Perfection is in the Realm of the Creator
I feel like one of the reasons people come to this blog is for a back stage look at my life, and all the weird things that go into making it. Sometimes it’s cancer. Sometimes it’s me annoying Jaimie. Sometimes it’s me making fun of the way people park in my apartment complex.
Well, yesterday’s adventure was me making last minute edits on my book.
“But Davey, your book is done! Next week is May 1! What could you still possibly be working on??”
That’s what one would think! But here’s the thing about editing a book— you always see something new. I was texting this with my proof reader/newest friend Abby, to which she replied,”It’s wild what jumps out when a book looks like a book.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Yesterday morning I decided to do my edits at my parent’s house. The weather was going to be gorgeous and I thought it would be nice to be outside. I also felt safe doing at my parents’s house considering my father has been social distancing for the past fifteen years. Back in March when I explained to him what social distancing was he said, “Oh you just mean life?”
So at about 11 a.m. I parked my Ford Escape at the bottom of the driveway and walked up to the carport. I pulled up a chair and found a spot near the field, next to my father’s woodpile and his rose bush. I then proceeded to put the book, now in actual book form, on a music stand, pull out a pencil and the beautiful notebook given to me by my in-laws this past Christmas, opened to page one and lo and behold found my first typo.
I took a deep breath. My father was sitting on the car port with me, practicing his guitar. He was playing “Walk the Line.” I complimented him. I could tell he had been practicing. It sounded good, and was a reminder that the more you practice, the better you get. I’ve been writing every day for twenty years. I’ve gotten better too, obviously, just not better enough to get page one of my book right, but hey- there’s always hope I supposed.
I took another deep breath. Instead of flying off in a rage, instead of breaking my computer, I simply made a note to fix the mistake tomorrow. Because this thing will never be perfect. That’s not my realm. Perfection is for the creator, and I most certainly am not that.
I used to dabble in perfectionism. A road that I have thankfully avoided.
The first inklings of it started when I left Governor’s School way back in 1995.
Governor’s School was such an intense, life altering experience. I was surrounded by incredible actors and demanding teachers. That August, when I got back to regular high school, I was not messing around. Every part I had was an opportunity to dive into an Actor Prepares and Michael Chekov work. I did a production of The Foreigner with the Warehouse Theatre as part of their Greer Outreach program. I was playing the character of Ellard, a dim willed half brother who worked in a hotel in a small town in Georgia. My “character backstory” was over 20 pages long, and the reason it wasn’t fifty was because I had school I was trying not to fail.
Spring of that year I was cast in a play called Hopscotch by Israel Horowitz. It was a two person play, and I was opposite one of my dear friends, someone I literally grew up doing theatre with, the wonderfully brilliant Tara Denton Holwegner.
This was an intense piece of theatre, directed by one of the two theatre teachers at Wade Hampton, Leslie Gravett, and we went there as only highly dedicated high school actors can. We cried, we did exercises, we did trust falls. We used emotional recall and substitution theory. We answered all of Uta Hagen’s nine questions and I’m pretty sure we invented a few of our own.
The closer I got to opening, the more I wanted to be perfect. But the more I wanted to be perfect, the worse my performance became. That’s when Leslie told me that perfection wasn’t possible. And in fact, it was boring.
In the theatre we are watching humans on stage. In our flawed bodies and messed up decision making. If our characters were perfect, the plays would be very boring. It was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given. As I’ve gotten better as a performer, now I lean in to the things that my characters are doing wrong. Which is easy considering the characters I’m playing are usually me, but you get the drift.
But now I’m about to release a book unto the world. My first book, and all those fears and desires to be perfect are swirling about me once more. Not being helped by the fact that a week before the book is released I find a typo on page 1!
So today and tomorrow I’m going to fix those last little things. I’m going to make the book as perfect as it can be. And I guarantee you I am going to miss something, but to tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter. What is going to be perfect is how I felt during that time. The fear, the joy, the hope. How I saw everything. That will all be spot on. If I leave a comma dangling in the breeze, that’ll be something I just have to deal with.
Because I can’t wait for you all to read this book. That’s all I know for sure.
That’s all I know perfectly.