rough notes

Posts Tagged ‘writing

creative insecurities and the like

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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.


Written by mitchellirons

October 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

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my creative output has been stagnant as of late.  it has been for quite some time.  i realized some time over christmas that my best private moments of inspiration and production were tied to my academic output.  i could declare this a gutteral rejection of the rigours of academia, but it was likely a little more about creating or finding a balance between the analytical and the.. well… and the “less-so.”  that which i call creative was (and is) still largely “non-fiction”.  it certainly isn’t (and wasn’t) fiction, but was (and is) more like non-fiction with a flair.  there is embellishment, a lot of embellishment.  i’m not great with plot (and aristotle would have my head for it), but i am good at describing a scene.

anyway, the shift away from academe has seen my writing output drop in ways i never imagined.  this is odd, and it makes me a little insecure because i’m surrounded by writers of all sorts – which is the real reason for this post this morning.  look at just a smattering of you!:

JG – Always a journalist in all our hearts of hearts.  We love you and your pen, and we’re right pissed off that the paycheque and the pen have been separated in your life.  but we’re confident you’ll one day write a massive tome and make it all better. “Nobody told me there were going to be monkeys here! I’m not so sure about the monkeys.”  Glorious, JG, glorious.

caile – who picked up the journalist’s pen around the same time that it was taken from from JG’s hand.  you may have moved far away, but you’re still in our thoughts.

a certain cat – who introduced me to nanowrimo.  perserverance, determination, and a damn-the-torpedos attitude about writing that everyone should be party to.

some one in london – who went so far as to create her own magazine.  WTF?  Why aren’t you my mentor?  I need more of our coffee dates in my life.

the pineapples – who always has a pen in hand.  the pineapples writes fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, journals, notes, poems, recipes, and graffiti.  there are no rules and no borders.  there is only ink.

Will – finishing the PhD.  That was once a life for me, and to a certain degree (har har) it still is.

Audra – ever the activist, pr specialiast, campaigner and politico.  no holds barred here.

Goh – who is The Master.  I turn to you for advice that I accept but rarely use, which is no fault by my own.  I may not jive on a lot of your genre fiction, but I do love your non-fiction essays as well as the sheer understanding of the writer’s craft, which you’ve explored, nurtured and refined all these years.

Two people not yet listed have made a particular mark on me these past few months, though.  they are Ella2, who restrains her creative force in public but is clearly bursting at the seams once she walks away, and Jane, who speaks from the heart about the stuff going down around her without falling to pieces.  Ella2’s going a method and a plan of attack, which I’ve returned to a couple times in the past few weeks.  And Jane’s got a prose style that is brutally honest and inspirational without being sappy.  When i think about all the creative things i should be recording right now, i turn my thoughts to these two people and write vicariously through them.

Written by mitchellirons

April 19, 2009 at 10:05 am

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Gallant and Hemingway

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the threads to hemingway continue.

I found myself caught up watching a TVO documentary on Mavis Gallant this week. It was a great little feature, filmed at some point in the early to mid 1990s, I imagine. The doc featured both Gallant-the-person, that “great Canadian writer in exile,” as well as Gallant and her work – viewers were afforded a small glimpse into her own writing process, which was interesting, if not a little voyeuristic.

Gallant told the camera through the course of the doc that she was well-aware of all the comments about the similarities between her work and Hemingway’s. She didn’t mind this criticism, however, as she reasoned that that obviously Hem knew what he was doing, so if her work resembles this great prose writer, then all the better. She applauded Hemingway’s ability to always cut straight to the point in dialogue, and to write his dialogue using the same everyday language his characters would use if they were Real People rather than fictions. Gallant summed it up nicely by saying that great writers don’t explain how a character says something, but simply writes the the dialogue as the character says it. (Or something to that effect – the moment is lost on me now, but not totally lost. Promise.)

The fact that Gallant is aware of the references to Hemingway, and the fact that she raised them for a Canadian documentary filmmaker is hardly special. What is, however, is that I’ve been thinking about Gallant and this Hem connection all week. A prof once noted to me long ago that Gallant’s work has often been criticized for being “cold” or “icy” (yes a great academic word – “icy” – so be it). I remember this moment because when he asked the class what they thought of the Linnet Muir stories, I was ready to say that indeed, they felt like some something written in Hemingway’s hand. I don’t think Hemingway would ever be considered “cold” or “icy”, though.. (that is to say, I’m sure Gallant’s sex surely has something to do with this criticism.)

Written by mitchellirons

March 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm