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September 6, 2013

One of my older sisters and I look a great deal alike. When we were little our mother sometimes dressed us alike, as if we’d be more appealing as twins. But the similarities are superficial. My sister is a perfectionist and flawlessly organized, whereas my philosophy is “close enough,” “good enough,” and… “who will know?”

I was visiting this sister recently, opened a storage closet and discovered the entire set of plastic horses she got for Christmas when we were 4 and 8. The shiny black stallion reared on his molded back legs, his little chain reins still attached. In the depths of the cardboard box, the creamy palomino still wore his tiny saddle, perfectly intact from decades ago. And I thought,

That’s just wrong. So wrong.

I always return from these visits equally inspired to organize my closets and demoralized because I just don’t care enough to keep them that way past Wednesday. And my childhood toys—Scottie Dog, Big Red, and my Ginny doll— are pretty much gone. I had a bride doll for a long, long time, but then I found a box turtle and put him in the bride doll’s case for safe keeping and ruined that real estate. Permanently.

But this got me to thinking about someone’s need to keep things in perfect condition, in perfect repair. And when asked, my sister said, “I think I’m afraid that what we have today is all we’ll ever have—that we have to make what we have last forever.

Write about perfectionism.  What is the source? Fear? Control? Are those the same thing?  Start a scene with a character who insists on perfection: in a meal, a child, a lover, his own appearance, a friend’s loyalty? Or anchor a vignette in your own aspirations for perfection: who will love you more if you are flawless? What do you gain? At what price? What do you conceal? What happens when you place yourself or your character in a conflict where imperfection rules the day? A crying child? A fly in the soup? A beloved friend has told a secret? A marriage that looks enviable has fault lines running through it?  Just a scene, just a point of entry. Go.

Join me Saturday, Sept. 14th, 2013, at Maryland Hall in Annapolis for the writing workshop “Subject and Voice: New Tips.”  Call The Writer’s Center at 301-654-8664 to register.


One Comment
  1. Luanne permalink

    Lots of food for thought here. Great prompt.

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