Escaping Perfectionism: an Introduction and Wondering on Wanderings

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This is not a book review, or mostly not a book review but rather my own essay prompted by reading this publication. If you’d like to read my review you can do so here.
After Reading Jane Lindskold’s collective essays Wanderings on Writing I was able to more clearly identify some of the issues that I struggled with when writing.
I have always loved to write, but my writing is intuitive, chaotic, and without a plan. Reading Lindskold’s Wanderings on Writing gave me permission to write naturally using my own process, or at least it allowed me to finally give myself permission.

While I do love to write I always seem to stumble face first into road blocks. In high school I did all my writing assignments the day of the class in the silent hour I had to myself after being dropped of at school. There was rarely more than one or two students in the halls at that time and I was able to sit in front of my locker with my loose leaf and just write. This didn’t leave me any time to edit, so what was submitted was usually my rough draft – though I’d usually get a good grade and positive comments. I miss the purity of high school assignments before my grudgingly respectful/hate relationship with footnotes developed.
In College I was only able to write in the early morning/late night depending on how you look at it, when everyone else was asleep and I lived in hopeful suspense of the clicking, clacking, and clattering keyboard waking someone up. Even without the presence of other “conscious” people to grate on my nerves it would still be hours before i could get down to business. Those hours were usually spent chatting on the good old MSN while writing collaborative nonsensical poetry. I had and have a block when it comes to writing, or art, or sometimes having run of the mill conversations. I would have to trick myself into writing, even if I was staring at the computer screen thinking word for word what I wanted to write, I still couldn’t get my fingers to type it out. Imagine yourself trying to move a wall, you’re constantly pressing against it, bruising your head (yes your head, it might not be the most logical way to move a wall but that’s what it feels like)  and straining your arms. No matter how much effort and force you apply the wall refuses to move, so you have to find a way around it. In a sense, it’s almost as if I have to not think in order to write, or at least, not be conscious of the act of writing or what I’m trying to accomplish. Sometimes, thinking about the steps involved in the process or the final outcome is what will ultimately prevent me from completing a project. In the words of Shea Laboeuf I need to “Just Do it.”

When in college and university i would spit emotional vomit at my computer screen. Flowery words and nonsense prose would open the path of creativity so that I could sneakily shift aside and open a new word document to compare sexuality and bed tricks in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Canterbury Tales. It may have been internal and invisible to others, but for me it’s a physical force, something tangible that impeded what to others was probably a much simpler task.
It’s not laziness that inhibits but a condition of my being. Some might term this condition writers block, I say that’s a symptom rather than a cause of this re-occurring phenomenon. The last time I wrote a short story I was waiting for a video game to download, I was browsing The FaceCrack when i stumbled upon an announcement for a short story contest, logically, Ijustified the purchase of my game by entering the contest.
I wrote a piece based on an idea I had while using the cinema washroom. I didn’t even make the long list for the contest, but for the first time since high school i actually completed a short story, was happy with what i wrote and reconnected with my love of writing.
Have i written anything since? No. Why? For various reasons and multiple excuses that bring me back to my original subject of perfectionism. Do I want everything I do to be perfect the first time around? Yes! Will it? No! Writing is another form of art as far as I’m concerned, and I cannot approach it as a science with definite conclusions.
One of the things that stops me from putting words to the page is the fear that I’ll ruin the page. I have an obsession with notebooks, I want them all; every size, shape, colour and smell. When I pick up something new I fall in love with the beauty of the untouched page. While logically it might seem better to make use of a notebook as it was intended there’s always the fear that my words would cheapen it’s purity rather than enhance it’s being.
It’s these types of questions that hold me in stasis, and compounded with a fear of failure, cloud my intent and encourage me to accept a condition that leaves a page blank. This is the voice that suggests I always need a new paintbrush before starting a painting, or that i have to know the origin of ghost stories in every culture before I can write one word about a character that can see them. The amount of sketchbooks left with only one used page, and blank notebooks collecting dust do, in reality, fill a bookshelf.
It took reading a blog post about reverse outlining to make me realize that I don’t need permission to write the way I write. In University I would write an entire paper before adding footnotes, structure, and thesis. Creative writing doesn’t need to be any different. Writing is such a personal thing, and while inspiration can come from any outside source, experience and expressions is entirely individual. When you put your soul into something you want it to be perfect, but I embrace my imperfections and my quirks without impeding growth and progress so I should apply the same Philosophy to all aspects of self expression.
To Jane Lindskold, Thank you for publishing your thoughts on writing. There’s no formula to being a writer, the one and only thing every writer has in common is that they write. Even if it’s just a blog post or a book review, write, see your thoughts on paper, on your screen, but write.
This is the Felmuffin Mindset; It’s a strange land, a formidable labrynth filled with a myriad of random musings, humour, inspiration, and most importantly words.
To the professor that told me i took perfectionism to the point it became a sickness; I took your words to heart. It may have taken years, but I’ve made progress, I’m still a perfectionist, but I work around it.
There may not be a cure, but I can handle the symptoms.

I wrote this first blog post in a notebook while reading just enough of Terry Pratchett to get the words flowing in my head without getting drawn into his world. (It wasn’t my favourite notebook, I’m working my way up) If you struggle with a similar or dissimilar fissure in your creative process feel free to comment.

*Sidenote: I have managed to complete quite a few bits of writing since the original posting of this blog entry

10 thoughts on “Escaping Perfectionism: an Introduction and Wondering on Wanderings

  1. I have the same problem with journals, I feel like I will ruin the beauty of the blank pages by writing on them. What if I make a mistake or need to cross out a paragraph, wouldn’t that sully the rest of the book? I never really thought that it was tied to perfectionism, but I can see now that it is. Now I use cheap notebooks that I can rip out the pages and not care, while leaving my beautiful journals empty in my nightstand.
    Maybe its time to sully them…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do the same thing with sketchbooks also. I found a soft start was to get a journal you really like that has replaceable notebook inserts. That way you have something you take joy in writing in but you don’t have to deal with the fear of ruining it. My current favourite is from WAFF
      The fun never far I use it mostly for writing exercises from holly isle’s Mugging the muse
      Maybe I’ll blog about that next week 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s nice to meet a fellow pantster and to find validation in my own writing style. I tried outlining but my outlines just started turning into sentences and then into paragraphs and … what was the point of outlining!!??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i always find outlining gets in the way of my writing. I recommend checking out Jane Lindskolds blog. Wonderings on Writing is actually a revised compilation of her blog posts about writing. Kind of gives me hope

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have an entire shelf of notebooks and sketchbooks that I might never fill, because I worry about messing up with some mistake. When I’m writing, I get frustrated when the first sentence out isn’t the “perfect” one…. at the very least, I’ve learned to just highlight to ease my editorial mind, and keep moving on. I’m slowly getting over my perfectionist tendencies, but I still don’t like outlining, haha.

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  4. Oh my! I can relate entirely to your feelings and thoughts on writing. The latter part of the third paragraph described my feelings completely. I don’t think my hang up is based on perfectionism though. It’s more on the point of fear of failure. I feel like if I start it, I’m sure not to like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can completely understand that Eles. I find it’s all interwoven and tangled together into a delightful bundle of inferiority complexes. 😉
      You can take comfort in not being alone with your feeling.
      However, if you don’t start you’ll never know if you’ll like it.
      I feel like i should add “eat your vegetables” to that.
      I swear i’m not trying to mother you.

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