Icon is a line of protective motorcycle riding gear. The company also makes custom motorcycles for its ads. It is a brilliant mix of skill and creativity, everyone in their Portland, Oregon shop contributing.
The owner of Icon has taken this wabi-wabi saying as his motto.
nothing is ever
nothing is ever
What does making riding clothing and writing poetry have in common? Process.
The past few years I have discussed not writing with poets who are normally prolific. They couldn't locate their muses, felt listless about something that normally filled them with purpose. We could discuss this at-length, because I was in the same liminal place. A dry spell where the writing was buried, and it didn't feel worth digging up. I felt I didn't have anything new to say and the joy had gone out of the process.
Writing, like design or dance or building a motorcycle from scratch, is a process. The initial spark and then the getting it down, then the work of editing and refining. We can trip up at any one of these points. Most likely the one element that keeps us from being productive and successful in any venue is the concept of perfection.
If we believe our work has to be perfect to be sent out, it will never be sent out. The ideal of perfection, handed to us in childhood, is an elusive and impossible goal. To strive to be better is healthy, to improve our craft in writing is necessary, but expecting something, anything to be perfect is unrealistic, and it becomes our safe-guard against failure. If we can't do it perfectly we can't create / submit / become vulnerable to rejection, or ultimately give of ourselves.
The concept of wabi-sabi has been a part of my thinking for years, but what would it look like, feel like if I applied it to my writing life?
I am learning that it is messy. And painful. And exciting.
I am writing again. Something broke loose and the words were there waiting, and I do care again how a stanza is put together, if it reflects what I'm trying to say. I do care about publication. But I'm aware that the poems are never finished. Never perfect.
Our writing is not static, it is alive with our energy. It is the process that sustains us, enlivens us. The same creative energy that goes into designing riding gear, the same vision necessary to build a motorcycle that begins in the imagination, is the same energy that creates poetry. And like the owner of Icon, we realize that only after we’ve realized that our work can't ever be truly finished or perfected, are we free to run with it.
Or follow it.
Or play with it.
When we let go of expecting perfection, an entire world of possibilities opens.