Go away, Harpy!

leonessa is right about the Perfection Harpy.

Perfectionism (and the accompanying self-doubt and self-criticism and fear) is a frightening creature when it comes to novel writing. Of course it does not help that I am by nature, a Perfectionist (and oh I hate it so). The moments when The Harpy of Perfection leave me are so delicious and carefree and productive and wonderful. But…she does not leave me alone very much while I write (well maybe the blog–the blog is a place where it’s “oh fuck it” almost one hundred percent of the time and it’s become habit).
Check this out:

I spent the entire day yesterday at a race track…getting the car to drive faster and faster. I was so patient with myself! First session: made a bunch of mistakes, got sloppy, just wanted to get a feel for the road, for the driving line, got the car and tires warmed up. I saw lots of people trying to be “perfect” the first time around, and it was miserable to watch. “I’m just learning, and taking it step by step on my own timeline,” I said to myself. “I’m going to let myself make mistakes.”

Eventually throughout the day, I got my speed up, and was RIPPING through the track by the end! I was driving better and faster than many of the drivers who were whupping my butt at the beginning of the day. Um, not that “winning” was the point of course. It felt good…but it was a process, many many times around the track at laguna seca, lots of sweat off my hands, screaming tires, overcoming the fear of the track and potential mistakes, etc., etc…it felt SO good. I was so patient with myself. I was surprised. I was having so much fun. I couldn’t believe how it had unfolded, so smoothly and without drama.

Why don’t I allow my own writing to unfold in that manner? I ought to make mistakes, I ought to know a first draft is about getting a feel for the track, and getting familiar with a driving line and the other drivers on the track. It’s all about “fuck it,” we’re just going to feel it out.

Perfection Harpy, go away! Let me write.



Filed under Life, The Novel, Writing

2 responses to “Go away, Harpy!

  1. Pingback: writing barefoot up hill in the snow the nanowrimo way « Swimming Upstream

  2. Just want to say that as a perfectionist I’ve always been something of a failure. I’m not a Martha Stewart perfectionist, driven by my obsessions to work, work work until I get it right. No, I am much worse than that. I didn’t even know I was a perfectionist for years, because I’m a grandiose perfectionist, a head-in-the-clouds perfectionist. My perfectionism paralyzes me before I even begin, or sometime just after a tentative beginning, and I retreat to the sofa to look at the ceiling, giving up on the project before it is even a complete draft. My perfect idea can’t possibly be attained so I stop. Argh.

    I have never, therefore, looked on the surface like a perfectionist. Far too sloppy and lazy to be one.

    I actually admire obsessive types who work and work and work…I am more of an anorexic – I just starve myself of creative effort. Yuk. It’s very embarrassing. I’d rather be the sex addict than the spinster, the glutton than the anorexic. But there it is…

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