The Squint Test and Tolerating the Imperfect

Sharing some pre-Christmas thoughts in this reprise from 2009…

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Through the years my husband has wound umpteen dozen strings of lights around our Christmas trees … and unwound them … and rewound them. It’s hard to tell if they’re perfectly spaced even when the strings are lit up, so he does “the squint test”. Peering at the tree while squinting removes all the visual distractions except the small sparkles of illumination. He likes them to be exactly right.

Last year our tree looked lovely – the treasured family heirloom ornaments glistened among our collection of snowflakes, frosted pinecones, and a few red balls for a festive touch. And then the lights went out. Actually, just one string went out – the new, supposed-to-last-for-years LED’s faded away and left the top quarter of the tree dark. Drat!!

So we un-decorated that section, removed the string and replaced it with another, and then redecorated. There. Now it was lovely again … until the next evening when another set of the lights slowly faded away to nothing, this time mid-way down the tree. To replace that string would have required removal of a great number of the decorations as well as the beaded swags, so we did some minor tweaking, rearranged a few nearby lights and then resigned ourselves to ignoring the imperfection, but it’s hard to do. You know how it is. The lights form the backdrop for all the other ornaments. This errant string left a darkened gap right in the middle. But we didn’t have any family coming to visit that Christmas, so no one else saw it.  Later when we were putting everything back into storage we discarded that string so we wouldn’t forget and try to use it again the  next year.

It’s a little like my first novel. I wanted it to be perfect but it was written before I learned what writing was meant to be. Peering critically at it reveals weaknesses. There are gaps that no amount of rearranging is going to fix. I know; I’ve tried. The underlying plot is flawed. The story needs a total rewrite but that would be more work than I think it’s worth. So I’m resigned to its imperfection and have stashed it in the dusty depths of oblivion better known as the closet. No one is ever going to see it.

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What do you do with your less-than-perfect writing efforts? Are you able to discard them or do you keep trying to make them better? How do you decide if they’re worth the effort?

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