… and letting Leo.
Confession: I’m a slovenly perfectionist.
That may strike you as a sniveling excuse. Fine. To me, it’s not only true – realizing it has made me more productive.
The phrase slovenly perfectionist may also strike you as oxymoronic. You’re forgiven: yeah. You’d think.
My BFF Joe, now – he’s what you probably think about when you read the word perfectionist. Anal-retentive. Driven. At core he’s convinced he can’t ever do enough, or well enough. So he charges ahead to do as much as he can as well as he can, and damn it anyway!
I wish I were that way.
At core I’m convinced I can’t ever do enough, or well enough. So I get overwhelmed, and find it prohibitively hard even to start. Because, why try when I must fail?
Different angle: I used to tell myself I couldn’t tie myself to too rigorous a schedule because I hated regimentation. There’s truth to that. More importantly, though, if I try to overschedule I will go into a death-spiral trying to micromanage every freaking detail until I vanish up my own metaphysical sphincter.
Or just implode. Whichever comes first.
There’s where the more overt, classical perfectionism comes in: a tendency to get completely wrapped around the axle with detail. I once tried to create a database to contain all relevant data for my fiction: all my characters, all my worlds and settings. And I kept thinking of more and more details that were absolutely necessary. Category after category just had to be there.
Until I broke the software.
Yes. I. Broke. Microsoft Access. Overloaded that bad boy.
The same applies to my writing. If I face a problem and try to think it out, I tend to over-think. Start getting completely tight about trying to get it perfect.
And the big irony: I don’t. I get the opposite. I get crap.
Here’s one of my (many, crank) theories: if it ain’t fun to write, how can it be fun to read? I don’t claim that to be the case for everyone. How could I? There’s the whole “tears of the clown” thing. And anyway, One Size Never Fits All.
It sure works out that way for me, though.
The real stinger in all this is when I don’t push it, the right thing to write always comes to me. Always. Sometimes in a few days. Sometimes right away.
What does it take? Yeah: let go. Let Leo.
This happened to me a few minutes ago. I hit a key juncture in a scene. It was in ways a pivotal moment for the whole freakin’ quarter-million-word novel.
But, of course, I pressed anyway: Gotta get it right. Can’t get it right, so I gotta get it right…
Then I caught myself.
I asked Leo what I really needed to do here.
And I … let go.
What I intended was to head right out, take Emma for a nice walk before the day got too desperately hot, and just sort of roll the question around in my mind. And I’ll still do that – there are yet some issues to hash out, and walking in a lovely setting with my wonderful dog’s proven to conduce to that. But as for the main question – Leo answered it before I could start getting dressed.
So I’m a slovenly perfectionist. And there’s one way to combat it that works for me.
I let go, let Leo.