The author within
Why is the pursuit of perfection killing it for you
Why are you here, reading this? Are you not supposed to be writing? Yes, you are, but there might be a ton of reasons why you haven’t started yet, or continued, or finished or asked someone to read your sh*t, or sent it already for someone to read it, though failed getting the feedback you wanted. I know you have been thinking to put that great idea on paper for a long time now. As those creative thoughts came, you wished you could capture them right there, right in that moment, but you let them passed. Maybe you didn’t have a pen on you or a laptop. The thoughts fled away. It happens to you a lot. You wish you had recorded them. You wish you had that precious time to sit down and write it all up – all those snippets. Maybe you wrote them down but those ideas still missed a context, so you let them go. Sometimes I wrote down what I felt and thought and then I looked at it and hated it. Sheer disappointment. When I was thirteen, I attempted to write a book. On a typewriter. My granddad would importantly prepare a working space for me in the corner of the living room and made sure he alerted everyone trying to come in with a sharp ‘pssst’, in order to chase them away from my sacred “studio”. “Don’t disturb her, she’s working!” He said to all and guarded me in the room like a sacred treasure. And I wrote about 56 pages typing away with befitting rage. And after a week I stopped typing. I read it after myself. It was awful. I tore it into pieces and told my granddad I would never write again. Ever. “Why, but why?” He asked. He was really gutted, trying to pierce the papers together. But I pronouncedly refused to debate the topic. End of story. Does it sound familiar? Do you procrastinate? Do you doubt? There is a good reason for it. Self-esteem and the pursuit of perfection. The “all-or-nothing” approach. I decided not to expose my own criticism at the age of 13, because it was just too painful to see it black and white, right there – horribly amateurish and imperfect, compared to those historic novels about inquisition I read at the time that inspired me so. I shredded that little novel in making into pieces then with real contempt and decided to pretend it never happened. And yet, I wrote 17 diaries afterwards and one of the best essays in high school, although I seriously believed I would fail it badly. No doubt. And yet, I became a published journalist in several most-read Slovak lifestyle magazines – most of them on my first pitching attempt. And going for more. No matter how hard you try, some of the things you dreamt of come back to you in life anyway and bite you in the butt. There is no escape. We tend to delay things we are not too comfortable doing. But the only reason why is our self-esteem – we still haven’t built that muscle. Writing is a muscle and it needs to be exercised. Like any other muscle – any other habit in your life you built up by doing. You must have hated cleaning your interdental gaps, driving a car, or doing your first job, or any other thing you’ve automatized by doing. And now? You don’t even remember how it felt before you started. Listening to your own voice when you write and growing to like it, is a skill. And skills are built by working on them. There is no such thing as talent. Talent is just a fraction of the whole potential game: it’s hard work, feedback, hard work, information, effort, marketing, self-esteem, self-exploration, more hard work, strong stomach for refusals, more hard work and then talent. Open your eyes and see that there is no judge standing above you who will give you lashes if you try and fail. Why are you not writing yet? It does not have to be perfect. Life is imperfect and everything in life is impermanent. The more you expect, the more you expose yourself to disappointment. There is no such work of art in this world everyone would like. Your chase of perfection is just procrastination and irrational expectations. Understand the fact that you are not perfect and accept it. Neither you, nor your writing does need reassurance that it’s perfect. Loosen on that death grip for fs. Write. No matter what who will think about it – writing will instantly make you feel better. And more writing makes you write better. It will help you and your voice to become one. It’s not about being flawless, it’s about being honest. WRITE FOR ½ HOUR NOW. ONCE FINISHED, GIVE US COMMENTS ON HOW IT FELT. ASK ABOUT ANYTHING YOU DOUBT ABOUT YOUR WORK AFTERWARDS.
The author within
Bukowski on your writing
…so you want to be a writer? if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it. if you’re doing it for money or fame, don’t do it. if you’re doing it because you want women in your bed, don’t do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don’t do it. if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it, don’t do it. if you’re trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you’re not ready. don’t be like so many writers, don’t be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don’t be dull and boring and pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don’t add to that. don’t do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don’t do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was. From sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way by Charles Bukowski. Copyright © 2003 by the Estate of Charles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. Now, the choices are clear. Absorb the fact that you are supposed to be doing something else in life – something you are good at, not something you think you want to do – and…leave. Simply close the tab and leave this website and the idea that you come to a retreat and change your life and become a writer. Because maybe it’s just and idea that is appealing to you, but you postponed doing it or failed in it for so long that there might be a good reason for it. Leave then. Or realize that your life is too short to dwell on fears and failures and difficulties of starting something new, although you actually crave doing it. If you cannot stop thinking about it every day, it means you have to do it. Think J.K. Rowling and how many times they turned her down. But she was writing. Start writing. Now. Download Habitica or just save that time in your calendar on repeat, and schedule ½ hour of writing every day. It is just half an hour. Yes, you may be thinking. I already scheduled the gym (yes, that’s important) or yoga or meditation or a cooking class or else. But hey, is it important or not? Why are you reading this blog? Half hour a day instead of swiping through dull Insta pics or FB feeds of your pseudo-friends. It would build up to 3.5 hours a week. And if you make it an hour, you’ll get 7 full hours a week. You could write a great short story every week this way. It would build up and we’re talking a book of short stories at the end of this year. Schedule the time every day and pour it out. Even if it’s just a journal, it’ll start to build the muscle. And you have that muscle. It’s just dormant. Like those other ones before you’ve hit the gym. Move that muscle. You will be instantly happier. Promise. PS On that Bukowski note: Even though he made it to one of the probably most popular writers of the Beat generation, Bukowski was an alcoholic and a loser. Approach that inner loser in you. The one you are hating right now, who made you read a self-helping blog post. Wake him up. Let him guide your hand… schedule your first half hour and do it.