Why I’m okay with imperfection

One of my favorite tools is my dragon fountain pen; that is, a fountain pen with a dragon embossed on it. It’s a nice heavy pen that feels good in my hand and is easy to drive across the page, at least when I feed it the right ink and paper.

Sometimes I think I would like a different fountain pen so I’ll buy one and there will be a lot I like about it—it’s not so finicky about the paper or it uses bigger ink cartridges so I’m not always stopping to replace the ink, and so on.

But I always come back to the dragon pen. It’s not the best pen but it is somehow my favorite pen despite its flaws.

I have a very healthy fear of leaving it behind somewhere and immediately coming down with a case of writer’s block even though I don’t believe in writer’s block.

Sometimes our tools are objectively imperfect but subjectively perfect. I mean I  could use my laptop to write my drafts. I don’t because the connection between creative expression and handwriting has actually been well-established in studies. Typing on a keyboard does not activate the same part of the brain and in fact can sometimes bypass the frontal lobe entirely, so you’re not actually thinking about what you’re typing.

So there must be some similar purpose the dragon pen serves that helps me with my work despite it being objectively less good than other pens I’ve tried. Maybe I just like the symbolism. I started writing fantasy with this pen, and what is more fantastic than a dragon? And of course dragons are symbols of wisdom, and I’d certainly like to write with wisdom.

It could be mere habit. I’ve had it for a long time, therefore it’s the tool I’m most comfortable using. But I think it might just boil down to the fact that I like it and all of these reasons are just hypotheses I’m using to explain the feeling.

It reminds me of stories. Even imperfectly crafted stories can be our favorites. We may try to find reasons why: “The setting is so vivid!” or “The characters are so memorable even if the plot is a little pedestrian.”

But mostly we are trying to find support for a feeling we just happen to have. Readers can love imperfect books just as much as I love my imperfect pen, and as an imperfect writer, that thought gives me a lot of comfort.