I was in the car on my own recently–something which doesn’t happen all that often, and so I took the opportunity to listen to the CD which happened to be in the player. One of the songs, Everloving, by Moby, came on, and I hadn’t heard it for a while. So I turned it up.
It’s a fairly short song, and quite simple. I really like it, but with the windows shut and the volume up loud, I noticed something I’d either ignored or not realised before: he makes mistakes.
At the beginning, when he’s playing guitar, he fumbles over some of the notes. Sometimes he doesn’t quite hit the one he should have. But the rhythm is good, and it’s only the odd one, so if you’re not listening really closely, it doesn’t stand out. And what’s more, it’s kind of endearing. Rather than being perfect, it has a more relaxed feel to it. It makes me think, ‘I could play that’. It humanises the music. Makes it accessible.
There are some guitar players who don’t miss a note. Obviously they practise and practise and work on the song until it’s perfect. I admire them, too. Because I think it’s admirable to be that dedicated to something, and to have the belief in your abilities (as well as the talent) to keep going, even when you’re tired and it seems like you’re working for nothing. After all, there are a lot of aspiring musicians, and only comparatively few who are masters.
Being able to play the song perfectly is something to work towards. But that doesn’t mean that all our attempts to get there are useless. There is beauty in imperfection. Nobody plays exactly like you do.
Nobody writes exactly like you do. You will look back over work you’ve done and think, ‘how juvenile, how unpolished…’ but that’s what practising is about. Just like music, writing is something which must be practised, if we want to improve it. But the little flaws are OK too. I’m not talking spelling errors or typos, obviously. I mean the use of cliches or the odd undeveloped character. Not every line is going to jump off the page in its brilliance. You can miss a note now and then, and the end result can still be beautiful.
One of the lovely aspects of making something by hand is the tiny imperfections. It’s what makes each piece unique–even when creating more than one of them. It’s what we like about something which isn’t mass produced. And writing–by hand or keyboard or however else you do it–is handmade, and it is wonderful, because of that.
It’s OK for the thing not to be perfect. Just keep practising, and get it out into the world.