Thursday, July 17, 2014

Perfect

Found on Pinterest, original source unknown

Writing is all I have ever wanted to do. It's the only thing I've done consistently throughout my life: years upon years of journals, notebooks full of characters and stories. In 2010, I went to university and started telling anyone who asked that I wanted to write books for a living, thinking that if I said it often enough, put it out into the universe, it would happen. An idea came to me and I starting writing. A short story I wrote was chosen to be included in the university's anthology. I got great feedback from my teacher and fellow students. I wrote and wrote. I wrote until it felt like my hand would fall off (kicking it old school: writing by hand). I wrote like the wind ... until I didn't.

I tried but I just kept re-writing the same things over and over again. I couldn't think of anything new. I felt completely paralysed. I struggled for a couple of years and then saw an ad for a one-day writing seminar called Getting Out of Your Own Way, which pretty much claimed to help do exactly that. The only thing I remember about the day was an exercise we did where we were told to write something and make it as terrible as we could. Go nuts with the cliches, make it outlandishly stupid, fill it with adverbs. We all giggled to ourselves as we wrote, pens flying over the pages. Then we were told to write something good and we all froze. Make it good? Way too much pressure.

I finished university and that novel I'd planned to have ready to send off to agents and publishers hadn't materialised. I felt like a failure. I avoided answering when people asked me how the writing was going. I looked at my notebooks with resentment. In desperation and at the end of my rope, I saw a psychologist. My diagnosis was perfectionism. It's me to a T: basically, if I can't do it properly the first time, or if there is a chance I might fail, I'd rather not do it at all. I won't even let myself try. It sounds kind of ridiculous but it got to the point where it was debilitating to the only thing I have ever wanted to do.

Getting a name for my problem didn't make it go away though. Another year went by and even though I started coming up with new ideas and writing, it would all fizzle out after I hit the 20,000-word mark. I tried not to think about it. I started working full-time and would come home, feeling brain-dead and like the will to do anything after 5pm sucked out of me. Then, completely out of nowhere, something changed. An idea came to me and I made a few notes. Then I started writing, on the computer this time. It was ridiculous. Such a far-fetched idea. I wrote over 5000 words in the first session and then doubled it the next day. I laughed to myself every time I had a writing session. After starting ten weeks ago, I now have 84,228 words and I've been struggling to write this blog post because I am dying to get back to that ridiculous story.

The reason why I've managed to write 84,228? Because I promised myself I would never breathe a word of what this story was about. I would be mortified if anyone read it. I was just writing something silly and fun, just to get the words out of my head. It isn't really even a 'story'. There is no character development, no real plot. It's just word vomit. 

Vomit or not, I am loving it. LOVING IT. I wrote in my diary I get it now, I totally get it. The exhilaration you get when you're writing something that you love. Or even just enjoying it because it's so much fun! It was so hard before with all the other projects I've started. I've been trying too hard to make the good right away. 

That's it in a nutshell. It should be fun, and it doesn't have to be perfect. All that advice to would-be writers comes back to me: a blank page cannot be fixed, don't compare your first draft to someone's published novel, don't let doubt hold you back. Yada yada yada, I used to think. Of course, it's bang on as far as advice for writing goes.

It's been a hard habit to break, this who cares if it's not perfect thing. And it isn't broken yet (I've been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks but couldn't get it just right in my head so didn't even bother). But I'll keep on trying. Keep on writing. Keep trying to break the 'it must be perfect - I must be perfect - or it's not worth it' mentality. I'm not even going to proofread this post, screw perfect grammar! Screw proper sentences! Screw correct spelling!

Lies, actually. I will proofread it. I'll wait until tomorrow but I will proofread it. One must have standards, after all.

4 comments:

  1. It should be fun. It doesn't't have to be perfect. I think we (bloggers) inhabit a world where everything is shown as perfection - perfect craft, perfect cakes, beautiful blogs, perfect clothes. I think sometimes it rand we forget about the fun, middle bit. The bit that made us like doing the thing in the first place. I'm glad you got back to the middle. X

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  2. Yep. I have that problem, too. Maybe not perfectionism, exactly. But the failure to write or paint or draw because I fear that I have lost my true voice/vision/style/inspiration. I go blank. But have you ever met someone that brings all of your creative juices to life? Makes you want to create? Sets your imagination on fire? Why can't life do that all the time? I have a feeling that it's all within us and we just have to find a way to mine it, even if (like you said) it isn't perfect. Even if it comes out rough . All diamonds come out rough in the beginning, right? It takes cutting and polishing to make them shine. I'm glad you are digging. I always love reading your words and I have such faith in your future as an author. Truly, I do.

    Also, I've been thinking that we should become pen pals. Just saying. ;)

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    1. Yes! Great idea! I will email you in the morning for your address!

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