The last post dealt with my suspicion of long-term planning. It’s true, I don’t put much faith in the ability of anyone to commit to anything too long-term (and rightly so). However, that need not imply that I do not support any sense of getting things done and carrying on. Indeed, I think that even in the face of chaos, one must simply carry on getting those things done which need doing. The ability to keep going when there is seemingly no end to things going wrong, or when there is little to no chance of harvesting a desired outcome, is what defines the best of humans. The act of going beyond what one personally sees fit to undertake at any given moment, is the truest mark of character in my eyes. This is a kind of discipline which has withered in a world where giving up has become so very ordinary.
Now, I do not pretend to be any kind of expert when it comes to discipline myself, but not so long ago the Winter Olympics wrapped up in South Korea, and I was reminded just how far steely discipline can get you. Top athletes train relentlessly not because they necessarily think of gold medals every single day, but I believe, because they have devoted themselves to a certain level of discipline which carries them from one place to another and which ultimately defines their careers. Naturally, we all know of those cases where something often referred to as “talent” shows up without any notice and a given sportsperson is able to achieve great heights without much effort at all. I happen to not believe in talent and therefore I’d venture to say that what we recognize as talent is simply the pairing of inborn tendencies with acute discipline. Even the best of the best have to practice.
Writing is a discipline that I long to excel at. That is to say, I long to excel at the discipline of writing. I’m actually not too bothered about how the writing is received or if it constitutes “good” writing…but I ache for control over that inner drive which tells me to sit down and write. In its place, that force in me has been replaced with compulsion. I write every single day, but not because I’m incredibly disciplined or because I understand the value of hours spent fine-tuning one’s craft. No, I write because I cannot do the opposite. I write because it is the one activity that I feel I can do amidst the burning city. Now all that’s needed is for me to apply that compulsion with the discipline needed to finish what I start, to not be afraid of the blank page, and to persevere. I once heard that FINISHED is better than PERFECT. I’m just not convinced. Finished and perfect would be a perfect combination, but if I have to choose one, I’ll go with perfect. I’d rather read three-quarters of a perfect novel than a mediocre finished one.
So one of my goals going forward is to focus more on the act of discipline. Giving myself the permission to boss myself around. Maybe there is something to finishing that beats perfection, but until I reach the finish line, I’ll never know.