Saturday, December 18, 2010
As we come to the end of a year I turn philosophical. New Years is my favorite holiday. For me, it symbolizes a time to reflect on what you’ve done and learned over the past year. Each year my resolution is the same: to do slightly better (I don’t seem capable of large change; like many individuals incremental change is a more realistic goal).
What I’ve been reflecting on this morning is how hard some of push ourselves. Yet no one can ever reach that stage of being flawless or perfect.
In writing a novel a flawless or perfect character would be boring and readers would have a difficult time connecting. Flawlessness, ultimately, is boring. Unapproachable, and unsympathetic. Rather, when learning to write you are instructed to provide small, quirky and distinguishing characteristics …. and flaws. At its worst, this direction reads artificial. We’ve all gotten lost in writing class novels; so full of cute details that a narrative never gels. Vladimir Nabokov, more masterful than most of us, is able to distinguish Pnin, a seemingly undistinguished man. Nabokov subtly builds a world around this professor who initially seems so uninteresting and sadly comical. I read the book over twenty years ago yet it sticks with me, as does the touching character who becomes more (with less) as the novel unfolds. Indeed, even Nabokov’s more famous Humbert Humbert is drawn more by his obsession than his character. The flaws stick with us.
My point? Subtly; not overkill. Accepting imperfection; no, rather embracing it. Each flaw can endear someone as flawless, in its coldness and unapproachably, never can. Why do so many of us thus still aim for perfection (and in our worst manifestation punish ourselves for not achieving it).
I pushed myself too hard this year. When I do that some things – important or not – fall by the weigh side. Perhaps this year my resolution will not be to do slightly better but rather to accept when I don’t do better. To truly accept myself.