I started NaNoWriMo this week. If you don’t know what that is, you can check it out here. It is a month long novel writing extravaganza essentially. Where people who are already too busy with living life commit to writing 50,000 word by the end of the month. It’s inspiring and motivating and – fingers crossed – will get you to finally produce that great novel that has been waiting to be birthed for who knows how many years.
I did it a couple of years ago and did finish and I do have a very rough first draft of what could be something good. They really need a follow up month for actually editing and completing because apparently that is also a stalling point for me.
The first time I did it, I was almost derailed a few times by a case of “paralyzed by perfect”; this is what I came to know my nearly insurmountable need to edit and proof and perFECT my writing as I was actually writing. First draft? What’s that? It must be perfect from the moment go, or it’s not even worth starting, right? Wrong. Hard lesson learned. This is a trait that has been an issue for me for way more years that I care to admit. A trait that I never really saw as a problem until one day just over 20 years ago.
Years ago, I was picking up my son from kindergarten. Kindergarten, keep that in mind. Meaning he was about 5 years old. The door opened and all the kidlets started streaming out, except mine, who was standing there being held back by the teacher. Uh oh. That’s never good. My mind was racing with what could he have done? This was my oldest who, even then, was always well behaved, polite, the quintessential oldest. She waved me over and said she needed to show me something and invited me in.
She came over and showed me the single page colouring sheet that the kids had been asked to colour. It was a simple line drawing of a flower. She explained that 15 minutes in, everytime she looked over at my son’s colouring sheet, it was only covered with a very small amount of colouring and she didn’t know what was taking him so long. Then she saw him stand up, fold his paper in half, walk to the garbage can next to her desk, place it in and take a new sheet and return to his desk where he started to colour again. Clearly something was up. When she went to look in the garbage can, she found almost a dozen colouring sheets with a few strokes of crayon on them; with one stroke of colour on each that was just ever so slightly outside the lines.
He had been throwing out his page every time it was not perfect. She said something that has stuck with me every day since then. That she told him something she had never had to tell a child. “It doesn’t need to be perfect.”.
This year, two days in, I have had to literally tell myself – out loud – that it doesn’t have to be perfect and to just keep writing. Even when it feels like every fibre of my being is screaming at me to stop, go back, and correct that horrendous grammar goof that I know I just slammed into the keyboard. You know what though? I left it there. That error, glaring and huge and WRONG.
It’ll give me something to do in December.
PS. Son 1 is still happily seeking perfection day to day but is no longer paralyzed by it. At 27 years of age his motto now is “Nothing is perfect.” But he still tries… those genes run strong 😉
PSS. I didn’t even run a proofread on this. Okay, I did run a spellcheck – baby steps to learning lessons 😉