October 14th, 2013, 4pm in San Francisco, United States
This was originally published in Hiut Denim's yearbook. I finally received the package in SF, which is where I took this photo of the spread. Love the illustration.
I want them all to slow down. I want to whisper in their ears: pull back for a second. Just for a moment. Stop and refine. Refine and refine.
Refinement is hard because it requires faith. Faith in the thing you’re refining — that the process of refinement will yield greater value; or faith that there is any value in the thing to begin with. To refine is some parts hubris, other parts humility, all parts vulnerable.
If you release the unrefined thing into the world and it doesn’t do well, you can always tell yourself: Ah, if only I had refined, it would have been great.
To leave something important to you unrefined — uniterated, firstdrafted — is the laziest safety net you can deploy. It’s almost lazier than not creating in the first place. It’s also mean to those around you. Few things are meaner than foisting a lazy draft of a novel upon friends.
Creation without refinement is a vicious loop. When the unrefined thing fails or falters, you tell yourself it isn’t worth refining anymore. And so you move onto the next thing. You build something else. You draft and release another thing sans refinement. And so on, and so forth.
To have faith in refinement, though, endows one with a certain private glory. There is a warmth found in the peeling back of rough onion layers to find that thing you felt but couldn’t produce on first blush.
In the process of refinement lies also meditations. A calm meditation like that found in sanding a hulking wooden table by hand, slowly, over the course of a week. Or it can be a restive meditation filled with resignation — resignation to the need to rebuild and remake and possibly start over.
In refinement and iteration you finally get to know the thing you made. Really know it. Understand how bad it is. How great it could be. How much potential is still left unrealized. And within each iteration you move the thing forward; sometimes better, sometimes worse.
But first you have to stop. If just for a moment.
And so I keep whispering to all of them as I walk down the street: pull back and refine and refine.