mitchellirons

rough notes

creative insecurities and the like

with 2 comments

I believe that perfectionists are incredibly insecure people.  Perfectionists self-identify with their condition:  they understand and know that they can’t achieve their ideal even though they try so hard to do so.  They want completion even though completion is a fantasy, a myth.  But rather than allowing themselves to accept this condition and move forward with their lives, this understanding festers and becomes a lack.  Perfectionists can’t ever be happy with their work.  The incomplete nature of it haunts them, it shames them.

I’ve only recently begun to understand the ramifications of this relationship (effect: insecurity; cause: perfectionism).  Now that I have a little bit more time on my hands, I’m becoming more creative again with my writing.  No longer must I write only essays or write only for work.  Now I can write in whatever mode I choose, and I can write for pleasure.  Putting the pen to paper has sometimes been difficult, though, because of this perfectionist insecurity.  I’m haunted by the apparant lack in my writing.  Even when I write for no audience but myself (i.e., when it really is paper that i inscribe with a pen, as opposed to a blog post), I fret on what my words are missing as opposed to what beauty or rhetoric they might contain.

I’m trying to figure out the causes for this perfectionism beyond simple “insecurity”.  I think a large part of it has been my years and years of schooling in the humanities. The arts taught me to write well (and I’m a superb writer when I want to be), and my work teaching writing and rhetoric sharpened my own writing skills as I helped others improve their abilities with the written word.  However, writing in the arts is always marked by evaluation.  An essay is meant to be a container for an excellent argument, but often (and especially in literature, philosophy, and history) it becomes an integral part of the work itself and is therefore evaluated as much as the ideas it conveys. I’ve spent nearly ten years writing “A” and “A-” papers, which are marks of excellence in the arts, but these marks – as all marks are – highlight what a work lacks; they focus on what prevents the work from being perfect or ideal.  I like to write, and I like to be creative, but since my act of writing has for so long been tied to scholastic ambition and evaluation, I tend to focus on apparent (or perceived) deficiencies instead of achievements.

This insecurity – as foolish as it may be – prevents me from writing more than I would like and more than I should.  It stifles my creative output since I constantly second-guess my words.  It also impedes my desire to write publicly.  For years I’ve written on the Internet with a pseudonym (and I still do, you have noticed) in order to avoid criticism and evaluation.  I look at my friends who write and write freely on the web with their real names and I wonder why I can’t find the courage to do the same.  I think it’s because I evaluate my own words by considering the public opinions of academics who would have graded my works inside and outside of the classroom and I wonder if they would throw off my prose as purple or my essays as not ready for prime time.

This situation may have changed this week, though.  Now that I’m “in the workforce” and have a lot of free time in the evenings, I have more time to write.  And now that my workplace is filled with people with different backgrounds who all consider themselves writers of one kind or another (including not only academics but also authors, journalists, and public relations professionals), I’m beginning to feel that I don’t have to judge my work by the one and only measure I have been for the last ten years or so.  There are other measures that are perfectly valid (excuse the pun), so I shouldn’t inhibit my own creative output on account of my misguided perceptions of the opinions others may have of my words.

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Written by mitchellirons

October 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

Posted in ecrits

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Totally know how you feel. I was writing an astronomy-related article one day and then I went to my astronomy class… and discovered I failed an astronomy assignment. I haven’t been back to the article since, thinking to myself, “Am I just a crackpot? Do I really ‘know’ anything about this stuff?”

    William Matheson

    October 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

  2. Man… it’s hard sometimes, I know.
    As cheesy as it is, doing NaNoWriMo is possibly the best thing I’ve done to liberate myself from the need to write perfectly… You don’t need to share it, so you don’t even need a great idea.

    Anyway, you’ll get there.

    Rhia

    October 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm


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