Quick baseball fact: when a batter reaches first base on an error or on a “fielder’s choice,” it is not counted as a hit in the game’s official statistics. I learned this recently, and it sort of blew my mind. Baseball is one of the only sports that holds each individual player up to the standard of perfection.
I understand why, but I don’t like it. There’s one thing that’s been hardest for me to learn in my short foray into adulthood, and it is this: perfection does not exist.
A few years back (before I started writing) I was watching a movie and had what, for me, was a kind of epiphany: the movie could have been made differently. Other actors could have been cast, scenes combined or eliminated. I had always thought of movies, books, television shows, works of art as finished things. Unquestionable. Conclusive. Established. That’s the reason I never imagined myself being an author when I was young. How could I create something like that? Something so inviolable? There was hardly any point in trying.
But of course, that idea couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every man-made creation is flawed. And when it comes to books and other forms of art, the flaws are some of the best parts. The understanding that, in art, perfection is totally non-existent (and only blowhards would say otherwise) was so freeing. I began to find imperfection everywhere, even in the movies and books that I loved. It gave me the courage to try writing myself.
How much more interesting is the world when you can constantly be thinking about why some things are presented in certain ways, or how they could be presented differently? How much BETTER is something great when it has withstood artistic critique? And I’m not just talking about The New York Times Book Review, here. New York Magazine’s Gossip Girl episode recaps can be every bit as insightful and vicious as Michiko Kakutani.
It’s freeing to understand that imperfection is all around us. That our books, our blogs, our tweets, our newspapers could all be different. Better, worse, more poetic, more complex. The world is full of people just trying to get it as right as possible. That’s what makes it fun to keep trying, right?
What about you? Did you put books and authors on a pedestal when you were young, too? Do you have other favorite book/movie/t.v./art review outlets on-line you can point me to?