“Precision is heaven.” ~ Christian Wiman
“Don’t be afraid of the small moment.” ~ David McGlynn
In the summer of 2013, in the midst of what you might call a “spiritual emergency,” I picked up copy of Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss. I did this based on a friend’s recommendation, even though I make a habit of not jumping on a book just because someone I know told me I should read it. Everyone in my life knows that I enjoy a good read, which means that I am on the receiving end of a continuous stream of book recommendations, most of which are…well-intentioned (if you are in the habit of recommending or buying books for the book lover in your life, you might consider giving them money to buy books instead). My Bright Abyss turned out to be one of the good ones. Not only because the book became a kind and fierce companion to me during a particularly difficult period of my life, but because Wiman’s prose, like his poetry, locates the realities of experience with a kind of precision that is as gratifying as it is painful. “Precision is heaven,” he writes. Indeed.
Around the same time, I happened upon David McGlynn’s memoir, A Door in the Ocean. I noticed in his writing the same kind of precision I’s seen in Wiman’s—a quality of language that can only come from long, slow contemplation. Sharp, textured, real. When I ended up in a writers’ workshop with McGlynn later that summer, I wasn’t surprised to hear the advice he offered to his students like a mantra, chanted throughout the week: “Don’t be afraid of the small moment.”
Precision is heaven. Don’t be afraid of the small moment. These two short sentences have changed everything for me—in ways that I may or may not every be able to fully understand. Not just in my writing, but in life. In my relationships. In my teaching. In the between moments of my days. Maybe I’ll find the precise words someday. I keep trying.
Precision is heaven. Don’t be afraid of the small moment. In a sense, they speak toward similar effect: slow down, pay attention, see the small things, find words for what otherwise goes unnoticed, make insignificant things vastly important by articulation.
Precision is not the same as perfection. The ceaseless pursuit of perfection produces a great deal of fear and anxiety that ultimately prevents me from living into realities I know that I want to experience; from writing my way into realities I want to articulate. I am afraid of many small moments because I am afraid I will not live or write about them with perfection, yet my fear itself will prevent me from finding the precision I long for.
I think this push and pull is the battle I engage every time I try something new or face a blank page. Embrace small moments. Release perfection. Make a mess. Rearrange, contemplate, play with the mess. Find your way into precision. Eventually. Slowly. Recursively.
That’s a lot of what I’m guessing you’ll see on my blog. Hopefully it’ll be the results of this you’ll see in my portfolio. It is undeniably the reality that occupies my days.