I find my footing walking in the woods, and most deeply, walking (and running) in the woods with an unruly four and a half year old boy named Roan. Who moves with lightning speed from ponderous thoughts about nature and its beauty to ignoring my instructions to stop scraping tree bark with his digging rock (minor disruption, rock goes in my backpack), and refusing to leave the forest at dusk (because he really does have night vision). Or pretending that all the other people hiking the trails are dragons (with one woman obliging growling whenever she drew close). And hearing my manner and words of encouragement reflected back to me as he asks me to to climb "our" tree "exactly like me," in spite of our slightly different size and centers of gravity. Watching the riverbed we explored in the summer growing deeper in the fall. "Accidentally" stumbling off the rocks and into the chilly water on an unseasonably warm day. Roan's rapidly shifting attention and moods, the state of curiosity he inspires, and my observation of my emotional response (surprise, delight, frustration, anger, joy, love) inspire many of my most "in the moment" moments.
I went back to the original post and read it. I still liked it. I challenged myself to post it without changing anything. That's what you just read.
Revision is tricky for me lately. What I'm about to say isn't about the value of the writing I produced in those hours. It's about how the more I call perfectionism's bluff and experience the joy of connection, the pleasure of my flawed and wonderful work being joyfully received, the more sinister and sneaky perfectionism becomes.
I hate not being able to trust myself. Did I keep writing because I had more to say, or because I couldn't let the original just be?
Perfectionism promises that my fears will disapear once I/my work is perfect. Now I call bullshit.
Just now, I was about to do it again. I closed my eyes and I felt the beginning of another story, a connected story, an important story to tell. I was there, in the right place, at the right time. I felt its intensity. I knew how to start, the words were right there at my finger tips.
As a writer/maker, I've learned to value that moment, that feeling, and right now I'm pissed off that I have to question it.
Because perfectionism has poisoned everything. Every creative pleasure is suspect.
My therapist called my recent revisions to my work plastic surgery. I sobbed (I'd already been crying in frustration) and told her it was a mean thing to say. I knew she hadn't meant to be mean. The intensity of my response had everything to do with her being right.
I'm infuriated that I can't trust myself right now. Am I deepening and enriching my my work, clarifying my meaning, so I can better communicate with my readers? Or am I pressing the knife through the skin to cut away what is most authentic and true about myself, about my work?
Collecting and analyzing data helps:
- Am I trying to impress someone? (Yes.)
- Did I lose my sense of time, forget to eat when I was hungry, and ignore my urge to get up and pee? (Yes.)
- Am I able to complete my original intention (post to my blog) after all the additional writing I've done? (No).
- Is it late at night, and am I risking the dysregulation that comes with a wonky sleep schedule? (Yes).
- Did I write partially out of a sense of fear that if I didn't get these ideas down now, I might lose them? (Yes.)
- Did I get done the work that would have provided the most relief and inspired sense of competency? (No.)
When I spent those hours writing something new, do you know what didn't get done? The work I'm doing to get my existing good enough projects supported and seen. Coincidence? Hell no.
I'm building a case against you, perfectionism. I'm staring you down. And it's not just me. I've got reinforcements. I know you're only doing your job. But I'm done.