Thursday, April 09, 2015

Perfectionism (and When "Writer's Block" Is Only a Disguise)

This is about believing you have hit a brick wallalso known by writers as writer's block. But anyone can hit a brick wall when it comes to all forms of brave expression, and here is one of the reasons I think that is. Or at least I think it has been for me.

My personal commitment to this blog was to post every Monday and Thursday. And since I launched Bloom in Words too (don’t judge any lack of creativity in that title right now, please), I have been able to meet that goal except for a couple of vacation stretches when I purposely took a break.

But last Thursday and Monday? Not so much. Yes, my workload is heavy at the moment; I am working for some new clients to take the place of others who have cut back on hiring freelancers, and sometimes extra effort is helpful in a start-up phase to avoid panic. Yes, I have also had the sniffles, close on the heels of a stomach bug. Yes, we have had more than usual family goings on lately.

But I still made time to write . . . I was eager to write . . . and couldn’t think of anything to write. Just like two weeks ago when I also had trouble writing and wrote about needing rest. Which I needed. Which I took.

Still, nothin’. Again. 

Now, hold on, I thought. Maybe this is about more than needing rest. My brain is working well in every other way. Maybe I actually have writer’s block—except I don’t think we are supposed to believe there is such a thing. Writers write, no matter what. Only once in awhile can we get away with not doing this work we love just because it's . . . hard. 

And there is so much to write about! I especially meditated on Holy Week and thought about the passing of Kara Tippetts, who inspired me to write about her joy despite facing death at such an early age. (That is still the second-most-read post I have written.)

Then I read articles and blog posts about writer’s block (like this one from agent Steve Laube) for inspiration—or maybe a kick in the you know what like I am sure I would receive from Anne Lamott if she were here.

But writer's block didn't sound like what this was. Not really. Yet those two topics most on my mind—Kara and Holy Weekdidn't feel right for some reason. Not now. Maybe later. So I looked for something else to write about. Maybe something funny? No, bad timing. Maybe something more about the mechanics of writing? Nope. 

For Pete’s sake, I thought, what am I going to tell those fiction writers I’ll meet at an event in a week or so? "Yes, well, not only have I not written any fiction lately but I haven’t even written on my blog for two weeks. You see, I maybethough I don't really think sohave writer’s block”? (The not writing any fiction part is another story.)

Then I got an assignment to do some editorial work on a book about procrastination—including how procrastination and perfectionism and fear and comparison can all walk hand-in-hand.

Oh. B-i-n-g-o. Procrastination. 

Really? I am so afraid I can’t write anything inspirational enough, compelling enough, as good as others would about life and death—the life and death and homegoing of Kara Tippetts, the life and death and resurrection of Christ—that I am procrastinating?

Yes, I have been afraid. Submitting to perfectionism and fear. Comparing myself to others. (Do you have any idea how many incredible, deep-thinker writers young enough to be my children are out there?)

But I am fighting back. Trying—with God’s help—to not be so afraid to not be good enough. I will never be perfect, and I don't know when I will next write about hard things, but I don't ever want to be guilty of rarely or never trying.

Like so many God has called, I am a writer, responsible to express what is on my heart, or what might bring a smile, or what might inspire. I just need to be brave enough to put perfectionism and all its cousins in their place. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is worth the effort.

Are you ever afraid to express yourself because you are afraid what you have to say won’t be good enough? Feel free to share how you have or are striving to overcome. We who also find ourselves shackled by this kind of fear want to know!


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