Oh, how I love writing! Especially when I have something funny I want to write about. Or something poignant! Or something deep, or gross or funny or…anything, really. I just love writing!
Except, when I don’t.
Like right now.
I don’t feel like writing for the same reason I don’t always feel like exercising or eating healthy or doing laundry or cleaning up the damn playroom: because I just don’t wanna and I’d rather do a million other things.
And did I mention I’m a bit of a perfectionist? You wouldn’t notice it if you looked at, say, my kids’ playroom. You’d think, now there’s a Mom who really knows what’s important! She plays with her kids instead of wasting precious time with her beloved babies by cleaning up. She gets it. She has her priorities straight. She is so chill!
Lots of people think I’m super chill. Until they get to really know me and then they realize, you have to get up awfully early in the morning to be that super chill. It’s not that I’m uptight—no, far from it. It’s just that the things that people usually stress out about (speaking up, having an opinion, being different), I don’t give a flying fig about. Yet, ask me how my writing’s going or if I’ve posted anything new on my blog. Then you’ll find that I’m not so chill.
Sometimes, this picky, pesky, perfectionistic voice inside my head stops me from getting my writing done. Stops me from getting anything done, really. It stops me in my tracks because if I don’t know exactly what to say, what to write– well then, I shouldn’t write at all, right??
Recently, I’ve discovered that there is a cranky, curmudgenly 93-year old lady who lives inside my head. Apparently, she was taking a nap up there and holy crap, she just woke up: “Quit your complaining,” she yells at me. “What’re you scared of? Who cares what anyone else thinks! Just write, dammit. You said you wanted to write, right? Well then, write!”
And then she takes out her dentures because they are totally pinching on her gums and she goes back to sleep. (She totally snores, by the way.)
This old lady is getting to be more like Tom from the cartoon above, just hopefully without flipping people the bird. She just doesn’t care what others think anymore. It’s both alarming and refreshing; I am not actually 93-years old myself, at which age such behavior becomes socially acceptable. It’s refreshing because I get to —finally— start to be myself.
Ever since I could formulate coherent thoughts, I was writing stories in my head. And then I picked up a violin and told my stories that way. Of course, I still wrote: for newspapers, program notes, freelance articles about music– but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to write. I didn’t even actually know what I wanted to write. Also, I felt like I couldn’t write, because hey, the role of writer was already taken by a few of my siblings.
When you’re the youngest of eight kids, a lot of the roles are already taken. I wanted to stand out (as the youngest of the herd often does), so I chose something different, which was music. I love my music and I always will, but I think I chose music as a career over writing because writing came pretty easily to me; I thought I should challenge myself a little more. After all, life is about struggle, right? It’s about climbing the biggest, steepest mountain you can find, right?
“WHAT THE HELL KIND OF LOGIC IS THAT,” the old lady who lives in my head just screamed. (She’s hard of hearing, so when she gets really uppity in my head, it gets loud, fast.)
I have to agree with her: what the hell kind of logic is that? Just because something is easy and feels natural, you turn away from it? You pick the harder road?
“Why don’t you put on a hairshirt and self-flagellate while you’re at it? You know, make things more interesting and really challenge yourself, young lady!”
Woah, someone needs some soup and an afghan. But the old lady is starting to drown out the younger, nervous, picky perfectionist who also lives in my head, so maybe all her shouting is doing some good. And she does have a point.
My husband has been nagging me to write for approximately…forever. My friends have, too. And the greatest thing about nagging? It totally works. My writer friend Beth nagged me and would not give up. She gave me a platform, too: a guest-post on her blog, Safe and Sound that she nagged me into doing. After I passed that test, she invited me into her writer’s group. In that group, I started writing fiction for the first time and I was terrified. Terrified. I felt fraudulent and embarrassed– so unbelievably embarrassed to submit a few chapters of fiction: just who the hell did I think I was??
But I wrote it anyway and submitted it anyway. The group read it, they didn’t laugh at me and they provided feedback. And so I kept writing. I told that nasty perfectionist who lives inside my head and whispers really mean things when it thinks no one else is listening to shut the hell up.
And I just kept writing. Next, I was nagged into starting a blog, and hooo boy, has it been fun! I’ve been having more fun writing this blog than I’ve ever had writing anything else.
And now, I’m two-thirds of the way through writing a novel: the end is in sight, the story is outlined, the chapters are sketched out and I’m almost there! It may be a sorry load of crap, but it’s my sorry load of crap. This (potentially) sorry load of crap would never have happened if I had waited for the perfect time, the perfect story. If I had waited until I knew exactly what I was going to say, or until I was confident enough to actually sit down and write… well, nothing would’ve happened. Because none of the good stuff– gaining confidence, knowing what I wanted to say– happened until well after I started to write.
There’s a hashtag (#AmWriting) used throughout social media to show that you are engaged in the act of writing whether it be a novel, script, blog, whatever. The bottom line is: you are doing it. You are writing. To simply say, “I am writing” is good enough– in and of itself, full stop. This is a radical and subversive idea if you’re a perfectionist. #AmWriting focuses on the journey, not the final destination. What a concept!
“Perfection is the Enemy of the Good and Good Enough is the New Perfect!” That’s my new motto that I just made up. I think I should print that on some t-shirts, sell ’em and buy a beach house with the profits. And then I’ll hold #AmWriting Retreats there, free and open to all! Who’s with me?
I’ve decided I’m going to keep the cranky old lady who lives in my head since I’m finding that she tells me–loud and clear– what’s important and what’s not important. Since she’s clearly going to be sticking around, let’s give her a name, shall we? How about…. Edna.
Well Edna, you see, she is done worrying about what other people have to say. She is done being embarrassed for who she really wants to be and what she really wants to say. You see, the people who don’t like Edna aren’t going to like her no matter what she does, so she might as well just go on being her damn self anyway. And the folks who like Edna, will love her even more for it.
Wake up your Inner Edna: find out what she wants you to say and do. Time is a-wasting and there will never be a perfect moment, a perfect set-up, a perfect time to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Even still, sometimes, there will be nothing that you want to write about. Until you find, lo and behold, that you just wrote a whole bunch anyway, perfection be damned.