Chow Mein for Breakfast

I’m alone—in a quiet house—today, so I ate leftover chow mein for breakfast. That’s the sort of wild and crazy thing I do when left to my own devices. My youngest son, Daniel, is visiting from Nebraska and took some of the family to the Cincinnati Reds game in Oakland today. I stayed home to care for the dogs.

connect_heartNo next novel in production, yet, but I may get my brain in gear to revise a short story today. Otherwise, I’ll probably read the afternoon away. I’ve surprised myself by reading seven novels since I wrapped up An Illusion of Trust. For me, since I started writing seriously, that qualifies as binge-reading.

Maybe soon I’ll be able to shut the doors, insert the earplugs, and binge-write. I’ve been a little nervous that one of my novel ideas hasn’t taken me captive. But now I’m trying not to listen when the dark side whispers, “Does that mean none of your story ideas is worthy?” I’m trying hard not to take my Muse’s silence as a sign that I shouldn’t write at all. I’m trying to keep my distance from that perfection trap.

I wish I could remember where I saw the link to Brené Brown’s TED talk, which I’ve linked to below, but I thank, thank, thank whoever posted that so I could find it—and watch it over and over. I’m learning to have the courage to be vulnerable. I’m learning the difference between shame and guilt. I’m learning to accept my short-comings and still feel worthy. I’m doing this because I want to connect to life wholeheartedly.

More than anything, I seek connection through my writing. But as an author, just as in my real life, I allow my fears to restrain me. I write from my heart, but I don’t write wholeheartedly. I let my perfectionism steal that from me. Maybe when I learn these lessons, I’ll be free to write another novel.

Also read: Knowing that my friend, author Michelle D. Argyle, struggles with some of the same issues, I shared the link with her. Brené’s talk inspired her to blog about The Price of Perfection.

How are you living wholeheartedly?

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The #1 Killer of Creativity

For me, perfectionism is the #1 killer of creativity. Nothing I do ever meets my standards. Sometimes I lie and pretend I’m satisfied with the results. Sometimes I remember not to point out every fault and just smile and say thank you when I receive praise, but even when I do, I’m thinking of those faults.

Knowing that my creative endeavor will fall short saps my excitement, drains my energy, murders my enthusiasm almost before I begin. How could it not? Where does this standard come from? Nothing is perfect. Everyone knows that. So, why do I expect the impossible of myself?

Perfectionism is a denial of self. If I can’t accept that where I am is a good place, I can’t ever move forward. I won’t ever improve because eventually I will stop trying.

Perfectionism is selfishness. I can’t fully appreciate anyone else’s work either because I’ve set myself up as judge. I see its flaws and temper my praise.

Perfectionism is arrogance. Who qualified me to set this impossible standard? If nothing is perfect, who am I to think I can achieve what others can’t?

Perfectionism is death.

Let it go and create.


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Ooo … ooo … I know this one!

Let’s play a little game, shall we?

Linda: I’ll take felicitous discoveries for a thousand.

Alex: I do have writing talent. Linda?

Linda: What is … What did I discover while editing?

Alex: Correct!

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I suffer from a lack of confidence in my writing ability. It’s largely self-inflicted. My inner critic prides herself in perfectionism. To make matters worse, she’s an expert at rationalizing away any praise that comes my way.

I think most of us lack confidence to some degree. We play that comparison game and believe we’ll never measure up. We get one tiny bit of negative feedback and blow it out of proportion until we see every word we’ve written as garbage. (Or is that just me?)

Today, as I edited my novel, I found myself smiling—grinning, to be honest. Not at any particular “darling” as in, My god, has there ever been a more brilliant metaphor?! No, I was happy because I could honestly say, “This is good writing.”

That may sound like I’m full of myself, but I’m not. What I discovered today is I suffer doubt most when I don’t read my work. When I set aside a work, whatever faults I know it has magnify in my mind until I convince myself I’m hopeless as a writer. I’m discouraged from even starting something new because, well—I can’t write!

When I finally open that file and start to read I see it’s not perfect. I find weak verbs, flabby sentences, bad syntax, but I also find decent writing as a whole. It’s never as bad as I imagined it to be. Yet I’ve allowed my doubt to waste time, fuel jealousy, and even downright depress me.

Why do we writers do this to ourselves?


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Writing mistakes?

editormarksI read an informative article yesterday by Pat Holt, an editorial consultant and former editor, describing 10 common writing problems and how to fix them.

Now, my Ms. Perfect insists that I go back through my current work to check for these problems. But what of the fact that most of the mistake examples Mr. Holt gave were from published works?

Are these “mistakes” simply Mr. Holt’s preferences? Are contemporary writers ignorant, undisciplined, or rebellious? Are editors too overworked, careless, or eager?

Or were these authors writing for the reader, who will either ignore or forgive some imperfections … as long as the story is strong enough to grab their hearts and minds?

Ah, to find the perfect balance between writing and storytelling.

Writing garbage, redux

It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly. – C. J. Cherryh

At least once a week, I come to the conclusion that everything I write is garbage. Usually this realization is preceded by reading some brilliant piece of published fiction, at which point my inner critic Ms. Perfect, declares, “See? You’ll never write anything even close to that, so give it up now, quit wasting your time!” But this morning I read the above quote, and am encouraged to write “garbage” today, and edit tomorrow … if I can muzzle Ms. Perfect long enough.

Originally posted 10/13/008