I’m a huge procrastinator, and a perfectionist, two qualities that can paralyze a writer. For me, they go hand-in-hand. The other day I sat down, gave my computer a cursory nod, and then jumped up to make tea and a snack. As I sat on the couch paying more attention to my homemade Dunkaroos than my keyboard (Biscoff cookies + Nutella: the refined, Italian Dunkaroos), I convinced myself that this was all part of the creative process. I was writing about my year in France, where I used to binge eat Nutella, among other things. I was waxing nostalgic; the Nutella was totally helping me get into that mindset. I could talk more about my procrastination methods, which are more complex than junk food consumption, but that’s boring, so I’ll move on to the perfectionist part of the equation.
I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time now, but would find any number of excuses as to why I shouldn’t. Blogs are self-serving and egotistical, I thought, so smug in my humility. Why is it that people think their shit is sooo important that others would want to read it? In reality that was self-conscious me thinking: Who would want to read MY stuff? Other silly excuses consumed me: My blog needs a theme. I really need to have a content marketing strategy first (that’s my work life talking). And so on.
I talked about the perfection thing with my dad, a wonderful professor and talented artist, who knows firsthand the desire for creation. I said, “I can’t just put something out there that’s not done yet! I want to wait until I have something ready for people to see.” I was really attached to this idea, that I would work on a novel quietly and then unleash something beautiful and perfect to the world. “Where in the world have you been hiding?” The critics would sing my praises, literally, to that tune from Phantom of the Opera. (And I thought blogging was egotistical? I was in my 20’s then; I knew nothing.) My dad shook his head, and said, “If you wait until you think something’s perfect, it won’t happen. You can’t do that to yourself.” I have the same problem with my sketchbooks, too, even now—I love to draw, so why can’t I just let myself draw? It’s not like I’m being commissioned to create a freakin’ masterpiece for the Louvre.
In the writing workshop I’m taking, my professor challenged us to think about whether or not we would critique others’ stories so hard if we knew who wrote them. For example, if you read a story that’s just so-so, but it has F. Scott Fitzgerald’s name on it, would you think it’s amazing? The same story written by a budding writer might be ripped to shreds by critics. He said that, sometimes, a writer just needs that first stamp of approval by someone important in order to be accepted by others. He’s right, if you think about it (and that concept is pretty annoying). So, before I’m discovered by David Sedaris and he takes me in as his protégée, and then writes the forwards to my books, I have to put myself out there. So I think that’s what blogging is, or can be: giving yourself that first stamp of authority first, and say, I have the right to write; I give myself the permission to tell my stories. If people want to read them, great, and if not, that’s fine, too.
This is getting long, but one last anecdote: The other day my friend and I were laughing about stuff we used to write when we were younger, and how embarrassing it is to think about now: those passive-aggressive away messages I would leave on my AIM in college, thinking I was so coy, or song lyrics that I thought were so deep and meaningful (eeeeek…); that drunk Facebook message you sent to an ex, or the email rant you sent to a friend when you were mad. (At least those away messages are gone; Facebook messages and emails you can’t delete.) All cringe-worthy and embarrassing stuff. But, at the same time, if that’s how I was feeling at the time, then so be it. I’ll probably look back in 10 years on things I write now, and think, What the hell was I talking about? How young and naïve I was, and how wise I am now, ho, ho, ho.
But imperfect me, and imperfect blog, here we are now, and that’s what matters. There will probably be feminist rants (get over it) and curse words (sorry, Mom); random stories, and absolutely zero “content strategy.” Working things out “on paper” and evolving is part of the creative process. And, of course, Nutella.