Monday, September 17, 2012

A Reminder

If you want to skip to the good part, it's below in bold print.

This is an important reminder for you. At least I think it's for you. It's definitely for other writers, probably for other artists and possibly for other human beings.

I've been writing stories to submit to magazines for over twenty one years now and I still make rookie mistakes. I keep forgetting all those good, hard lessons I've learned over the decades and when I remind myself about them I feel dumb and then get back on track.

My life has gotten a lot better recently. With the payment of some big bills and a new position at my store, things are lined up more than ever for me to devote more time to writing.

And I'm not writing.

Or, more precisely, I waste a bunch of time to avoid the heck out of writing, then I write a little, then I bounce off and waste a bunch more time. That's right. The thing that I've wanted to do with my life since I was a kid, I don't do it. Even when I've adjusted my life to give myself plenty of opportunities to do it.

Rather than seek out medication which might throw everything into chaos, I look at the symptoms, I look at what I've learned, and I smack myself in the head. Because avoidance of this thing I want to do always boils down to the same cause: Perfection.

Perfection is the devil. It freezes you up at the keyboard and makes you climb the walls. Did Linda Blair climb the walls? It's been twenty years since I last watched, but probably. The devil's got a thing for horizontal surfaces, I think. Perfection is particularly devilish, because you don't know it's there. You think it's a thing you put behind you long ago. But then, why are you frozen when you're not busy wall-climbing? Damn it. There it is.

The solution is easy. Stop trying to be perfect. Just do something. Do anything. Be crappy on purpose. This is something I've told myself a few thousand times and still forget. That's why I need the reminder and maybe you needed it right now too. Doing something half-assed is more progress than not doing it at all.

Okay, I see now, that this advice is definitely not for everyone. Please ignore this if you're a surgeon, for instance. I'm sorry, but you'll have to figure out your own shit. Try a surgery blog.


Male Salas said...

jajaja, now I know where my wall-climbing-habit comes from! Thank you so much for the reminder Matthew!

Dana said...

So true Matt, so true. Sitting down to write can sometimes be so challenging, even if it's easy to write once your ass is glued to the chair. If you ever draw the winning lotto ticket and "make it big" in the writing world, hire a 6 foot 5, 300 pound bouncer to force you into the writing chair on a consistent schedule.

And grats on the new schedule at work! Having the "right time" to write is huge. 10:30 at night is usually, for most people, not the "right time."

Dana said...

But on a separate note, I'm torn on your point about "getting writing done, even if he's not so great." Or more specifically, about shooting for something less than perfection for the sake of getting things done.

I sort of have a "revision" problem. If I'm writing a novel, I write a page, then revise the whole novel. Then I write another page, and then revise the whole novel again. I'm sometimes bothered by how it slows down my progress, but it brings my work closer (maybe) to that coveted "perfection." I'm not sure I'm physically capable of writing 10 pages without revising it 10 times in the process.

Matthew Sanborn Smith said...

You're welcome, Male!

Dana, everybody works differently. Every time Tolkien got stuck on Lord of the Rings, he'd scrap the whole thing and start the book over from the beginning. It took him twenty years, of course, but the results were pretty impressive. Do what you feel is right, but if you're ever dissatisfied to the point where you're frozen, it can't hurt to experiment.