A new term

Your work.  (Artist's conception)

Your work.  (Artist's conception)

I suppose it's always the way that after you send your book to the publisher the Universe floods you with information/ideas/material that should have been included.  There's always the second edition, which I am not even going to think about at this point.  (Note to self: start a file for the second edition.)

Recently I came across If you want to write, by Brenda Ueland, published in 1938.  It was highly recommended wherever I came across it — and I truly don't remember where — and so I ordered and began reading it one fine fall afternoon last week in the labyrinth.  (That's my back yard for those who do not read my personal blog over at dalelyles.com.)

I'll write a full review on Friday after I've finished reading it, but it is a fine, if problematic, book.  Here's a passage that popped out at me:

...[T]here are wonderfully gifted people who write a little piece and then write it over and over again to make it perfect,—absolutely, flawlessly perfect, a gem.  But these people only emit about a pearl a year, or in five years.  And that is because of the grind, the polishing, i.e., the fear that the little literary pearl will not be perfect and unassailable.  But this is all a loss of time and a pity.  For in them there is a fountain of exuberant life and poetry and literature and imagination, but it cannot get out because they are so anxiously busy polishing the gem. (p.48)

There are two points in Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy (coming soon, I am told) that obtain here.

The first is our Precept of ABANDONMENT.  For heaven's sake, people, sometimes it's time to let it go.  The deadline is here, the curtain is going up, the exhibit is ready to open.  You have to let the audience have it.  Believe me, I know what it's like: I woke up in a cold sweat last week, suddenly panicked that I had sent the book off and there were so many things wrong with it — and I'm not talking about typos.

But you have to let it go.  Don't be like Pierre Bonnard, the French Impressionist who was so obsessed with getting the colors in his paintings perfect that he convinced Éduard Villard to distract a guard so he could touch up a painting that was hanging in a museum.  Don't be that guy.

The other point is our Precept of SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.  In the book I use the term asymptote to describe how seeking perfection is like the mathematical term for a curve that approaches another line but never ever ever touches it:


And so as I read Ueland's charming book, a new term popped into my head: SYMPTOMATIC ASYMPTOTIC SYNDROME.

Think about it.  I shall write more about it later.