As part of the 2019 Bank Prize reading, on February 27th 2019 Carolyn Ferrell, author of short story collection Don’t Erase Me, led a craft talk at the Writers House titled “Against Perfection.” Inspired by a class that she is preparing to teach next year at Sarah Lawrence, Ferrell spoke at length about the pitfalls of being both a writer and perfectionist. It was a necessary conversation, I think. Speaking from personal experience, writing can be a remarkably frustrating endeavor for so many reasons, all of which tend to stem from the idea of perfectionism. Ferrell instructed the crowd to do their best in abandoning the idea of the perfectionism, told us that we should “be ready to be disappointed” and not let that disappointment deter us from writing at all.
One particular thing she said that I latched onto was how she compared the first draft of a story to a dream. She spoke about how first drafts, like dreams, are only interesting to the writer and no one else. The problem the author must solve then becomes how to make the story interesting and engaging to other people. Dreams are also known for their unexpected turns and outcomes. Ferrell encouraged the students in the room to not be alarmed or resistant if the story they find themselves writing turns out to be entirely different than what they had originally expected. In fact, it should feel quite thrilling and thrilled was certainly how I felt while I listening to Carolyn Ferrell talk to a room of us with all of her wisdom. It was a special moment.
My adoration for the Writers House is constantly renewed whenever we get new authors and writers to come and share a little of their world. I left the craft talk feeling light and grateful and I’m sure others did as well!
Jonny Teklit '21 is a Writers House student staff member.