Do you ever second-guess your writing? I do. Take a look at this George MacDonald sonnet about writing. My comments follow.
What if, writing, I always seem to leave
Some better thing, or better way, behind,
Why should I therefore fret at all, or grieve!
The worse I drop, that I the better find;
The best is only in thy perfect mind.
Fallen threads I will not search for—I will weave.
Who makes the mill-wheel backward strike to grind!
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul,
© 1994 Augsburg Fortress Press
If only I’d used this word or that word. Or left out that line. Or taken this approach instead of that.
MacDonald seems to know about this. The habit of dropping threads. Is he consoling himself?
- I’m not going to worry about the fallen threads. I don’t find it grievous when that happens. In fact, it’s better that way! It reminds me that I’ll never find the best no matter how hard I try.
It seems MacDonald isn’t just trying to make the best of this situation. He’s also telling the truth.
- My good-enough writing will always be just that, no matter how hard I look for something else. Why? Because the best, perfection, is found only in ‘thy’ mind (God’s mind).
So, says MacDonald, I’m not going to fret about it, looking for what I’ve dropped or lost along the way. That won’t get me anywhere. All I can do is to keep weaving—using the threads I have at hand. After all, millstones don’t grind anything when they backwards go!
In the end, I’m not sure MacDonald came to peace with himself as a writer. He takes his writing seriously. Yet he’s aware of his own ‘fallen threads’ just as many writers are. If that’s the case, he may struggle with several layers of writing.
First would be these sonnets. He’s now in March, the third month of the year, writing one entry a day. That means he has more than 60 entries behind him. I wonder whether he wakes up at night wondering why he forgot to include this or that ‘better’ word, image or approach?
Then again, these sonnets aren’t the only pieces MacDonald wrote. Maybe he wonders about fallen threads in his novels or children’s fairy tales. The possibilities are endless, and could loom ever larger the longer he thinks about it. If only. If only I’d said it this way instead of that way! It might have been ‘better’ received! Or gotten ‘better’ reviews! Or ‘better’ yet, not made so many people upset!
Finally, he might be thinking about his life. Especially the threads he dropped along the way. Things unfinished. Trouble that might not have been necessary. Choices that backfired. Conversations that didn’t go as planned. Indeed, though his faith was strong, MacDonald was no stranger to failure throughout his life.
Yet his written words are more than enough to convey his deep faith and childlike, God-centered world view. I wonder, Does he believe his words are more than enough? Better, is he at peace with it?
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2015