Perfectionism: Every Writer’s Archenemy

Standard

chalkboardI’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12-years-old, and at this point, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have many, many story ideas. Some are novels and some are screenplays. The genres are varied – general fiction, young adult supernatural, comedy, drama, romance, young adult fantasy. Over the years, I’ve started to write at least half a dozen of these stories, but I’ve only ever completed a thriller novel and two screenplays (one drama, one comedy), all three of which were co-written with my writing partner. I always thought that accountability was the biggest block to actually finishing (and pitching!) my own books, but I’ve come to realize that the real problem–and my true archenemy–is perfectionism.

This isn’t a light-bulb revelation for me. Perfectionism is something that I’ve always struggled with in numerous facets of my life. But woo boy, it’s most definitely held me back the most when it comes to writing. To me, writing is like visiting another plane of existence. When I am in my creative zone, everything is so much more vivid. Time is fluid and meaningless. The only thing that matters is a steady flow of words that breathe life and soul into my characters and plot. The day that I finished writing the aforementioned thriller novel, I wrote the final six chapters in an uninterrupted 8-hour stretch. It actually kind of scared me, that the day got away from me so easily, but man was I pumped and feeling so accomplished afterwards.

Writers battling perfectionism is nothing new. I’ve read many articles on it. I’ve chatted with fellow writers about it. I’ve bemoaned it in my own journal more times than I can count. So, how does one overcome perfectionism in writing? I think the strategy depends on the writer. Some people may join a writing group or class to hold them accountable and provide daily support and encouragement. Others may embark on some sort of writing challenge. For me, there are a few things that come to mind so that I can conquer this annoying writing block once and for all:

  • Trust: I’m a new age woo woo type of spiritual person. I believe in the Universe as a divine source, I love soul searching, and I’m constantly trying to connect to my higher self for wisdom and guidance. So, all of that being said, I need to actually trust that these story ideas have come to me for a reason, and that reason is that I am meant to write them. And, ya know, finish them.
  • Focus and commit: I constantly lose momentum in whichever writing project I’m currently working on and then switch to a different project. I tell myself it’s because I’m just not aligned with that story at that moment, so I should move on to something else that excites me more. Besides, that way I’m at least writing, right? Wrong. I need to actually focus and commit to ONE story idea, start to finish. A few blog posts ago, I wrote about a new story idea that I had, and I went a good six weeks with writing on it daily. Then I started to harshly judge everything I was writing as complete and total shit (hello, perfectionism!), which of course made me lose motivation. So I switched to a young adult story I started (and never finished) years ago. And the same thing happened all over again – I was gung ho writing daily on it for a few weeks, then started to hate what I was producing, and now I don’t want to work on that story any more. So, I now commit to focus on my newest novel idea, Destination Happiness, and pour everything I have into it.
  • Just write already: Like, for real, Pam. Just write already. Stop making up excuses. Yes, it is super challenging to find the time and energy to write when I have a high stress and all-consuming day job. That is my reality. BUT, I can get back into the habit of reserving my Saturday or Sunday for writing. In fact, I can look forward to that date with my imagination, because I know that once I actually sit down and surrender to story, I feel good. It makes me happy.

Writing is the thing that lights me up. It’s part of who I am. So no more allowing perfectionism to take my muse hostage. I have tons of story ideas–fun, relatable story ideas–that I want to share with others. So I will write, and I will write often. I will finish my latest book. And if that book is then pitched and published and results in loads of cash and my gleeful escape from the harrowing 9-to-5 grind, then all the better.

Take that, perfectionism.

Advertisements

Fangirl Fav: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Standard

BTVSThis past week marked the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the tv series). Although I enjoyed a variety of pop culture as a wee one, anything from Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to X-Men and the Superman movies, I didn’t get a true taste of fangirl obsession until Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked into my life (well, not literally, because then I would be dead from awesome overload).

My BtVS obsession goes waaay back to the original movie starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. I was in love with Luke Perry, thanks to Beverly Hills, 90210, which I watched with my mom. (Sidenote: although mom appreciated Luke Perry, her heart belonged to Jason Priestley.) I was only eight when the BtVS movie came out in 1992, but I was instantly hooked. Although I think, even back then, part of me knew this wasn’t cinema at its best lol. Still, Luke Perry was hot, Kristy Swanson was a girl who kicked major ass, and there were vampires! Lots and lots of vampires!

When the TV version of BtVS launched in 1997, I was 13 and the perfect age for an instant obsession. And I mean obsession. Some of the first posters I ever hung on my walls were of the BtVS cast, including my treasured poster of Buffy and Angel, my very first OTP. I wrote letters to the cast which prompted a response including a signed cast photo which earned many, many squeal/flail combos. I had action figures, trading cards, clothing, and basically any BtVS memorabilia I could get my grubby little hands on, most of which were proudly displayed in my bedroom.

Of course, as many people know, obsession comes with a price. My adoration for BtVS caused my very first fangirl meltdown, the extent of which still earns reminiscent chuckles from my family. Spoiler Alert: When Angel was killed at the end of season 2, I was literally in mourning all summer. I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion, and when he was resurrected the next season, well, PURE HAPPINESS was suddenly my new jam. End Spoiler Alert. Don’t even get me started on when the show was resurrected for it’s second leg of life on a different network. I mean……I can’t.

In honor of the 20th anniversary, and my fond fangirl memories, I’d like to list some of my favorite things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer before wrapping this up while I still have a modicum of self-respect (I hope?).

Random Reasons Why I Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Show)

  • I love the Buffy/Angel relationship as much as they loved each other.
  • Joss Whedon’s writing. His dialogue is amazing. Some of my favorite quotes ever came from BtVS.
  • I love the various friendships portrayed over the duration of the show: Buffy/Willow, Buffy/Xander, Buffy/Willow/Xander, etc.
  • The fight scenes! I’m such a nerd for action sequences.
  • Doppelgangers. Specifically Willow’s doppelganger, who was amazing and hilarious.
  • Anya. (Yes, she deserves her own bullet.)
  • The development of Cordelia over the progression of the show (and later the spinoff). She was the original mean girl and had some of the best lines of the show.
  • The Angel spinoff!
  • Obviously outdated now, but I loooved the styling of that show, fashion and hair wise.
  • I loved that Buffy could be a badass, a badass girl at that, and still be feminine and vulnerable.
  • Spike with a side of Drusilla. They were delightfully, twistedly awesome.

To this day, I still have random BtVS bingewatch fests. Whenever I come across current fandoms or popular series, I think of BtVS and hope that today’s fangirls and fanboys stumble across the 90’s gem that launched a global cult phenomenon. Sure, the show isn’t exactly timeless. The clothing, hair, slang, and way of life has changed, but the core of the show–the relationships, the love stories, the heartbreaks, the trials and tribulations of life–transcends decades and wardrobe. Most of it, maybe even all of it, is relatable. With vampires! Lots and lots of vampires!

Kitchen Catastrophes Connoisseur

Standard

kitchen-catastrophesSpeak to anyone close to me, and they will probably tell you that one of my more charming traits (I hope) is that I am a complete and utter failure in the kitchen. Actually, “failure” is putting it lightly. When it comes to my horrible culinary skills (or lack thereof) and frequently disgusting–sometimes dangerous–end results, the word “catastrophe” is much more fitting.

My very first kitchen catastrophe happened when I was a teenager. I’m the oldest of five and frequently babysat my siblings while my parents were out. On one such occasion, I decided I was going to surprise my parents by baking brownies, but not just plain, old, boring brownies, no, I was going to make heart-shaped brownies. I’d been eyeing this hot pink heart-shaped silicon (or so I thought) pan that my mom had purchased a few weeks earlier, and this was my chance to finally get my grubby hands on it. Sadly, the silicon pan was not silicon at all. It was plastic. Extremely, regrettably, meltable plastic. Needless to say, we had neither brownies nor a heart-shaped pan by the time I was done in the kitchen that day.

Since I was a teenager when that first fiasco happened, you’d think that I must have gotten better at this cooking thing by now. No, no I haven’t. As a matter of fact, I’ve only added more outrageous kitchen catastrophes to the list.

A rundown:

  • Finding pantry food that is well past the expiration date. As in three or four years past. Oops.
  • Using my slow cooker for the very first time and completely, and I mean completely, liquefying my southwest shredded chicken. Instead of drinking my dinner that night, I ordered out, because I don’t actually want to poison myself.
  • That time I tried to make my own Italian-esque mozzarella balls. You know, the type in flavored oil that are THE BOMB. I’m half Italian, this should have been a victory. It wasn’t. It was flavorless mozzarella balls coated in dry seasonings that kept getting stuck in my teeth 😦
  • One of my favorites: the time I preheated my oven without checking inside first and almost set fire to a sadly forgotten and stowed away pizza box. This was actually pretty scary and had me shaking for a good hour or two. And the smell…dear sweet baby Jesus, the smell.
  • I’ve had quite a few failtastic milk related kitchen catastrophes. The top two, however: 1) Accidentally eating sour milk because I didn’t check the expiration date before making a bowl of cereal, and 2) Now more vigilant in checking milk before using it, I too enthusiastically did the sniff test and snorted milk bubbles up my nose. Adulthood – nailed it. 
  • Still, I’ve saved the best for last: that time I liquefied a potato. As in the potato was sitting in my veggie bowl for so long that it actually liquefied on the bottom. One night, I came home to a RANK smell in my kitchen, like spoiled fish or weeks-old garbage in a NYC alley. After some investigating, I went to pick up the potato from the veggie bowl, and it dribbled through my fingers.

My parents have often told me that I probably shouldn’t live on my own, and although I greatly resent that–SINCE THEY RAISED ME AND SHOULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB AT TEACHING ME HOW TO COOK SO I COULD SURVIVE ON MY OWN IN THE BIG, BAD WORLD–they aren’t wrong. Alas, I value my independence far too much to get a roommate, and I’m totally not in the soon-to-be-married phase of my life yet. So, for the foreseeable future, fake!adulthood it is! And, you know, thank goodness for GrubHub, and the like, or I’d probably starve to death.

Soul Searching Rec: Mindbodygreen

Standard

mbgYou may have caught on to this by now: I am a personal growth junkie. I love learning and exploring new things, particularly resources that are informative, inspirational, and fun. And if said resources just so happen to improve happiness and well-being, all the better!

So, in the spirit of promoting such resources, I’d like to recommend one of my favorite daily e-newsletters (stemming from a great website): Mindbodygreen. I look forward to this gem in my inbox every single day. Here’s a blurb from the Mindbodygreen website about the mission behind the brand:

mindbodygreen is a lifestyle media brand dedicated to inspiring you to live your best life.

To that end, we want to give you everything that’s great for you: mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and environmentally — because we believe these pillars of wellness are vital and interconnected. Hence mindbodygreen (one word, not three).

Mindbodygreen splits their content into these categories: eat, move, live, breathe, and love. Revitalize is another subcategory that is based off of an annual event hosted by Mindbodygreen that gathers wellness leaders and other inspirational individuals who shape the world.

The content on the website and in the e-newsletters is truly inspirational. Each e-newsletter issue is filled with a number of articles and recommendations that are impactful and thought provoking. Topics range from astrology and clean eating to fitness and relationships. Even the articles I wouldn’t necessarily seek out have often been enjoyable and enlightening.

If you’re looking for a daily dose of inspiration, I highly recommend subscribing to the Mindbodygreen newsletter!

Meditation

Standard

meditateI’ve been meditating for about five years, and although I’ve gone through periods where it was a devout daily practice of mine, I’ve not been very good at making it stick lately. The annoying thing is that I know how much it improves my life – it gives me clarity, a way to relieve stress, and it lends to a marked and overall improvement to my mental health. I thought that perhaps by blogging about meditation, it would inspire me to make it a daily habit once more.

I’m rather flexible when it comes to my meditation practices, because I like to learn about and experience new things. I’ve tried many different types of meditation: guided meditation, meditation accompanied by sound (my preference is ocean waves), binaural beats, breath-focused meditation, and just plain old silent meditation. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite type, but I tend to practice silent meditation or guided meditation the most. My favorite guided meditation is Blissful Deep Relaxation. The first time I used this meditation, I fell into the deepest meditation I’ve achieved to date. It was trance-like, and once I finished, I wasn’t even aware of my body. It was awesome.

I also have some meditation apps that I like to use:

  • Brainwave: The Brainwave app is a good option if you’re into binaural beats. Brainwave has a handy timer feature, ranging from five minutes to eight hours (if you use one of the sleep beats), and it also has background sound options (like “Beach Surf”). The actual binaural beats options include programs such as “Power Nap,” “Morning Coffee,” “Critical Thinking,” and “Creativity Boost.” I definitely like all of the options, but I’m not sure binaural beats are for me. I never seem to get anything out of this app, try as I might.
  • Breathe: Breathe is one of my favorite meditation apps. It provides a meditation guide for newbies, a list of meditations–some of which are free, and some that you must purchase–and it even tracks your meditation progress. My favorite Breathe meditations include “Mindful Meditation,” “Gratitude,” and “Great Compassion.”
  • Calm: Calm may be tied with Insight Timer as my favorite meditation app. The interface is super nice, and there are a ton of options. Calm offers daily meditations and various meditation programs, such as “7 Days of Calm,” “7 Days of Sleep,” and “7 Days of Self-Esteem.” Both unguided (timed vs. open-ended meditations) and guided (“Body Scan,” “Calming Anxiety,” etc.) meditations are available, although many of the latter need to be purchased. Calm also has a scenes feature, which allows you to choose from an array of moving images to focus on while you meditate, if you so choose. They have everything from a beach sunset to a horizon scene.
  • Headspace: Headspace is perhaps one of the most popular meditation apps. It’s a really great resource for newbies and promises to teach and promote daily meditation in just 10 minutes a day. Like Calm, it has a really nice interface, although as someone who has meditated for years,  I found Headspace to be a bit too meditation for dummies.
  • Insight Timer: This one is my most recent find, and it has quickly climbed to the top of my list. It’s free, and it’s basically an online database of meditations for all different purposes: sleep, relaxation, reducing anxiety, balancing your chakras, etc. You can search for whatever you want, and they also keep lists of the current top 20 meditations, newest meditations, etc. I really like that there’s a bookmark feature, so you can keep track of your favorites, and there’s also a rating feature, which always helps me decide which meditation to choose.
  • Simply Being:  Simply Being is a guided meditation app, but you can mute the voice so you can focus on your chosen sound instead. I favor “Moderate Surf,” (with the voice muted) but there are other options, such as various music, “Light Rain” and “Evening Lake Birds.” I also like the timer option on this app – you can set your meditation for 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes.

If you’re interested in meditation, you should definitely try one (or some!) of the apps listed above. Of course now that I’ve published this post, I’ll be sure to take my own advice and get back into the habit of meditating 😉 I find that for me meditating at night just before I go to bed is a great way to unwind after a long day and fall asleep faster, which is always appreciated.

Team INFJ

Standard

infjI’ve always been introverted with a side of social anxiety, but lately I’ve felt as though my anxiety has significantly increased. To combat this and better understand myself, I’ve been doing a lot of research about introversion and social anxiety. My hope is to better educate myself on these traits as well as possible coping mechanisms and personal growth opportunities that would work best for me. I first took the Myers-Briggs personality test years ago but decided to take it again to really dig deep into my wiring. I found a great version of the assessment at 16 Personalities, and they have, by far, the most in-depth free report that I’ve seen on this type of assessment. (Note that I also took about five other versions of this type of test to make sure that my result was accurate.)

Unsurprisingly, now that I’ve read up on it, I am an INFJ. INFJ equates to Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging. This personality type is the rarest of the 16 and makes up less than 1% of the population. That’s one in every 100 people. Between 16 Personalities and the other assessment results I received, it was literally pages and pages of information on being an INFJ. Rather than just copy and paste all of that information, I want to touch on the facts that really struck me, and just generally use this post as a way to organize and reflect on this data. And what better way to do this than…::dramatic whisper:: bullet points.

  • The INFJ personality type can be referred to as “The Advocate” or “The Counselor.” The role of this person is diplomat, and their strategy in life is constant improvement. This actually made me chuckle because it’s very spot on for me. People often seek me out for advice or to vent, I really despise confrontation so I try to be very diplomatic, and I am a personal growth junkie.
  • INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life. They need to know that what they are doing has meaning, helps people, leads to personal growth and, all the while, is in line with their values, principles, and beliefs. This is something that has become very apparent to me the last couple of years. It’s one thing to be good at your job, and another to love your job. And I realize that I truly desire work that is not only creative but impactful. I like knowing that I am working for a purpose, even if that purpose is to make people laugh and be happy.
  • INFJs crave creativity too. They often pursue expressive careers such as writing, elegant communicators that they are, and author many popular blogs, stories, and screenplays. Well, here’s hoping 🙂
  • Though soft-spoken, INFJs have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain. This is me to a T. I’m fairly quiet in most situations, as I prefer to observe and think before acting/speaking, but woo boy do I have strong opinions. I will make sure to share them, especially if I feel as though there is inequity or injustice going on (especially to others, not just myself).
  • INFJs need time alone to decompress and recharge. lolololol uh, yeah. Most weekends find me hiding at home, alone, so I can shed the stress and social interaction cache from the work week and recharge before getting back to it on Monday morning.
  • When INFJs come to believe that something is important, they pursue that goal with a conviction and energy that can catch even their friends and loved ones off guard. Yeah, pretty much. #sorrynotsorry
  • INFJs yearn for authenticity and sincerity – in their activities, their romantic relationships, and their friendships. They are unlikely to go for friendships of circumstance, like workplace social circles or chatting up their local baristas, where the only thing they really have in common is a day-to-day familiarity. Rather, INFJs seek out people who share their passions, interests and ideologies, people with whom they can explore philosophies and subjects that they believe are truly meaningful. Yessss! I am really sick of needing to defend the fact that I cringe at small talk, despise work happy hours, and generally dread “just because” functions. It’s not because I’m an asshole or standoffish, it’s because these type of social interactions (and the anxiety that I feel leading up to them) are painful and, in my eyes, pointless.

I think it’s really important to note that “introverted” does not necessarily mean “shy.” To me, being an introvert means that I just prefer to be quiet and observe. It means that I am highly sensitive to external stimuli – noise, light, crowds of people, scents, etc. These are things that I zero in on and am affected by physically. It means that I get my energy from being by myself and enjoying solitary activities like reading and writing. It means that social situations and gatherings take a lot out of me, and that I don’t always hate them, but I will more than likely dread the lead up to them. I just find all of this information really fascinating and comforting. Most of the time, I feel like an awkward socially anxious freak of nature, so to see what I feel and how I act documented in various ways by various sources makes me feel a little less misunderstood and lonely.

This is Not Okay

Standard

statue-of-liberty-267948_640Never in my life have I felt so torn. On the one hand, I find myself often needing to just turn away from social media and the news, because every time I check, there is yet another disturbing and horrific headline. But then again, I need to be informed. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand. I will not fall in line, sit back, and normalize what is happening in America.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve not always been politically savvy. I didn’t really pay much attention to politics until it was time to vote for Barack Obama, and I was excited to do so. I remember staying up late on Election Day in 2008, watching history being made, and feeling so proud to be an American, so proud to be part of this type of progressive achievement. And now when I wake up every day, it’s like I’m living in some kind of regressive, soon to be apocalyptic, nightmare.

In just two weeks, Donald Trump has signed off on some of the most oppressive and disgusting Executive Orders in the history of our country. A woman’s right to choose what is best for her health and her body should not be dismissed and trampled on by a room full of conservative white men. Moving forward to build a toxic pipeline through the sacred lands and waters of the true natives of this country should not be a decision made by a greedy billionaire and his wealthy cabinet of cronies. Singling out groups of people and denying them refuge from war or the long sought after American dream because of their faith and ethnicity is repugnant.  

This is wrong. This is moving backwards. This is not my America. It’s heartbreaking to witness this type of regression and hatred. Yes, hatred. That’s exactly what it is. Racism. Sexism. Islamophobia. Homophobia. It all comes down to the same thing – hatred for those who are different.

All of this is so profoundly divisive, and I’ve experienced that first hand. I recently lost one of my best friends over all of this. We’d known each other for a decade, but after the election, I was so shaken and upset by the result. So naive in my white privilege. I desperately wanted to try and understand why this happened. I sought out conversation with my former friend who had a history of being a conservative Republican. I just wanted to understand the other side from someone I loved and trusted, and you know what happened? She couldn’t even have a conversation about it.

The more questions I asked, the more silent and defensive she became. And I realized that I thought I knew this person so well, but we hadn’t ever really talked about this stuff. Important stuff. About our core values and beliefs. About diversity and inclusivity. About basic human decency. And as I began to replay past conversations in my head, where I’d brought up my loved ones who are gay, or wanting to write diverse characters in my stories, I remembered that she never really participated in any of it. I began to realize that maybe we didn’t actually have the same values and beliefs. But rather than have a conversation about this, my former friend abruptly ended our friendship and told me I was being used by Satan. I wanted to talk about equality and justice, and she couldn’t even dip a toe in the conversation, but I was the one possessed by evil? And really, when you can’t even have a respectful adult conversation about these things, when you are so shaken by mere questioning about them, I can only conclude that at the core of what you think, feel, and believe is shame.

All of this has my head spinning. To live in a world where there is talk of a wall being built between countries. Where we are turning away refugees seeking safety and peace. Where we are vilifying the press. Where the man sitting in the highest office in our nation chooses to spend his time lying about easily vetted things, insulting foreign countries, making his wallet and the wallets of his friends fatter, and using every possible moment of screen time to deepen the divide of America…all of it is just really and truly terrible.

I feel sick and lost and scared. And the sad thing is that I know I’ve only felt this way for a few months while marginalized people have felt this way their entire lives. So shame on me. I suppose the best I can do for now is: 1) continue to be informed by concrete sources, 2) be vocal and steadfast in my denouncement of these disgusting injustices, 3) continue to sign petitions, contact my representatives, and donate to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and 4) reiterate that I am an ally, I am not okay with any of this, and I will continue to support and advocate for all of those being negatively impacted by this new administration.