The above quote by Margaret Atwood especially rings true given a book that I edited for our own MFA marvel, Jason Freeman. In that book (Awkwardly Awesome), Jason embraces his “imperfect best.” He stresses the importance of recognizing our imperfect efforts to achieve perfection, while also recognizing that the most important thing we can hope to achieve is OUR personal best, which might not be what others see as perfection. I’ve paraphrased, obviously, but working on that book has brought up many questions and a few answers concerning my own strivings to “get it right”, whatever “it” is.
We all have demons. I’ve sought to meet those demons through my ancestors. Family history/memoir is my writing niche of choice for many reasons. My childhood neighborhood consisted of a richness of characters, smells, and activities that I had to preserve because my adult neighborhoods were so empty. As I grew, my awareness of personal traits that needed tending to came to light, so I began to search out the sources of these traits–were they learned or inherent? Again I turned to my ancestors and lo and behold none of them were perfect, though many of them demanded perfection from me. An interesting circle we all ramble through, isn’t it?
Remember Crazy Uncle Charlie who had no idea who you were, but always slipped you a dollar; sweet and shy Auntie Sue afraid of hugging, and of her own shadow; self-absorbed cousin Debra who believed the road to heaven was paved with Maybeline and hair spray; little brother Anthony the addict who started rebelling at age 3; Mom and Dad who had your future laid out for you complete with architectural drawings; and, of course, “why can’t you be like” neighbor-boy Brilliant Billy who became a lawyer, a priest, a judge and then moved on to medical school inventing a cure for imperfection AND cancer? Well, there’s a little bit of each of them in us (maybe not Brilliant Billy) simply because we’re related. Those relationships are the ones, in my opinion, that count the most. They helped make us who we are–good or bad. And they can help us change who we are by recognizing the source of many of our personal traits that might need tending to.
Family history–think about it. You might find some surprising stories that make good fiction, or intriguing relatives who make you proud. Give it a chance.