Perfectection is Meaningless if it’s Never Seen

Week 7 of The Artist’s Way covers a few topics, some of which I skimmed over. The chapter as a whole is dedicated to “recovering a sense of connection”, which is a bit broad.

The first topic is “listening”, which I skimmed through because what we’re supposed to be “listening” to is a higher power guiding our creativity. As previously mentioned, this isn’t exactly my bag. I do agree with a few concepts, such as “get your story down” rather than constantly trying to “make stuff up”, which basically means to listen to your internal creativity rather than constantly trying to “come up” with the next great American novel. You’ll be amazed with what will willingly come out of your own imagination if you just relax and let it happen.

Another topic that I skimmed through was “jealousy”, in which the author goes over the concept of poisoning ourselves by being jealous of those who have made it, those who are living the dream that we dream for ourselves. She talks about how jealousy is an evil that keeps us from our dreams, but that it can also be a useful tool in helping us to achieve them. An exercise she suggests is to make a list of people you are jealous of. Next to the person’s name, write the reason you are jealous of them, and next to that write a constructive idea for how you can better yourself now that you know what you’re jealous of. For example, I might say that I’m jealous of so-and-so because they have a real writing office where they can work in peace, and for my constructive idea I might say that I’ll find a way to section off a small area of my house just for me, in which I can make my own little office. Jealous becomes constructive enhancement, you see?

But the topics I paid most attention to were “perfectionism” and “risk”. Risk is pretty obvious, I think…we’re all afraid of taking them, but sometimes risks are required in order to achieve our goals. For instance, if I send my manuscript into a publisher, I risk receiving a scathing rejection that feels like an arrow through my heart. But if I never take that risk, there’s no chance that I’ll ever receive a glowing acceptance that rockets my writing career forward. That’s life.

Perfectionism might be a little more vague, because depending on who you’re talking to it might be a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve worked with people who were perfectionists, and to the big bosses that seemed like a good thing, because of course they want everything to be done perfectly, but to the people working with those perfectionists on a daily basis it was a constant source of misery, because with a perfectionist you can never get anything done. This is especially true of writers. If there are any writers reading this right now, I’d be willing to bet that if you’re completely honest with yourself, you fall into this category. This was my biggest hindrance for years. I was the writer who re-writes the first chapter over and over again, always coming up with ways to make it better, always trying to make it absolutely perfect before moving on. But the thing is, as any professional, successful writer will tell you, no matter how many times you re-write something, it will never be perfect, it will never satisfy you, and it will never be done. I’ve heard it said that a book is never done, the author simply chose a place to stop. And it’s true. Any story can go a bit further, be shined up a bit more, be added to or changed to make it “better”, but if you move forward with those thoughts in mind, you’ll never end up with a book…you’ll always just have a collection of words in a notebook or a computer file, dying to become a book.

I could finalize those red-lines, then red-line up the red-lines, and just keep going and going until what I've got looks nothing like what I started with, and then keep going some more...
I could finalize those red-lines, then red-line up the red-lines, and just keep going and going until what I’ve got looks nothing like what I started with, and then keep going some more…

None of the tasks for this week actually coincide with the “perfectionist” topic (which I found a bit annoying) so I don’t have anything of the sort to share for this post, but I will make a suggestion of myself for anyone who struggles with perfectionism:

BLOG.

It doesn’t have to be a professional blog, it doesn’t have to be about any one topic in particular. You can treat it like an online diary, or you can address topics you care about. You can share things you think bear sharing (recipes, parenting tips, book reviews), give your opinion on big events happening in the news, or just talk about your day. Whatever you do, do it on a regular basis (three times a week, minimum, seems to be a generally accepted number of days) and make it public. When you write a post, make sure people know about it through Twitter, Facebook, or what-have-you. Gain followers, even if they’re just a scattering of family members and online friends.

I suggest this because blogging is a different beast from writing novels (or painting portraits, or running marathons, or whatever else it is that you’re trying to do with absolute perfectionism). Blogging requires you to get the words on the page and get them sent. If you want to adhere to your schedule (which you do, because you have readers now and you don’t want to disappoint them!) you will get your ass in the chair, write the post, and get it sent. There’s no time to sit there for days at a time, picking at each paragraph, trying to turn your post into a literary masterpiece. You write, you maybe proofread once to make sure you don’t have any terribly embarrassing typos, and you post. Nothing will beat the perfectionism out of you faster than being forced to ignore it on a very regular basis.

Do you fight with perfectionism in your day-to-day life? How do you deal with it? Has it kept you from making headway on your goals? Have you tried blogging, or are you going to try? Have you thought of any other ways to help beat the perfectionism out of you? Please share!

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 27

So here we are, on the first week of the second half of the year. It’s time for another accountability post, and I’ve got a confession to make.

That confession is: I have almost nothing to report.

I have done almost no writing, absolutely no editing, I’ve been eating terrible amounts of junky food, and the only exercise I’ve gotten is chasing the baby around. In fact, I’ve really got pretty much nothing of note to report.

Do you want to know why?

Because I’m home. I’m home for a while, with no threat of leaving again any time in the near future, and I’m enjoying it.

I know I can’t slack off forever, but I’ve been having a blast just being mommy and wife. You want to know what I’ve done this past week?

I arrived home on Wednesday and spent the rest of that day just rolling around with my daughter, enjoying the way she turns into a little barnacle when I come home.

On Friday my husband and I packed the baby into our car and we went shopping. We bought presents for my father and his mother (birthdays coming up), grabbed a stuffed Big Bird and Zoe for the baby (which she became extremely attached to), bought some games and fun stuff for ourselves, and picked up a couple of things that we can put away for the baby’s birthday or Christmas.

The next morning, on Saturday, we drove down home for the niece’s birthday party, where we ate barbecue, Ninja Turtle cupcakes, and ice cream cake while the kids had an absolute blast in the pool.

Sunday we took the baby to the parade for the Festival of the Strait (where she received a ton of candy), then I took her to the recreation grounds where she absolutely lost her mind in a giant Disney Princess bouncy castle with a huge slide inside, and in the evening we took her to the free concert after which she “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed and giggled like a maniac at the fireworks.

And yesterday we recovered by staying inside and relaxing.

Doesn’t that all sound awesome? Because it totally was. And during none of it did I worry about writing, editing, eating well, or exercising. Perhaps I should have…but I didn’t. So you’ll excuse me (I hope) when I tell you that I wrote a grand total of 1010 words in the past week, did not so much as glance at any editing, and probably gained a pound or two worth of ice cream cake.

Sorry, I was busy enjoying LIFE!

girlsswimming
Pictured: Life Being Enjoyed

With that said, I do know that I’ve got to get down to business at some point (even if I have a ton of other things coming up…wedding…visits…more festivals…), and with that in mind I have a few things to mention.

First of all, I’ve gone on a bit of a learning kick. I know that my zombie apocalypse story isn’t the “next great American novel”, and I know that I myself still have a ton to learn about being a good writer, so I’m taking it upon myself to start actually doing the research. I’ve purchased three books to start myself off with:
Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way
Stephen King’s On Writing

From Kristen I hope to learn how to build a viable author platform (which, a year ago, I didn’t even know was a thing). From Julia I hope to learn some tricks and exercises to make myself a better, more efficient writer. From Stephen…well, I just hope to learn something because I love his writing and in case you haven’t notice, he’s been a wee bit successful.

I’m halfway through Kristen’s book right now, and already learning a lot, so if anyone has any suggestions for some other craft books I might want to read after these three, please feel free to let me know!

The second thing I want to mention is a bit of a vanity thing…upon publishing yesterday’s post I noticed that today would mark my 300th post on this blog. It may not be one of those super-satisfying numbers like 1000, but this is a big deal to me. A few months ago I surpassed a year of doing this blog, and now I can officially say that I’ve written several hundred posts. How awesome is that? Maybe I have a little bit of persistence in me after all!

fireworks

And with that, I bid you adieu for the day. I have a lot of things to do, the least of which is definitely not jumping on my daughter’s bed and helping her cuddle all her Sesame Street characters. Ta!