist only in our creative imaginations. If there were something perfect, it would have godlike qualities. If there is a God, perhaps he or she is perfect, but I have my doubts that God would be perfect because this world seems woefully imperfect (I can hear the angry thunder now), and I can imagine a better world that would be closer to perfection but not necessarily perfect. Doesn’t a creation reveal aspects of the creator? Doesn’t a poem reveal aspects about the poet? On the other hand, didn’t the philosopher Leibniz assert that this is the best of all possible worlds? I take this assertion to mean that perhaps for whatever reason there are limits on how perfect a functioning universe can be so that it is possible to exist. At any rate, I find it very useful in life to keep in mind that nothing is perfect. I’ve found that the belief seems to hold up, and it seems that it gives me a clearer and more reality-based view of the world. I always think about the Billy Idol song “White Wedding” regarding this line of thinking: “There is nothing safe in this world. There is nothing sure in this world. There is nothing pure in this world….” Perfection is like the concept of nothing, another concept not based in reality at all. What the hell really is nothing? Just try to describe what nothing would be like and you begin to feel inadequate and become confused very quickly. You will probably talk about nothing in terms of the absence of things that do exist. Sometimes people think of the concept of nothing as an infinite whiteness or blackness. White is a color. Black is a color. Colors are something. And what the hell does it really mean when something is infinite? Or eternal?


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Julie said...

As far as the elliptical trainer/writing problem thing goes, I have had very similar experiences. When I'm on the e-trainer, I'm uncomfortable for a few minutes, then bored for another 20, and finally, about 30 minutes in, the endorphins kick in and I feel like I could work out forever. Of course, at the end of 30 minutes my workout is usually over...Same thing with writing. I write painfully and terribly for 10 to 15, then I hit my stride and feel better. But I always want to stop--maybe because I'm scared the good feeling will end. I always want to quit while I'm ahead.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Justin Evans said...


I have just sent the money off for my chapbooks. please e-mail me your snail mail ddress. My e-mail is:

evjustin [at] yahoo [dot] com

I am not sure when they will arrive, but when they do, if they do, I can mail yours out right away.



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