Making It Better, Making It Best


Luke Skywalker shot two proton torpedoes into a two meter-wide thermal exhaust port practically invisible in the Death Star’s equatorial trench.  If we forget about the Force for a moment, Han Solo’s assessment that it was a “one in a million” bulls-eye was probably too generous.

Sometimes writing feels like being Luke on that trench run.  It feels like the fate of the galaxy hangs on scoring that direct hit, that ideal combination of words to express a thought or to represent a reality.  Failure is not an option.

And sometimes, the Force is just not with you.  You burble some words into the blankness, but reading them over is like pulling up your fingernails.  So you delete them and try again. And again.  And again.  You tell yourself to just write anything and you can go back and make it good later.

Half an hour later you’ve still got nothing.  Then Darth Vader swoops in behind you and turns you into space bacon.

</Star Wars analogy>

Writing well depends on not settling for flabby, mediocre constructions and word choices. But attaining the paradise called “Finished” depends on working past these moments of stuckness sooner rather than later.    Or having fewer of them to begin with.  I wonder which of these solutions is more within our power?

We might start by dismantling this idea that there is a “perfect” or “best” way to phrase everything, or indeed to phrase anything.   I think if we could free ourselves from that, our pages would fill more consistently and painlessly.  And they’d still be as good as they were when we tortured ourselves squeezing them out.

There’s no way around the fact that some sentences are better than others.  But maybe “quality” doesn’t have to be that bully who intimidates us so thoroughly that we can’t focus on our work.  Maybe quality can be our buddy if we see it as a continuous spectrum with no beginning and no end.

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