I have been stuck in the purgatory of perfection for a long time now. Have you been there? Do you know that place? It is that horrible space in both time and mind where I sit and stare at my work accomplishing nothing. "This isn't the right word." "That idea isn't working out the way I planned." "I don't think this character is believable." So what do I do? NOTHING! I become so distraught with the simple setbacks that I determine this is an impossible task, an unattainable goal.
This is not writer's block. Characters are still alive and whispering to me. Stories continues to unfold in the back of my mind. It is the requirement of perfection that causes the stalemate. The need for every word to be exact, each sentence to be succinct, every action to lead to the inevitable outcome without room for error.
And so I sit....and stare....and sulk.... and then quit. I refuse to think about these characters, their lives, the story I thought needed to be shared. I ignore my laptop, read a half-dozen ridiculous novels, make vegetable soup, take naps. This time around I even taught myself how to bake bread. Four loaves of wheat bread, two loaves of apple bread, and one incredible loaf of potato bread. This is what it takes for me to be reminded that perfection is the product of practice and patience.
The words will pour out, but will need to be "kneaded" until they coalesce into a workable form. What once appeared to be purgatory is really just the "proofing" stage; the period where those words and ideas need to be left alone to grow and expand. Then once again, it is important to deflate the product (including my ego) and begin molding it into a final form. Working with the bread taught me that you can start with a proven recipe and follow all the directions, but in the end the perfection of the final product depends on steps far more obscure: the subtleties of measurement, lightness of touch, and most importantly ~ patience with the process.
Purgatory if not about the attainability of perfection. It is about the patience required to reach perfection.