Striving for Imperfection
When I was a young writer, I saw the written word as carefully crafted and immaculate. Writing was the transfer of knowledge from the expert to me. To be a writer, I believed I had to stand behind the lectern of perfection and enlighten my audience with flawless ideas—but such writing always eluded me. I fell repeatedly, inevitably short of my impossible ideal.
As a writer of some experience, I now know that writing is not about the transfer of perfect knowledge from experts to novices—rather, as Ken Bruffee suggested, it is about the conversation of equals. Writing is not a record of perfect ideas; instead it is a reciprocal dialogue where ideas are tested and refined. Thus all writing becomes a draft, eternally unfinished and eternally revised.
In this view of writing, I find exhilarating solace. I no longer worry whether my writing is perfectly expressed or perfectly formed. Instead, I ask myself about the soundness of my ideas. I investigate ways I might be wrong. I try to state my thoughts in ways that will spark the thoughts of others. Rather than toil over draft after draft in solitude, I happily share my raw, unpolished work for feedback. Instead of focusing on perfection, I focus on the value of revision.
My audience is no longer sitting silent in the darkness of the auditorium; they are leaning in around the table, eager to contribute. And I am eager to listen.
Writing Center Coordinator
Antioch University New England