I tell anyone who will listen that I am retired now [with a huge smile] but I am still working at writing travel articles for MMM , as well as this blog and occasionally posts on my Memorial Bench Stories blog. I have been publishing my writing for about eight years now, starting with our Blue Bus Blog and moving on to magazine travel writing not long after. But still, every time I write a piece I struggle to be comfortable with what I have written, feel it is truly finished, let it go and put it out there for judgement. Being able to decide that something is good enough to publish doesn’t seem to get any easier [in fact I think it gets harder]. I want my writing to be interesting, entertaining and just perfect and so I edit and edit again. I read it out loud, I print it and read it through repeatedly and I keep procrastinating, trying to reach some idea of perfection that I am not sure I would even know even if I created it.
I have been reading about writing and story telling recently and I am starting to try and change my mindset and stop trying so hard. Although I still don’t think it is a bad thing to aim for perfection, I see that I need to recognise that point when I must embrace imperfection, face my fears and publish. I need to let go of striving for an ideal piece of writing and concentrate on publishing something that is honest and true.
Of course I make mistakes and have to learn to laugh at the goofs I make. I am a flawed individual making a mockery of the perfectionist I want to be. But it isn’t really this that makes me hesitate over the publish button, it is the fear of demonstrating my vulnerability that stops me and a concern that critics will concentrate on my faults, rather than anything I have achieved. On really bad days when my confidence is at rock bottom, I compare my writing with the writing of my heroes and it doesn’t stand up at all and so I wonder what is the point of even trying. The grip this anxiety has on my output is interesting to note and sometimes difficult to break out of.
Julia Travers in a Be Magazine article wrote brilliantly on this subject; ‘I had a friend in college who called editing “shooting puppies,” because it was so painful to cut off valuable pieces of a work to make the whole stronger.’ This describes perfectly the physical pain I feel when I have to ditch what seems like a nice phrase or paragraph that perhaps took hours to research and compile because I know in my heart that it doesn’t fit the narrative I am creating or the word limit.
So, although I can’t promise I won’t make mistakes or post duds that are boring festooned with shoddy photographs, rather than hang my head in shame I will try and remember that those rough edges are part of what makes me a human individual and that one person’s perfect is really annoying to another.