I’ve been staring at this page long enough. Oh look, my fingers are slowly moving and these words are forming. Why is this such miraculous thing for me? Because I’m a bit of, what I like to call a “procrastinating perfectionist.” If it’s not perfect, then I won’t attempt it. Now this doesn’t mean anything or everything in life, just more so the creative aspects of who I am. As a child growing up I was usually the last one in the class to complete a writing assignment, art project, or drawing. Most of the time I sat there thinking of what I could do to make this one thing the best representation of who I am- my heart, my essence, my voice. And of course once it was done, I hated it. Others might have liked it and said how great it was, but I knew it could’ve been so much more. But that’s what I get for being a Creative- an artist, a designer, a writer…or at least an aspiring one.
See, that first paragraph took me over 30 minutes to even get myself to sit in front of my laptop and begin to think of how it should start. Even now I’m thinking, wait I could be more clever, less self-deprecating maybe. Bu alas, it’s down and I need to move on. Well, let’s go back to my last few words, “an aspiring one.” What’s an aspiring writer anyway? Many accomplished writers out there hate that term. According to Webster, aspiring means to, “direct ones hopes and ambitions towards achieving something.” And writer, well that’s easy; “a person who has written a particular text.’ Of course the second interpretation of the word ‘writer’ may fit my case better, “a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular profession.”
Everyone writes. Even in my current job I write informative articles and commentary. I’m going into my third paragraph just writing this, so not really a case of aspiration. My title could be more of Aspiring Published Author. One could say I’m an Accomplished Screenwriter. I did actually complete a screenplay with a friend many years ago and we registered it with the Writers Guild of America. But, man was that an ordeal. It was an idea I had been going over and over in my head and the Perfectionist in men kept wanting to tweak it over and over so I never really seemed to get it down in a completed sense. Sure I had a ton of chicken scratch notes on various scraps of paper tossed into my leather portfolio but in essence I had nothing ready to go from start to finish. It wasn’t until my friend/coworker and I got together over a couple of weeks that it began to feel finished. When it finally was done and we printed it out and bound it and sent it off to a few screenplay contests I knew it wasn’t Oscar worthy. Heck I’m not sure it would even be Razzie worthy because no one would take that and make it into a movie, but I still felt accomplished. I then had this sense of dreading it. Images of Adam Sandler popped into my head, “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”
See here’s the thing. By saying I was an Aspiring Writer people would ask what I was working on, not what I had completed. The answer to that question was so much easier than had my answer been, oh I’m a writer.
Really? What have you written?
A lot of ideas on sticky notes and Spiral Journals, basically is all.
As an Aspiring Writer I felt like I could be cool, hip, mysterious and aloof. I could walk into coffee bars and order a Cortado then sit in the high back leather chair in the corner and sip away with my pinky out all while jotting down ideas in my faux leather pocket journal. If I had a handle bar mustache and some chukkas, the package would be complete and people would get a sense of ‘that guy must be a writer.’
I wish ‘Imaginative Idea Generator’ could be a lucrative job. That’s what I do well. I come up with all kinds of ideas for books, movies, made-for-TV specials, Netflix produced hits, and Podcasts. I have something to say and want to get it out there but then I instantly wonder (again with the Procrastinating Perfectionist), will it be good enough? Would people even pick it up, turn the page, turn it on, or tune in?
To me, my ideas are like a city-funded (not annoying neighbors) Fourth of July fireworks display. It starts out with a decent sized Pop of an idea. The very first ‘Ooooh’ escapes my lips and I’m getting tingles because I know where that one idea is going to lead me. Several other colorful pops appear. The original pop still lingers in the air and as it fizzles out it’s complimented by more. See where I’m going with this? My initial thought of an idea, a ‘what-if’ pops into my head. Suddenly I’m off filling my head up ideas and conjuring up a story. It’s amazing. The colors, the differences of pyrotechnics, they all come together and work. Every now and again a spark will go up and fizzle, but it’s immediately replaced. Then the finale, it’s big, it’s amazing, it’s culminating in all the right feels. I grab a notebook and begin scribbling away, but just like in real life, sometimes your camera doesn’t quite capture the whole event. Think of it like trying to tell your friends about this once in a lifetime fireworks event you went to and you’re showing them the pictures. Of course you’re recalling it in your head with such intensity and feeling that you’re reliving it, but the look in your guests’ eyes shows they’re just not getting it. You end with the all to cliché, ‘I guess you had to be there.’
What goes on in my head with an idea can fully captivate me and be done within seconds or a couple of days. However, as I try to write it down and flesh out the moments between the pops, I realize others may not see my vision as I see it. I may be laying on that lawn having the time of my life watching the fireworks go off, but others might be sitting there going, ‘when are we getting drinks?’
I think a lot of ‘Procrastinating Perfectionist’ issues come from wanting to know from A to Z exactly what will happen and how I want the reader to take it. Sometimes the initial excitement of the idea gets me going before I even realize where it will end. I’ll get a third of the way through an outline for a story only to realize I painted myself into a plot-hole corner or jumping from the frying pan of stereotypical characters to the fire of their complex arcs.
On a side note I just realized I’ve been writing for about 60 minutes straight and have gotten over 1000 words down. On top of that, I only went back and rearranged a few of my sentences twice! Perhaps I’ve evolved from the Aspiring Writer to the Inspired Writer! That’s what it’s all about (screw you Hokey-Pokey). It’s about progress, not perfectionism. I mean here I am at 40 and finally decided what I want to do in my life (well sort of). I want to leave some sort of impression or legacy. Maybe ultimately I want to create something tangible that my kids and grand-kids can hold onto when I’m gone (that got morbid real quick). I don’t necessarily want to Blog or do Podcasts and leave it at that. Heck, I don’t even think I would want to start with that, but let’s say the apocalypse happens then all digital records go away, disappear. Books though, aside from them being burned for warmth or fuel, will remain (and then at that point my words are ensuring one more night of survival. AGAIN with the morbidity!).
So now what? What do I do with this capricious work of introspection? Will it stay hidden on my laptop’s drive? Do I dare send it out somewhere to be ‘published’ on someone’s blog or Facebook Group page? If I do can I no longer call myself an Aspiring Writer? Have I inspired someone else? Am I an Inspirational Writer now (you can do it too)? I guess if you’re reading this, I need to pick my publishing name. Decisions, decisions. What WOULD be the perfect name?
Let me think about it.