Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Perfectionist, paralyzed

I am a planner, a trait that usually serves me well. I'm also a perfectionist, which is another trait that usually serves me well. But when you put those two things together, you end up with a plan that's never quite good enough. And if your plan's not good enough, it certainly can't be acted upon, right?

And now you know why my house is in the state it's in.

It was something of a fixer-upper when I bought it, and I had some grand plans. I also had a baby. And then a divorce. And then the limited income (and even more limited time) of a working single mom. And as the years marched by my something of a fixer-upper turned more and more into a regular ol' fixer-upper. Nothing major. Nothing structurally unsound. (Except, possibly, the front porch. And the rotting garage. And I'm pretty sure there's some rot in the bathroom floor.) There are so many things to be done, but I don't know where to start because I can't start on one project before I figure out precisely how it will affect all the other projects and I can't start on anything before I know precisely how I'm going to accomplish every single related task and I can't make a small decision now because what if I discover that it affects a larger decision down the road and maybe I should've gone with black instead of copper and oh my god somebody make me stop.

It doesn't have to be this hard. I should just pick something and start. It doesn't have to be the "right" thing (especially since it all needs to be done so anything on the list is a "right" thing). And yet, I'm stuck. I sit and ponder, hem and haw, pick something, change my mind, pick something else, and never actually get around to starting anything. Gah!

Until it finally occurred to me that this is no different than the writer's block that comes at the beginning of a project. Not the "I don't have a damn thing to say" writer's block (in which case I generally opt to say nothing and go to the park instead where, inevitably, I find something to talk about), but the block that comes from knowing what you want to say and not knowing howto say it; the one that comes from staring at that intimidating blinking curser poised at the beginning of a blank document. The beginning is way too hard, way too stressful, waaaaay too much pressure. At the beginning, you have to have some idea of what path you're on, some idea of whether you should turn left or right when you come to the fork in the road. But the middle? The end? Those are easy. You've already forked.

I'm TERRIBLE at beginning new writing projects, which is why I always end them first. Or middle them.

I launch straight into what usually becomes the third paragraph or even the conclusion. And I launch into the middle of that paragraph, not bothering to worry about the proper introduction to my thought. In fact, I often launch into the middle of whatever sentence I'm writing. Almost always, the first thing I write in a new article is an ellipsis:
"...which, incidentally, is severely lacking in bacon."
Which, more than likely, will become the middle of a sentence in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of the article. And that works great.

So why not with my projects too?

With that in mind, I've given up deciding where it makes the most sense to start, and I'm just diving in. Starting today, it's one step at a time, one decision at a time, one piece of one project at a time. To begin, I purchased a piece of artwork for The Baby's room with only a vague idea of how to coordinate it with the rest of the decor. I have no idea what complementary artwork will surround it. And, as it turns out, I'm okay with that. It's one step closer to checking off "Finish the Nursery."

Flying Elephant, by cocodeparis

This is the (finally!) beginning of good things.

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