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.

New Book Idea

Standard

img_4900For the past few years, all of my spare time has been focused on screenwriting with my writing partner, Jess. Prior to this partnership, I had always wanted to be a novelist, an aspiration that goes way back to my preteen years. But when Jess approached me with a story idea that I couldn’t resist, our partnership was born, and it eventually evolved into a comedy screenwriting adventure that I love more than words can do justice. It was how I spent all of my free time, and my own novel writing endeavors were moved to the back burner.

Until now.

Not only have I learned how to juggle a full-time job and various writing endeavors, but I finally, gleefully, blessedly was struck by a new book idea over the holidays. For months, I felt ready for a new idea. All of my past novel concepts were Young Adult fiction–supernatural and fantasy–and although I love that genre and hope to revel in it one day, I just wanted something different. Something grown up. And I got it:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Think Eat, Pray, Love meets On the Road. But this idea goes beyond wishy washy chick lit, because ::shivers in disgust:: I would never. This is about a journey from day-to-day misery to tragic loss to an urgency to live to doing just that. As an aspiring writer, I’ve heard one bit of advice over and over again: write what you know. Obviously, I didn’t know YA supernatural and/or fantasy lifestyles, but I could imagine them. But for this new idea, I can pull from my own experiences and also write about what I’d like to experience.

Another facet of this idea that I am super excited about is diversity. My cast of characters will be all over the map: white, black, hispanic, straight, gay, and transgender. I want to represent all different types of people. I want to show love and friendship across different scopes and challenges.

I am SO STOKED for this book. I was able to completely outline it and develop my cast in two days. So now, now the fun part begins – I can start to write this story. And, although it’s only a working title, I’ve decided to call it Destination Happiness. Simple and–I hope–relatable.

When I Knew I Wanted to be a Writer

Standard

img_4913I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact moment or thing that ignited this desire until recently. My favorite book is Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It’s been one of my favorites since I was twelve, and that’s saying a lot because I am and always have been an avid reader. In fact, in middle school I was notorious for having a new book to read nearly every day. We had daily Sustained Silent Reading in English class, and I would be in the library a couple of times a week looking for a new book to read.

My parents were not big readers, but they did encourage my passion for it. When I was twelve, they both had just finished reading Swan Song and were raving about it. Although it was an adult book (it’s postapocalyptic with traces of horror, supernatural, and fantasy as well as a whole lot of adult content), they still encouraged me to read it, so I did. I remember struggling with the first 60 pages or so, as they are very political and not the least bit interesting to a preteen, but I powered through. Then I was hooked.

After that, I read Swan Song annually. That is until college, when classes and part-time work took precedence over leisurely reading. Then adulthood happened, and I was in the real world, which boasted a lot of 9-5 parameters and even less time for reading for fun. Still, I spoke of the book often, and it was my go to reading recommendation to any and everyone.

Last year around New Year’s, I decided that one of my resolutions would be to read more in 2016, and I wanted to start off with a reread of Swan Song. So that’s how I spent my spare time the first couple of weeks in January. Any moment I had to myself, I was reading McCammon’s book. I spent the last 50 pages of the book silently crying as I read, because I was so overwhelmed by McCammon’s brilliance. His story is a masterpiece, a beautiful masterpiece. But more so than that, it made me remember. And realize.

This was the book that turned me from reader to aspiring writer.

This is the story that swept me away so ardently, that I knew I needed to try my hand at creating my own story and characters. I wanted to do what McCammon did. I wanted to write something that would impact others the way his writing impacted me. Swan Song reminded me of who I was, who I am now, and who I want to become. An aspiring writer, a determined writer, a successful writer.

When I finally put down the book, still overwhelmed with emotions and this realization, I looked up Robert McCammon on Twitter and tweeted to him about my love and awe for the book. And, do you know what happened moments later? He retweeted my message.

I don’t believe in coincidences, so I took this as a sign (albeit silly to some) and a weighty validation. This was the universe’s way of telling me that my realization and the passion and new-found drive to succeed that it inspired is not only real but encouraged. Writing really is my path, and I would be foolish not to pursue it.

So, here we are. Pursuing 🙂

Fangirl Fav: The Lord of the Rings

Standard

img_2693I was sick over New Year’s and sadly missed my scheduled NYE plans, but instead of moping and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to start a 3-night rewatch of The Lord of the Rings movies. The extended editions, of course, because I do not mess around with my fangirl favs.

I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings (LotR) by accident. I’d heard of the books of course, but had always kind of rebelled against them because long, and my mean 8th grade Algebra teacher had dogs named Bilbo and Frodo. I could not possibly like something that he enjoyed. And yet, years later when FotR was released and my dad picked up the VHS (yes, you read that right) at Acme on a whim…well, the rest, as they say, is history.

LotR was probably my first completely-obsessed-with-fangirl fav movie (the TV show equivalent is Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I’ve had other books, movies, and TV shows that I’ve adored over the years, but LoTR hit around the time the internet started to get big, and I remember actually having countdowns until the trailers were released online. Not even the movie release date, first was the trailer release. And then I would watch it over and over again and make everyone I knew (who wouldn’t judge me too harshly) watch it too. Then came the movie releases. I saw both TTT and RotK in the theater three times each, and still, to this day, I mourn the fact that I never viewed FotR in theaters 😦

The movies, as anyone (and I hope that means everyone) who has seen them knows, are epic. In fact, I wish I could think of a more impressive and celebratory word than “epic” to describe them. They are insanely well cast (thank god for that whole Viggo Mortensen was a last minute replacement stroke of luck), visually stunning, obviously made with love and reverence, and everything good movies should be (albeit a little long – come on, I’m not delusional). They also brought about a new self-discovery: how much I love the shooting and production side of movies. The DVDs/blurays are filled with hours upon hours of interviews with director Peter Jackson, the producers, the cast, special effects geniuses, composer Howard Shore, and everyone else who was involved in the creation of the films. I spent so many hours watching that footage, being completely immersed and in awe of the love and work that went into the LotR trilogy.

Which is why it’s both funny and duh-inducing that I’m now an aspiring screenwriter. As if I really had a choice 😉

So falling sick recently was a blessing in disguise, as it reintroduced my once loved annual tradition of rewatching the LotR movies. In closing, I’ll just list, in chronological order, some of my favorite moments in the LotR trilogy (sidenote, my original list was 34082340 items long, so I’ve sadly cut it):

  • The formation of the Fellowship at the end of the Council of Elrond. Sigh. I just ::flails:: Such an epic moment!
  • Boromir redeeming himself at the end of the first movie. His parting line to Aragorn still gets me every single time: “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”
  • The reveal of Gandalf the Sparkly White.
  • Gandalf, Eomer, and the Rohirrim arriving at the end of the battle to kick orc/urukhai ass!
  • Gandalf and Pippin arriving to Minas Tirith and riding Shadowfax up to the top of the city while Howard Shore’s epic “Minas Tirith” plays in the background.
  • Gandalf using his sparkly white staff of light and magic to ride out and save the soldiers fleeing the Nazgul. And Faramir! My Gondorian bae!
  • Theoden and the Rohirrim arriving at Pelennor Fields to join the battle. Makes me cry every time!
  • Aragorn going all badass king-to-be on the King of the Dead: “You will suffer me!”
  • Aragorn leading the army to the Black Gates. His speech. His head chopping. I can’t.
  • Everyone’s reaction to the fall of Sauron. Ugh. Perfection.
  • At the end of Aragorn’s coronation, when the hobbits bow to him, and he replies: “My friends, you bow to no one.” Then he and the ENTIRE country, plus some, bow to those furry-footed princes. Staaaahp.
  • And, finally, Gandalf’s goodbye to the hobbits, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

P.S. I love The Lord of the Rings books as well. In fact, I did a 3-credit independent study on them my senior year of college, ‘cause nerd 😉