Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Never Good Enough

When I was in Florida recently, I visited the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum in Winter Park. It houses the largest collection of Tiffany art in the world. My husband is a stained glass artist, and we’ve been fans of Tiffany for years.
There was a display at the Morse focusing on Tiffany the artist and his life. Included in the exhibits was Tiffany’s “sketchbook” from his first visit to Europe in 1865 when he was sixteen. Titled, “My First Visit to Europe,” it contained beautiful pencil sketches of such scenes as “Arab with Reed Instrument,” “The Baths of Caracalla—Rome” and “A Street in Chester, England.”
Let me repeat—the boy was sixteen. Maybe seventeen.
I always get depressed when I see someone else’s finely-crafted journal or scrapbook. I can create images with words—period. And never perfect the first time. If ever.
My mother-in-law used to create these beautiful scrapbooks with photographs and hand-drawings and calligraphy and give them out to family members and friends. My friend Jan is a talented writer, artist, and papermaker, and her journals are exquisite records of her life.
Me, I have journal envy. My handwriting is abysmal, I can’t write in a straight line, and only the advent of computers saved me from a lifetime of working with stencils. (I bet about half of you don’t even know what stencils are).
Jan gave me this beautifully-crafted journal with handmade paper. And I’ve yet to write anything in it. Nothing ever seems good enough. I’ll think, “This is a really beautiful journal, and I don’t want to waste it with inadequate and poorly-chosen words.”
So it never gets written in.
I so have to get over this. I so deserve to write in a beautiful journal, right? Right.
So I went into the museum gift shop, and they had beautiful blank journals with Tiffany’s autumn vine window on the cover. They were carefully hand-stitched, with creamy, thick pages that would soak up the ink. So I bought one, saying to myself, You are going to write in this.

Here is what I would like to say: And that’s just what I did. In fact, the essay you’re reading right now was written in that book I bought at the gift shop.
But, no. I lied. I wrote this on the computer so it’d be easy to edit. Multiple times.

Sigh. Still not good enough…


Barbara Martin said...

My late mother and teaches in my grade school used stencils. I even used stencils on occasion; though come to think of it, I haven't seen any lately.

I have a special journal that I jot down only fleeting ideas that come to me, nothing else. Sometimes those little ideas turn out to be blessings in disguise: answers to a current plot problem.

Cinda, you and I have the same warped idea that whatever we write isn't good enough.

I want to tell you: the Wizard Heir is absolutely brilliant! I'm not even half-way through and I feel like I'm fighting the same battles as Seph. I expect the ending will have exploding rockets!

Nora MacFarlane said...

I completely sympathize with you about writing in journals. Actually, about writing anything longhand. My advice? Print the essay and paste it in!

CindaChima said...

Barbara, maybe we can join a program--we'll call it Never Good Enough. It's so bad I want to go back in the books that are already published and edit them with sticky notes.

Nora, thanks, that sounds like good advice. I'm actually a very fast typist--used to type for a living.