My decision almost felt un-American. The subject had all the ingredients for a moving account of military sacrifice. Instead, it felt dead. For a moment, I sat considering my reaction and then realized the writing was too much perfected… too overwritten. Words marched across the page in correct order, subjects agreeing with verbs, punctuation behaving like traffic cops, telling us when to go, when to pause, when to stop. The essay read like homework for an English class – grammatically correct – but like cold marble, it had no life.
Japanese art doesn’t strive for perfection, I’m told. Given the beauty of their work, that’s difficult to believe. But if the theory is correct, somewhere in each piece is a small imperfection meant to reflect its human creator.
We are not gods. Perfection may awe us, but what touches us are imperfections. We can identify with those.
I don’t know what makes words breathe life into a page. I’d be a better writer if I did. But I do know good writing requires more than a topic of the heart. It must reverberate with feeling. It must draw blood. That passion… that imperfection… gives art its life.