Doing it for Myself, Pretending I Did it For Someone Else

In the last three days, I’ve finished Chapter 12, completed and posted a poem, and made a thirty item list of potential blog topics.  I may also have settled on the plot of the novella I want to write for a contest.  Social pressure, real or imagined, is apparently an amazing motivation for me.  I’ve never been good about following through on promises I make to myself; I’ll procrastinate until frustration mounts to volcanic levels, or at least until I collapse into a pathetic self-pitying heap and realize that I’ll never stop demeaning myself until I actually do something besides bringing home a paycheck and paying the bills.  Despite a blemish-free history of solitary homework procrastination, where the telltale feel of warm paper slipping into my professor’s hands was always a humiliating revelation that, yes, I had just printed that assignment, I’ve always behaved myself for groups.  I cannot stand to let someone else suffer because of my actions, or lack thereof.  In brief, I hate disappointing others.  When I was 10, my mother woke up at 4 one morning, and seeing the light on in the living room, was mystified (oh, all right–appalled) to discover her youngest child sprawled on the carpet with an ancient, clacking typewriter because I had promised to type the entire report so the rest of my group members didn’t have to.  Did I mention I’m completely craven when it comes to taking on responsibility, even if it’s more than I can handle?

“Of course, I’ll…”

“Oh, it’s no problem; I’ll do it!”

And so on.  Earlier this evening my manager came back from the bar and  was surprised to see that I was still at work while my coworkers had been gone for almost an hour.  “You know you can make them stay and help you, right?” he reminded me.  “Oh, yeah, of course, but it’s sort of my job…” I began in wishy-washy fashion, knowing full well that I could have shoved at least 30% of what I do every night off on the newbies, who I have seniority, and *gulp*, position over (technically; I try not to think about that part).

I finished work and went home, and that’s when I finally asked myself, “When was the last time I did something, just for me?”

Answer: I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe this blog is the answer to that question.  After all, a blog is a pretty convenient way of deluding myself into believing there’s social pressure when in all actuality I’m the one who makes the promises, sets the guidelines, and reaps the benefits.  I could, theoretically, drop off the blogging radar at any time, and the person my disappearance would most effect would be me.  Isn’t the real reason I’m blogging because I know I need an illusion to motivate myself into actually doing something I want to do?  I think it is.

So, in reality, I started a blog as self-manipulation, and it’s actually working.

I’ve never been so proud.

Blogs, Perfectionism, and You Know What, Screw it Already…

I’m having difficulty with the concept that I have a blog.

It seems as if everyone has a blog these days, and by everyone I mean every person who has semi-regular access to the internet.  Some of those people have more than one blog, and apparently even goldfish can reserve a little space of their own.  After viewing various webpages, I might be a wee bit convinced that the other side has access to the world-wide web.  There’s some questions I’d like to ask those posthumous bloggers, so if you’re out there…

With so many others for company, I shouldn’t feel weird at all about this blogging thing, right?  I do feel odd, though, all looped up and knotted inside, though I’m about as anonymous as anyone can reasonably be, and I’m not nursing any high expectations of becoming famous overnight (or at all).  Am I worried that some stranger on the internet is going to laugh at me?  Be bored silly by my dull, self-serving diatribes?

I don’t think that’s the problem…although maybe it is part of it in the sense that I am a straight up, frozen in fear lest I do something that isn’t perfect kind of person.  I don’t know about other perfectionists, but my obsession with everything being done just right means that I very rarely get anything done at all.  If I don’t try, I don’t have to worry about failing.

Occasionally there is something I care so much about that, after a long serious pep-talk and a bracing cup of coffee, I manage to actually dip my toes in.  A little.  Naturally, the end product of my efforts always seems less than satisfactory.  I was once the sort of person for whom failure meant “Try again.  Try harder.  You’ll show them…eventually,” but somehow I can no longer seem to muster the gumption.  Even if every single other being in the universe, or all the universes (hypothetically, aren’t there multiple universes as far as “we” know now?) agreed that I was the most brilliant thing since the Big Bang, I’d still feel like I didn’t quite measure up, and somehow that means I ought to just give up.

Thoughts such as these are the opposite of constructive.  I know that.  But.  Oh, yes, but.  Knowing is easier than doing or overcoming the shadowy beastie lurking in the back of my mind.  It doesn’t matter that not trying at all means that I’ll never get better and that, at the end of my pitiful existence, I’ll have no one to blame but myself for delaying doing the things I enjoyed because I wasn’t fantastic at them–yet.  Of course I was going to be fantastic at some point, because being fantastic would somehow, magically happen without me ever risking failure, or even worse, actually failing.  Then everything would be great, except that life doesn’t work that way, and I would look back and know that, much the same way I know it now, and I would wonder why I never did anything to change the disturbing contradiction between my knowledge and my actions.

Fortunately, there is something I care about enough to want to kick the perfectionist beast out of my head once and for all, and that something is a glorious novel that I could never, even in delirious daydreams, do justice to.  I’d still like to do better than I am doing, though.  Maybe part of that improvement is tossing myself haphazardly into the judgmental world and writing without wasting so much time thinking…and stalling.  Part of the perfection vice is procrastination, where I wait endlessly for the perfect phrase, plot, character, or idea to burst out of me–all of this somehow effortlessly, without practice, work, or even brainstorming.

Every November thousands of would-be or already novelists participate in an event called NaNoWriMo, where they attempt to churn out 50,000 words apiece in thirty days towards a novel.  I wish I had heard about this lovely program sooner; writing just to write, without being held siege by the naysayers of my mind, sounds glorious.  It is too late to play this year, at least, unless I plan on writing 50,000 words within the next four days.  I am going to take part next November, but until then let there be this blog and the goal of posting at least three times a week.

Blogging isn’t exactly the same, but it does get me writing.  About something.  Anything.  Regularly.  I *gulp* don’t really want to promise this, but at some point in the near future, this blog will be speckled with my first attempts at writing poetry and short stories in over a decade (or since school forced me to).  They will probably be awful, but I don’t care because I am going to get better.  Practice doesn’t actually make perfect, of course, but I’ll certainly have to improve this way faster than if I spend all my time lolling about on my duff.

I will not worry about sounding stupid or offending anyone, nor will I obsess about the misplacement of commas and the lack of apt metaphors.  I will not stop for any of these tiresome things, for though they are important, they are not the most important.  What is vital is simply getting started.