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The simple answer is “no.” It could trace to the way desire works; you can never fully realize what you desire; you can only enjoy trying to realize it. And if trying to realize it makes you miserable or perhaps causes dysfunction, you need help. One of the operative ideas in literate activity is repeating the same cycle of behavior but expecting a different outcome. There is something about writing that is like being crazy. That’s probably why most writing occurs within or as a result of some sort of formal education, a place designed to provide evaluations of writing that purport to identify when desire has been fulfilled and when it has not. Grades can give people the sense that they have written something perfect, something with which they should be completely satisfied. As a writer matures, however, grades become a poor substitute for fulfillment. New sensation is needed; a new possibility of failure must stand in one’s way. That’s when publishing enters the picture, and also eventually fails to satisfy. It isn’t the writing or the reception, or the reward if any; it’s just desire itself channeled into writing as opposed to something else, like love or buying a big house.
I recently had occasion to read some stuff I wrote a few years ago and had that typical reaction: it could have been better. I remember at the time I was writing against a deadline and knew I would make some sacrifices to meet it. But in the end, I was satisfied, satisfied I was done and on time, that the writing wasn’t too bad under the circumstances. Reading the essay now, as I might have predicted then, I thought, darn, I should have started with the last paragraph, the last idea and gone further. I can see it now in a way I couldn’t imagine it then. I wanted to go back in time. And then there was another piece that I found was better than I remembered. I found I was satisfied with it and that it made me want to continue to write new stuff. Even satisfaction, I realized, isn’t satisfaction. I will never write the last thing I will ever write, the last word in my testament. I will die trying.
We have arrived at what is going on. It is, behind the roar of the grease paint, a drive toward death, Freud’s “death drive,” that which keeps us alive through it all, keeps us going forward into danger and inevitable destruction. Like everything we devote ourselves to, whatever it is, writing isn’t about perfection, writing the ideal poem, story or essay. It is about hoping we never write such a thing.
Given that, what sort of writing perfection is possible? The writer is the last person to find it in the text. Perfection and its opposite might be up to the reader. For the writer, it could be that the writing will never deliver anything resembling what is desired. Only readers can respond in ways that temporarily satisfy. Consider how many people bought and read Fifty Shades of Gray and seemed to love it. It might be that what we want is a social experience, a detectable response, a connection that is created. The writing would be only a means to that end. I bet nobody reads this.