Darien Gee (PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNIE TAO PHOTOGRAPHY)
Quote of the Week: “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” James Thurber
Writing Exercise of the Week: A poi dog is sitting on your doorstep when you go to get the morning paper. Where is it from and who does it belong to? How old is it? Something is written on its collar—what does it say? Write for 10 minutes.
When it comes to writing, there’s only one thing worse than a procrastinator.
It’s a perfectionist.
At first glance, the perfectionist seems harmless, maybe even noble. The perfectionist wants you to do your best work, after all—is that a crime?
Of course not.
But here’s the thing about the perfectionist. He (or she) often has a hard time letting go. The perfectionist (aka the critic, the editor, the teacher, the expert) will keep at it and not let up until perfection is reached and that happens, as we all know, never. The perfectionist will rip up or destroy whatever you’ve done and send you back to the drawing board. The perfectionist can run you ragged, if not physically (any super moms out there?) then mentally (all those endless lists of things to do!) But that’s nothing compared to what it does to your spirit—raise your hand if you feel like it’s never enough, like you’re never enough. Yep, I thought so.
The perfectionist knows exactly what to say to make you feel like you’re not good enough. The kicker is that we actually believe this voice.
Well, it’s time to put a stop to that.
I’ve long since realized that we can’t get rid of these pieces of ourselves. Believe it or not, they do serve a purpose and there are times when you might actually call on that aspect of yourself to show up and do a little work. The key is to not let them run the show, to not give them carte blanche to yammer in your brain relentlessly. We are all so much more than any one part of ourselves.
So how to keep the perfectionist at bay? By doing exactly what makes the perfectionist a little bit crazy, which is to go for life—and writing—with gusto. So you make a mistake. No big deal. So the sentence doesn’t even read like a sentence. You can fix it later. So you’re not ready, not prepared, could potentially make a fool of yourself. It won’t be the end of the world. Really.
The key is that when something doesn’t turn out like you think it should, go easy on yourself. If your perfectionist is telling you, “If only you’d listened and done it my way, none of this would have happened … ,” give your inner perfectionist a pat on the head or, better yet, a hug. Tell them (yourself) it’s really OK, because it is. And then throw yourself back into your messy, imperfect life (or your novel, your screenplay, your poetry, your memoir, your job, your family, your great big beautiful idea or dream) and go for it.
This fall Darien will be teaching memoir, writing and publishing classes through Waimea Community Education. Visit waimeaeducation.com for more information.
Darien Gee is a national bestselling author based in Waimea. Her most recent novel is The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. She also writes under the name Mia King. Visit her at dariengee.com and miaking.com.