Somehow another week has passed by at lightning speed.
Silly me, I expected things to calm down after the holidays, but instead it’s been fraught with a sick child (again), who’s teething (at least 4 teeth at once), myself coming down with a cold, friends visiting, discovering problems with our house and troubleshooting those…there always seems to be an excuse for why I don’t meet my goals, and why I feel like I’m more underwater than above water.
I was on my long run last Saturday when thoughts of how little I have accomplished lately started to invade. Have you ever had days or moments like that? Where, for some reason, all your failures march through your head in quick succession? One memory of failure leads to another time you failed, then that leads to another time, etc. Well, that was the first half of my run. (By the second half, the pain had set in, and I was only thinking of how many minutes I had left to run before the pain could stop.) Anyway, it made me ponder my goals, and how, even when my goals are attainable, I come up with excuses to avoid attaining them.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a perfectionist. All the compliments in the world could be given to me, but unless I am satisfied with what is being complimented, they fall upon deaf ears. The reason I haven’t edited any of my recent WIPs to completion? I’m a perfectionist–and sometimes quite unapologetic about it. I’m never satisfied with what I accomplish.
This perfectionist nature is usually more of a hindrance than a help. Perfectionists get a lot of crap really, for holding themselves and others to impossibly high standards, and then, when realizing that they cannot meet those standards, give up, or don’t even try to begin with. But really, is that worse than all the first-draft-reading, independently-published novels out there? Sure, it’s wise to try. You can’t be happy with something you never wrote in the first place! But never being happy with a project is something that perfectionists can–and do–suffer from. Frequently.
Sometimes I always have to remind myself that there are a million stories out there, and not one of them is “perfect.” Some may come close, but each one has its flaws, and many are beloved despite those flaws.
The problem is that perfectionists, like myself, cannot tolerate failure. Which means we don’t want to try in the first place because we take failure much harder than others. When I get halfway through my WIP and dislike it, and realize what (I think) the problem is (this time), that counts as a failure in my mind. And so I start over, convinced that I’ve found the problem, and I can fix it. But when I start to run out of steam, when I start to think that I can’t fix this, that I’m just failing again and again, that’s when my perfectionist nature turns into cynicism: I can’t do it, this is worthless, it’s never going to be good enough, I just should stop trying, whoever told me I could be a writer anyway?
My son is ten months old now, and I have to admit that I’ve felt like a failure for a large portion of his life. Part of the reason is that I think I had some unrealistic expectations concerning what I would be able to accomplish for myself during his infancy. Part of the reason surely comes from the simple fact of motherhood–a profession riddled with guilt and imperfections in all shapes and sizes.
Perfectionists, like myself, hate asking for help. I like to do everything by myself, and I like to do it well. I like to do things by myself because I can do it better than others can (so I think). Being a stay-at-home-mother has taught me to ask for help from my husband on things that I used to manage without a problem by myself.
Perfectionists, like myself, hate making goals only to fail at achieving them. RoW80 has been both an encouragement and a struggle for me lately. It feels like one more thing I am failing at, one more deadline that I cannot keep in this life of chaos and exhaustion. (Please, someone tell me that kids do sleep through the night some day. Please?
What this all comes down to is that failure is an ugly word. But “failure,” just like “success,” is a sliding scale. Did I not achieve my goal? No. Then I’m a failure? Not necessarily. Perhaps I made it to the halfway mark to my goal. That’s something. That’s more than I had before–and right now, in my life, I must consider that a success.
Right now, meeting my 250 word a day goal is me at my max. And some days, it’s 250 words of blogging, or journaling, or thinking 250 words.
But I have to learn to be okay with that, because there’s a little ten-month-old boy that needs me more than the world needs my stories. And I have to accept that there are things more important than writing in the world.
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