Back to my pal Anne Lamott. Another quality that blocks our ability to jump into a writing assignment is perfectionism. Especially if we are readers, we have very high standards of what we consider good writing.
When it comes to writing those college essays, I think a lot of students already have perfectionist tendencies, which are symptoms of the parent-driven push toward over-achievement.
So listen what Anne has to say about perfection when it comes to writing:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will leave you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
She goes on, “…perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground–you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.”
So no matter what you are writing, go ahead and get out what you want to say and don’t worry if it’s too sappy, or too wordy, or doesn’t make sense. That is your mess. But at least it’s something to work with. Then you go back and clean it up: edit.
That is a basic process of all writing. In fact, it’s the creative process, whether it’s painting pictures or writing songs.
Back to Anne:
“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.”
(If you like this stuff so far, maybe just go get her book: Bird by Bird!)