faith+culture | books | consistent life ethic

Unleashed: Or, The Perfect vs. The Good

The perfect truly is the enemy of the good. I started this blog in a flush of ambition, full of ideas and sure of a robust posting schedule. I wouldn’t even need to schedule myself, because I’d have content just flowing out of my fingertips. In fact, I’d need to hold it back!

Now, nearly four months later, I have two half-formed drafts and two hundred Twitter followers to show for all my bluster. “I’m a blogger,” I lie. I want it to be true.

I’ve decided to un-leash myself here. It’s a funny word, “unleash” – we talk about “unleashing creativity” without really thinking about what the leash is. What is creativity being released from? What leash pulls taut at its neck, holding it back from chasing cars and cats? For me, at least one heavy rope on my collar is perfectionism. Always I keep in view the standard I’m capable of, and if I’m not meeting that standard, I feel like I might as well not be trying at all.

I must warn you, dear reader, that I am an unreliable narrator. “The standard I’m capable of” is a construct, an assumption I do not interrogate nearly often enough. What I really mean is “the standard I am theoretically capable of attaining in a vacuum.” Many things affect my ability beyond, well, my raw ability. What other demands do I have on my time and attention? What are my emotional resources? And how much do I really want to do this?

Well, reader, if “this” is “lit essays tracing symbols of recurring themes in a YA fantasy novel,” the answer is…a little bit? Yeah, I want a little bit of that. It feels cozy and a little disorienting, like walking through the early morning fog on my alma mater’s campus nearly a decade after graduating, like I am both in my element and displaced from it. Scribbling pages of notes on a novel’s development of motifs or relationship arcs feels exhilarating, like I’m connecting all the dots and constructing meaning out of thin air.

Still, when I go to write, the cursor on a blank page blinks like a telltale heartbeat.

You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.

You won’t, you won’t, you won’t.

And after a few sentences that never quite snap into place, I reach for Twitter instead because that’s part of this work too, isn’t it? Networking, building a following?

Or is it joining a community? Ah, there we are, my reader, we are closer to the “this” of “do I really want to do this.” Because if “this” were just literary analysis or academic reviews, I would be querying Real Publications and amassing bylines. Why did I want to blog in the first place? I wanted a place to put my big thoughts and feelings, sure. But I could have just started a diary for that. What I really wanted – what I want – is to feel connected to other humans with big thoughts and feelings of their own. What I want is you, my dear reader.

If this whole endeavor is about connection and not performance, if it’s about *us* and not just about me, then I don’t have to be on perfection’s leash. I don’t have to craft a glorious essay every time I post, because then I will NEVER POST. I just have to communicate.

Screenwriter William Nicholson’s C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands, “We read to know we are not alone.” I’ve always described my lit degree as “reading books and talking about them,” which also describes my job as a public librarian. What better framing, then, for a blog about books: We read – and write – to know we are not alone.

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