Action

My last four posts can be summarized as follows:

  1. I love writing, and what do you know?  I have this idea for a novel that demands to be written.
  2. I’m a perfectionist; rather than using this drive to work on improvement, I use my perfectionism as an excuse to put things off, because whatever I do, my efforts will never live up to my ridiculous expectations.
  3. As a result of point number 2, I rarely do the things I really want or need to do.
  4. End result: life is messy.  The novel is neglected for long periods of time, my apartment is in shambles, etc.
  5. After surveying said mess, I manufacture lists of excuses and justifications for why it is perfectly acceptable that I haven’t done any of the things I know I ought to be doing.
  6. I am tired of all of the above foolishness.   I have no one to blame but myself.  Therefore, I shall take action!

Actions I’m taking to improve my writing, as well as improving the quantity and frequency are:

  • Starting this blog and promising that I’ll write three posts a week.  As far as this week is concerned, I’ve done it!
  • A couple of months ago I entered a short story contest with the first short story I’d written since high school.  I didn’t win, but I did meet a lot of other inspiring writers who are brimming with advice and encouragement.  Valuable connections, great insights, and wonderful critiques.  I am thoroughly in love.
  • Through my charming short story group, I learned about National Novel Writing Month.  I didn’t bother looking up what NaNoWriMo was all about until almost the end of the month, however.  One opportunity missed for the year, at least as far as formal participation goes.  The great news is that missing out doesn’t matter!  I can apply the concept on any month any time that I want.  Yes, it would be nice if I had a bunch of fellows racing alongside me with all the support, advice, and encouragement that implies.  I just don’t see why I can’t make a goal to write 50,000 words on any month I choose.  One of these months, very soon, I will.  NaNoWriMo sounds like a fantastic idea for someone like me in the sense that the only reasonable way to reach 50,000 words is to put quantity on a higher pedestal than quality.  I’m convinced that the best way to surmount my perfectionistic tendencies is to allow myself to write garbage.  Unlike most garbage, though, shall I throw it away?  Of course not!  I’m going to go over my writing, find what is worth recycling, and rework my garbage into art.  Honestly, if writing a novel often requires multiple drafts, what is wrong with the first draft being outright terrible?  Logical answer: absolutely nothing.  At least something has been written, at least there will be progress.  Next year I will participate in NaNoWriMo, but if I have my way, I’ll already have done something similar of my own volition more than once.
  • Goal: I will finish chapter 12 by Sunday, pull Safran (main character of novel demanding to be written) out of her rut, and stop using her as an excuse for why I cannot write.  I will also stop fostering the belief that I cannot write without her.  Promise: I will provide an update.
  • I am also writing poetry and short stories, experimenting with writing styles and genres other than the ones I typically dabble in, and making an effort to read large amounts of amateur and professional writing in those usually unexplored areas.  Exactly why I am doing this and why I believe such efforts are helpful is being reserved for another blog post.  So long as I don’t have any plans for submitting the pieces I write, I will post them on the blog.  Any helpful commentary* is appreciated.
  • I’m NOT editing this post.

*I notice that I have some views, followers, and comments now.  Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!  Some of the commenters may have noticed that my comments are being moderated.  Although it might take me a day or two to approve comments, I will only delete or refuse to approve commentary that is spam or that directs hate at another commentator or group.  Hate or disapproval directed at me or my writing, however, is, with rare exception, permitted; I do reserve the right to remove comments should I have reasonable suspicion that said commenter is trolling.  Otherwise, I welcome critiques of both the negative and positive variety.

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.