It’s difficult to find the motivation to begin a new project when you’re both a planner and a perfectionist. The temptation to look ahead to the first hurdle or design flaw and say “well, that’s that then” is extraordinarily strong. There’s a third “p” word to add to the chain as a result – procrastinator. A common character flaw, to be sure, but let’s not call it an excuse. I share this with you, whoever you may happen to be; my confession, and my first step on a journey to self-improvement:
I am a procrastinator.
You’ll have to allow me some leeway whilst I heap some praise at my own feet for a moment, which I promise is relevant to the topic at hand. For years now I’ve had friends, family, educators and more than a few casual acquaintances comment on the high quality of my writing, an opinion I’ve often vociferously disputed. I am harshly critical of my own output, certain of its clumsiness, tendency to unnecessary verbiage and verbosity, and general lack of warmth, meaning and purpose. As a result, given every opportunity to sit down and write to my heart’s content, I rarely ever partake. I’ve come to find the act of writing to be in and of itself a challenge. The words seem to betray me even as I set them down, coming out in a way that feels massively flawed and tremendously worthless.
Take the preceding paragraph. Any amount of that could have been phrased more simply and directly, but instead it’s ponderous and dull. That’s the unedited first pass, of course, because virtually everything I write and share is an unedited first pass. I have this utterly unfounded but internalized sense that if I don’t get it right the first time, right away, that it’s an impossible Sisyphean ordeal and not worth spending any more time on.
That’s when I go find a new rock to push up a hill.
I have friends who are writers – not just personal blogs, but published novels, popular creative works and professional articles. Each of them is capable of a basic task that I struggle with: taking what doesn’t feel right the first time and working it over anew. I’ve asked each of these people for the secrets of writing, for whatever strange alchemy goes into making it feel like what one writes has a tangible quality to it instead of being dead and flat in the writer’s eyes. I ask them how to improve, how to fix the gaps I perceive in my own style, and the answer has always been the same: just write.
I freely admit that I’ve fought tooth and nail against this simple truth, but I’m here today in my capacity as a professional hypocrite of high caliber indeed to say to any of you who procrastinate and bury your desire to write under however many excuses: just do it anyway. The simple fact is that it’s a skill like any other, honed through practice and pratfalls. You have to get it wrong if you’re ever going to get it right. Nobody’s asking for the first draft to be perfect, or even the second or third. The goal is to improve, and after waiting far too long, hiding behind far too many excuses, I’m ready to say that that’s what I want to do. It has taken me nearly three months to begin using this site to share my thoughts, and in all that time I’ve always known the first post would be this post. I hope you’ll stick with me for more to come. I don’t promise to go through and revise, edit and research until things are perfect. That’s not the goal, and while I may try from time to time, that’s not what I’m setting out to do. What am I going to do?