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Writing as Kintsugi: Celebrating the Beauty of Imperfection by Ashley Holloway

Writing as Kintsugi: Celebrating the Beauty of Imperfection by Ashley Holloway

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using gold-infused lacquer to mend the broken bits back together. In doing so, this technique eschews the ever-elusive notion of perfection in favor of honoring the history of the object despite its perceived flaws. The marks of wear are seen as a sign of strength, valued as a record of events that took place during its lifespan to be honored accordingly as pieces that make up the whole. What was once broken is not lost. Oh, if we could only translate this beautiful philosophy to our writing!

Recently, one of my short stories was picked up for publication (yay me!), to which I was obviously and deliciously excited. There was a bit of back and forth between the editor and I working on the shared Google doc, complete with the annoying (but helpful) comment boxes, highlighted areas, colored text, click, click, click, accept, accept, accept. You know how it goes. Just take my work! Right?!

So, in my unbridled giddiness, my response to the editor after receiving the final email stating “Is this your final version? Once you give the word, your piece will be locked from editing.” (you can see where this is headed, right?) was a resolute YES! Send.


So, it wasn’t until days later (of course) that I thought I might peruse my soon-to-be-indelible story when I noticed *GASP*… spelling errors. TWO OF THEM! Ohmigodohmigod. You know that feeling you get where it feels like your stomach drops into your toes, flipping itself over and over as it tumbles its way down? Yeah. That was me.

My first reaction was to immediately panic (clearly) and bemoan the sheer idiocy of not reviewing my piece one last time. I may have even shed a tear (or two). I imagined my story being cast into recycling bins far and wide, the smirks and hushed conversations behind my back, how readers might think differently of me, or maybe even choose not to read my work anymore… Needless to say, I was mortified. Crestfallen.

And then I calmed down.

In reality, of course none of that worst-case-scenario-shit did happen. In reality, we are all human. We make mistakes, and that’s ok. In fact, that very same night I was reading a book from an author I hold in high esteem… and found spelling errors! HA!

This brings me back to the ancient art of kintsugi, where beauty is celebrated whatever its form, broken, whole, or pieced together with golden seams. Is the art of writing not the same? Creativity in its truest form is honest. It’s messy. It contains punctuation where it shouldn’t be, or extra letters here and there. Nothing in life is perfect, nor should it be. And that’s okay. Let that sh*t go.

In the end, I held a contest for all my family, friends, and readers to see who could pick out the mistakes first, complete with prizes (chocolate, of course). After all, wasn’t it Leonard Cohen who said “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in”?

Residing in Mohkinstsis, Ashley Holloway teaches healthcare leadership at Bow Valley College in Calgary, AB. She is a nurse with a Master of Public Health, a graduate diploma in Global Leadership, with further studies in intercultural communication and international development. Ashley’s work has appeared in the Calgary Public Library Short Story Dispenser, The Nashwaak Review, The Globe and Mail, Magna Publications, The Prairie Journal, Alberta's CARE Magazine, with regular contributions to Lead Read Today; forthcoming publications include Flash Fiction Magazine (Jan 2023; TBD). Ashley has co-authored two books (Create & Curate: 500 Ideas for Artists & Writers, 2023; and How (Not) to Lead, 2023) and reads manuscripts and provides editorial support for Unleash Press. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.