Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days, too.
– Neil Gaiman
The first section was about listening, but what I found interesting in the text was the difference between “thinking something up” and “getting something down.” Thinking something up is always more difficult and while we might strive to think up something brilliant, the easier and more productive route is getting something down. When you get something down, you’re writing something that’s already there just waiting for you to put the words down on the page. I’ve heard people call it “not testing your limits” but just because something comes easier doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time to write. On the contrary, it’s probably what you should be writing or were meant to write at this time.
Perfectionism was defined this week, much to my displeasure. I suffer from perfectionism to such a degree that I stopped posting on my blog for a very long time because what I wrote was not perfect. It wasn’t interesting enough and didn’t say exactly what I wanted it to say no matter how many hours I poured into a simple post. I haven’t gotten “over it” or “passed it” but I’ve been forcing myself to post no matter what. I just type, hit post and walk away instead of spending hours going over and over it. So, I’ve actually been working on my perfectionism problem for a while now.
My only advice is, walk away and get involved in something else. If you find yourself correcting or rewriting the same line or paragraph over and over again, put on some music and go bake some cookies, paint a model, read a book. Do something that gets your mind off your writing and doesn’t let you easily come back to it. Give it some time and when you go back to writing, do not read what you’ve already written. Tell yourself you can do it later and write on. Do not let yourself stay stuck in that line or paragraph.
The biggest danger you face when editing and reediting or writing and rewriting is what you have in the end is actually worse than what you started with. I’ve seen this with my own work. I’ve published blog posts that were edited so many times they became disjointed and lacked flow or cohesiveness. I still do it, but instead of trashing everything and not posting at all, I post it anyway. Maybe if I see the mistakes I’ve made, I’ll learn to edit at the end once and leave it alone.
Hand in hand with perfectionism is risk. Perfectionists have a hard time taking risks because they’re afraid. Whether it’s fear of looking like an idiot, fool, or that we aren’t good enough, aren’t perfect enough, taking risks others would take easily is something we would never do. I can honestly say I have a hard time letting anyone read my work because I know it’s not perfect. It’s not going to be praised, published, become a #1 best seller, and so I don’t show it. If I can’t be guaranteed that good things will come from letting someone read it, I won’t take that risk. Even writing anything at all was taking a risk not so long ago.
I don’t know who said it first but anything worth doing is worth doing badly. It’s taken me a long time to believe this and even longer to act on that belief. Now, I’m writing blog posts and taking the risk of posting them for all to see regardless if anyone even sees them or gets anything out of them. I’m also writing again because I enjoy it and don’t worry about what anyone else will think when it’s done. Most days I actually pull that off now.
The biggest problem is, we tend to compare ourselves with the seasoned artists out there. We don’t compare our starting work with their starting work, but rather with their best seller that just hit the market and that often leads to jealousy. While jealousy can often be the success of someone in our field or genre, you might be surprised to find that jealousy can simply be masking fear. While I don’t agree with the author on all points about jealousy, I do agree that jealousy can cause us to believe there’s no room for us on the stage with that seasoned artist. Yes, there is only one Stephen King, Joss Whedon, and Neil Gaiman, but they are not the only ones in their field or genres standing on that stage of greats.
There is room for you, too.