Yeah yeah, I know. I changed my damn blog colors again. But ironically, this leads me to a topic I've been wanting to post about for a while. My perfectionism.
I think many people don't understand perfectionism and the curse that it is. People may look at my sloppy desk at home with papers piled on top of each other, dust streaked on the surface, books and slim jims lying side be side in an disorganized mess and raise an eyebrow as I say I'm a perfectionist about organizing my work space. But I am and the mess drives me crazy, but the main thing about perfectionists that people don't understand is that if a perfectionist doesn't feel that they can't do it perfectly then she doesn't want to do it at all. Almost can't. It's one of the hardest things for me to make myself do something when I know I can't do it perfectly. I'm constantly staring at our items on our fireplace mantel, adjusting them a half of an inch here, a half of an inch there until it's perfectly and evenly placed. I'm obsessed with symmetry, it makes me peaceful inside when things are set up symmetrically. I can be distracted with these small details for hours, driving my husband nuts and wasting time over something completely insignificant, but I can't help myself. I literally can't half-ass anything. If I start something, then I'm putting myself into it 110%, which is why I often get stressed and overwhelmed. I take on multiple projects and try to put myself into it 110% and there's never quite enough of me to go around. Often I get stalled in projects I take on because I know I don't have the time to devote to it 110% and I can't stand only devoting say 80% to, and so I don't start it at all which usually leads to guilt and stress. I mean, if I can't do it perfectly, why do it at all?
Which is where my perfectionism acts as procrastination for writing.
My professors always preached the get the first draft down without going back and editing a word and then go through your revisions and edits. I've tried so hard to follow this advice, but I find myself going back and changing a word, then a sentence, then a paragraph and the next thing you know, I erase the everything I'd written out of frustration, feeling like a complete failure. I want it to be perfect right away. I can't stand leaving a story unfinished and imperfect, which leads to writing sessions lasting no shorter than three hours every time I write, which then leads to me writing less because really, who has three hours regularly to devote to writing every day? I tried to write one hour every day just so I was writing regularly, but I was so obsessive that I couldn't Only write an hour, and by the end of it I'd be lucky if I had anything worth keeping since I'd butchered it to pieces already with revisions before the story was even finished.
I'm not sure where my perfectionism comes from. Perhaps it's from growing up with the high standards Chinese parents typically put on their children (any grade below and 'A' was a travesty in the family, but all an 'A' would get would be a dismissive nod because you're supposed to get straight 'A's, it wasn't necessarily a great achievement). I mean look at my family, as an honor student who went to very good college (Miami University of Ohio) I'm the underachiever. I have a cousin who went to Stanford, one who went to Northwestern and my brother went to Washington University at St. Louis. All extremely good top notch schools. So perhaps that is a part in my perfectionism, but I also have to think it's partly my personality. I'm an obsessive person, which I think many writers are, it works well with our purpose. Writers often have to obsess about a certain time period or an event in history, etc. if it's involved in their story. To write as other people you have to become an expert in what they're experts in whether it's biology, dancing or politics. So that obsessive personality works for me, at times. But I think it feeds my perfectionism. I'm obsessed with it and get anxious when things aren't perfect. What do I really think will happen if it's not perfect? I'm not really sure, there isn't a clear cut image in my head of the disaster that would ensue, just a feeling of impending disaster that I can't shake.
Anyways, I'm trying to train myself to just write shit and be okay with it because every once in a while you strike gold and that's what it's all about. I know I have some mental disease, but we all have our own little mental diseases so I'm okay with it. I just need to figure out my work arounds and keep reminding myself to prioritize and that it's okay to not be perfect.
Heh, like that'll happen. Oh well, at least I tried. (*Note: as further proof of my perfectionism, I've already edited this post about ten times.)
What personality flaws/quirks keep you from writing? How do you get around them?
What a cool idea! An Online bookfair! It's October 3-5, 2006 at the Love of Reading Website. Make sure to check it out. Thank you to The Elegant Variation for alerting me to this great event.
Also from The Elegant Variation today, Poets & Writers offers a directory of writers and their agent contacts. It also tells you if the writer is willing to do readings. What a cool way to connect with your favorite writer or harass their agent to pick up your unpublished novel about space creatures from the planet Znargf that like to eat chocolate donuts. I mean, come on, that will Sell baby!
A new book club around the block started by Amazon. Apparently Amazon is teaming up with Penguin Classics to start a new book club that will be hosted on a blog at the site. It should produce an interesting book selection since the first book selected is fairly obscure book Fifth Buisness by Roberston Davies. If you're desperate for new books to read, which I never am since I already own so many that I need to read before I die, check it out. It should produce some interesting reads. Thanks to The Millions for this link.
I just now noticed that this is my 100th post! Wahoo! I'm a posting freak. :)
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