writing past perfectionism (# 56)

I will preface my comments with this: I am a word person, a voracious reader since preschool, an English major, and a holder of a graduate degree in Irish literature. I have steeped myself in words professionally, working as either a writer or an editor for the majority of my adult life.

And yet. . . although reading and writing (for hire) have truly been my life’s work, I have never been more than a dilettante when it comes to writing “my own stuff.” I have entertained several “novel” ideas, but never got them off the ground. By which I mean page one.

Some years ago I embarked on a long-distance love affair that generated more written words than the amount contained in Moby-Dick. Along with a smattering of poems for his reading pleasure. Not sure what I am ever going to do with that hot mess.

I have been reading blogs consistently for about 15 years (!). I started when my firstborn was a baby, and got hooked on the first wave of mom blogs, including Suburban Bliss, Dooce, Sweetney,  Finslippy, Breed ‘Em and Weep, Fussy, Catherine Newman’s blog for ParentCenter. This great, witty writing captured my interest. At the time I did not have a blog of my own. While I enjoyed seeing these life narratives unspool in real-time, I could not quite wrap my head around the idea of airing my thoughts and the details of my life for all the world to read. Instead, I contributed to a group parenting blog called Dot Moms. My bi-monthly pieces were polished, clever, and careful to hew to a chosen theme while giving little personal away.

I was, shall we say, constipated. Plenty confident in my ability to write well, technically speaking, but quickly paralyzed by the inner critic who insisted on editing everything to the hilt on a sentence-by-sentence basis. I had ideas but I could never let truly let them rip. I talked myself out of writing at all, and, if anything started to slip out, I talked myself out of anything I managed to write. Or rewrote it. And rewrote it again.

That whole writing-for-myself thing is settled, then. . . . Bad idea. . . . Now, where did my wine go? You get the picture.

Almost all those mom blogs I used to read have fallen by the wayside, and my blog interests morphed over the years. For a while, there were peak oil and political blogs, later there were 40-something dating/sex blogs. Now, ’tis the season for sober blogs, and for the first time in my bystander relationship with the blogging world, I am wading in.

Again, I am delighted by the variety and thoughtfulness of the perspectives I have found. I am impressed and moved by the sincerity, vulnerability, and quality of the words I read on a daily basis. So much insight, so freely shared.

If I let it, this could paralyze me into thoughts of I’m not original enough, I’m not generous enough, I don’t have anything much to contribute here. My stuff is not going to be perfect. It’s never going to be as good as I think it should be, so why bother. And on and on.

But I am taking a different approach this time. I am not self-editing (well, just a teensy bit). I am not sleeping on any of this. I am just writing what I am thinking about, when I feel like it, and hitting publish. Sometimes, when it has been a while, I remind myself to “feel like it,” because I know that writing, like yoga, can be a practice. You just have to show up and assume a position.

In addition, I want to share something of myself with the world of words online that has provided me with silent enjoyment for so long. I want to add my voice, instead of being a standoffish voyeur. I would love to connect, for a change.

So, here I am trying to find a new path into the vast thicket of possible words I have been hoarding, pruning, or tending on others’ behalf all my life. This blog of mine might be silly, or messy, or trite, or pretentious, or, god forbid, riddled with typos, but it is my attempt to stray beyond the perfectionism and self-inflicted limits that have been penning me in.

This is me, setting myself free.