Trying to make it perfect… or, revision frustration

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The perfect shot shouldn’t have been all that difficult. I followed the striking black and yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterfly around the yard, sneaking up with camera in hand whenever he fluttered within range and settled on a plant. But I barely had a chance to locate him in the viewfinder before he skittered away again… always a little too fast for me, even with my new zoom lens. I snapped more failed shots than I like to admit, until finally I gave up and traded the camera for a book.

A few minutes later movement yanked my attention from the page. There was the butterfly, flitting from blossom to blossom on a rhododendron bush almost within arm’s reach. Afraid to let him out of my sight, I grabbed the camera from the patio table and leaned over to capture the photo. He obliged me by remaining still long enough to capture my perfect shot… except, when I uploaded it onto the computer I discovered the exasperating truth – it wasn’t perfect at all. The photo was fine; this time it was the butterfly that was flawed.

 

So often my writing disappoints me in a similar way. I try for the perfect words, sometimes struggling until I fling myself out of the chair in frustration. It’s after a break when I’ve cleared my mind and returned to face the page with resignation that words surprise me. They slip effortlessly onto the page, and I finish the session with a glow of satisfaction. It’s finally perfect.

The glow lasts until the scrutiny of revision, or someone’s critique, when the flaws are discovered. It was almost right, but not quite. Not perfect after all.

It’s at that moment I’m tempted to discard the whole thing.  Perseverance is hard. When all the effort proves ineffective, persistence seems futile. In such moments I remember the butterflies.

The next day they were back, and one hovered over that same rhododendron. I watched as he floated lightly onto a blossom and stayed there, wings outstretched. He stayed while I stepped into my shoes, stayed while I found the camera, stayed when I opened the patio door and stayed as I cautiously approached. It was as if he were urging me not to give up but try again. I tried, and this time was rewarded.

Every successful writer I know says, “Never give up.”

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“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement
as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Romans 15:4 NLT
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