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.

~

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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What colours your writing?

There are bits of unexpected colour everywhere right now. They brighten up an ordinary landscape that’s in transition between seasons.

There are other colours turning up this month, but on houses, inside and out. Purple and lime green Christmas decorations. Teal and orange. Even black and gold. I’ve seen them in recent magazine spreads. “Our decorations are designed to complement the style of the house, not compete with it,” said one set of homeowners. Their rooms look very festive – so glamorous and glitzy.

Although I prefer more traditional colour schemes to the modern ones, I love all the seasonal sparkle. This year we have little white lights on our tree, tucked into garlands across the mantels, over the kitchen cupboards and wound around the railing on our back deck. They’re magical.

For years our trees were a happy jumble of decorations – heirlooms from our parents, others handmade by our children, and some gifted by friends More recently we’ve had a few themed trees. My favourite for a while was wintry white with snowflakes, glass snowballs, frosted pinecones. I added a few new white baubles each year and a snowy white wreath over the fireplace. We hung large snowflakes in the windows and sprayed artificial frost around the edges. Then I began to realize I wasn’t improving anything. In fact, what I was missing was colour.

We didn’t take away the snowflakes but added a few red baubles in various textures and some of the more meaningful old ones. They and a strategically located poinsettia or two changed the atmosphere by bringing a welcome warmth into the room.

There’s a correlation between decorating a home and creating a fictional world. Haven’t you ever noticed how one piece of writing may be sterile while another is as rich as a tapestry? What makes the difference?

How do you add colour to your writing?

~

Bauble photo by Kittisak

The Squint Test, or Tolerating the Imperfect

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.

.

This 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 just 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 out 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 leaves a darkened gap right in the middle. But we don’t have any family coming to visit this Christmas so no one else will see it.  Later when we’re putting everything back into storage we’ll discard that string so we don’t forget and try to use it again 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.

.

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?

.