Thursday, July 17, 2014

Perfect

Found on Pinterest, original source unknown

Writing is all I have ever wanted to do. It's the only thing I've done consistently throughout my life: years upon years of journals, notebooks full of characters and stories. In 2010, I went to university and started telling anyone who asked that I wanted to write books for a living, thinking that if I said it often enough, put it out into the universe, it would happen. An idea came to me and I starting writing. A short story I wrote was chosen to be included in the university's anthology. I got great feedback from my teacher and fellow students. I wrote and wrote. I wrote until it felt like my hand would fall off (kicking it old school: writing by hand). I wrote like the wind ... until I didn't.

I tried but I just kept re-writing the same things over and over again. I couldn't think of anything new. I felt completely paralysed. I struggled for a couple of years and then saw an ad for a one-day writing seminar called Getting Out of Your Own Way, which pretty much claimed to help do exactly that. The only thing I remember about the day was an exercise we did where we were told to write something and make it as terrible as we could. Go nuts with the cliches, make it outlandishly stupid, fill it with adverbs. We all giggled to ourselves as we wrote, pens flying over the pages. Then we were told to write something good and we all froze. Make it good? Way too much pressure.

I finished university and that novel I'd planned to have ready to send off to agents and publishers hadn't materialised. I felt like a failure. I avoided answering when people asked me how the writing was going. I looked at my notebooks with resentment. In desperation and at the end of my rope, I saw a psychologist. My diagnosis was perfectionism. It's me to a T: basically, if I can't do it properly the first time, or if there is a chance I might fail, I'd rather not do it at all. I won't even let myself try. It sounds kind of ridiculous but it got to the point where it was debilitating to the only thing I have ever wanted to do.

Getting a name for my problem didn't make it go away though. Another year went by and even though I started coming up with new ideas and writing, it would all fizzle out after I hit the 20,000-word mark. I tried not to think about it. I started working full-time and would come home, feeling brain-dead and like the will to do anything after 5pm sucked out of me. Then, completely out of nowhere, something changed. An idea came to me and I made a few notes. Then I started writing, on the computer this time. It was ridiculous. Such a far-fetched idea. I wrote over 5000 words in the first session and then doubled it the next day. I laughed to myself every time I had a writing session. After starting ten weeks ago, I now have 84,228 words and I've been struggling to write this blog post because I am dying to get back to that ridiculous story.

The reason why I've managed to write 84,228? Because I promised myself I would never breathe a word of what this story was about. I would be mortified if anyone read it. I was just writing something silly and fun, just to get the words out of my head. It isn't really even a 'story'. There is no character development, no real plot. It's just word vomit. 

Vomit or not, I am loving it. LOVING IT. I wrote in my diary I get it now, I totally get it. The exhilaration you get when you're writing something that you love. Or even just enjoying it because it's so much fun! It was so hard before with all the other projects I've started. I've been trying too hard to make the good right away. 

That's it in a nutshell. It should be fun, and it doesn't have to be perfect. All that advice to would-be writers comes back to me: a blank page cannot be fixed, don't compare your first draft to someone's published novel, don't let doubt hold you back. Yada yada yada, I used to think. Of course, it's bang on as far as advice for writing goes.

It's been a hard habit to break, this who cares if it's not perfect thing. And it isn't broken yet (I've been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks but couldn't get it just right in my head so didn't even bother). But I'll keep on trying. Keep on writing. Keep trying to break the 'it must be perfect - I must be perfect - or it's not worth it' mentality. I'm not even going to proofread this post, screw perfect grammar! Screw proper sentences! Screw correct spelling!

Lies, actually. I will proofread it. I'll wait until tomorrow but I will proofread it. One must have standards, after all.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The one where I get drunk and contact people from the past

I am bored out of my skull these days. I’m dissatisfied, unfulfilled, bored, and discontent but that’s really a story for another day. Sometimes, to try and being some drama and excitement into my life, I do something irresponsible, like getting drunk by myself on a Wednesday night.

This past Wednesday was one such night. Sitting on the couch with only iTunes Shuffle and the internet for company, I got more and more nostalgic with every mouthful of wine and each song from the ‘90s that played and before I knew it, I was Facebook messaging absent friends.

One friend, I haven’t seen since July last year. Emails and texts have gone unanswered but like a pesky ex-girlfriend who can’t take a hint, I persisted. I promised myself that Wednesday night’s message would be the absolute last final no more not even one more message I sent. Pink Floyd’s On The Turning Away was the catalyst for the message: it came on Shuffle and instantly, it sent me back to 2007 when I was in Ireland and being very stoned late one night at said friend’s house when the song came on and a crystal clear thought entered my head: ‘Pink Floyd wrote this song for me right now in this moment. They knew I would be here right this very second and they wrote this song just for me’. It still amuses me.

I’m not sure what the catalyst was for the second message to the second friend. The bottom of the wine bottle, perhaps. I haven’t seen this friend since halfway through high school – 1996 – when she went off the rails. Spectacularly off the rails. Imagine the worst and then multiply it by a hundred. I was hurt and resented her for a long time but I guess there is some truth in the old ‘time heals all wounds’ cliché because I don’t feel angry anymore. And I certainly didn’t feel angry the other night when I messaged her. I haven’t even read over what I sent because I’m too embarrassed but I’m pretty sure it started with a sentence like ‘I need to preface this message by saying I’ve had the best part of a bottle of wine’ and ended with something like ‘because, fuck me, twenty years is a long time’.

Surprisingly, I heard back from both of them. The first friend has had her own problems (What? Not everything is about me?) and the second one, the high school best friend, sent me the loveliest, loveliest message. She gave a heartfelt apology (even though that isn’t what I contacted her) and suggested that we catch up. Even though I instigated it, I’m quietly shitting myself. (Gross.)

This should alleviate some of the boredom, shouldn’t it?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

That time I resuscitated my blog

*Slips into room and pretends I’ve been here the whole time, like the past eight months never happened.*

I started a new blog. I even bought a dot com. It was going to be legit, no blogspot address for me. But then the blog just sat there. I’d log in every now and then, and stare at the screen for a while, whatever I had planned to blog about suddenly disappeared from my brain. I wanted to write but I didn’t know what. I thought there would be freedom in writing to nobody but I couldn’t muster up the motivation. I started thinking about this place and how much I enjoyed connecting with people I’ve never met but consider to be friends.

Something kept me back though. All those previous posts, four years of posts, made me feel tied to a different version of myself. Which is silly because I’m still the same me. But I when I decided to forget the other blog and come back here, I decided to revert those four years of posts to draft. They’re still there, just not here. Maybe one day I’ll bring them back but for now, box of crayons is old but new.

So, let’s give this blogging thing another crack, shall we?

How have you been?