Writing and The Inner Critic
There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.
~ Haruki Murakami
I am a self proclaimed perfectionist, though I have spent the better part of my life trying to dismantle the harmful aspects of this particular trait. After all, it’s not something I cultivated, it’s how I came into the world. And so you can well imagine how challenging it is to simply capture ideas and experiences and release them into locution without the Censor’s head over my shoulder nodding or tsk-ing, depending.
I remember a creative course at Vermont College some years back – where we were required to actively engage expression in an artists’ journal. In fact I came across this little black book just the other day. It was shocking to note just how tight my words and images were compared to the present, how inauthentic in their dance with caution. And it was refreshing too, recognizing how far I’ve come with regards to loosening up in order to reveal more of myself to the reader. I still remember my dear professor, a genuinely supportive woman who proclaimed us all artists, whether we believed it or not. I did not, at least in the realm of the written word.
I knew I was an artist from early on, as I’ve always been able to depict a likeness in pastel. Considering writing as art was intimidating, for it touched on my vulnerability as a wordsmith. I had never taken a writing course, ever – I was too afraid of being criticized for a necessary and enjoyable endeavor. There was serious and there was pleasurable, and never the two should meet! Happily fear itself had never prevented me from writing – which I have done consistently throughout my life. (Let it be noted I wrote mostly poetry, allowing me to hide neatly behind metaphor as a child disappears behind the shaggy trunk of an old hemlock.) Meanwhile this teacher encouraged a free-flow of ideas and images, whether clipped from magazines or culled from our own heads. I didn’t fully grasp the deconstruction process until much later, witnessed through years of journaling in pencil with many erasures and careful rewording.
Thankfully my journals of today are messy – scribbled and replete with crossed-out mots and margin notes. I have finally allowed myself to record ideas as they flow from my mind, (mostly) minus the Censor. I’ll admit though, and I know I’m not the only one, that when I post on WordPress and hit that “Publish” button, errors I hadn’t seen before pop up like caddis flies hatching on a still pond. Suddenly I’m “Updating,” hoping nobody picks out the adjective I’ve used twice in the same small paragraph. I guess perfectionism can never truly be eradicated, for it does retain favorable aspects. I still strive to produce a body of words that flows nicely and musically onto paper, delighting the reader not only with intriguing ideas but with the beauty of our splendiferous English language. It, and you, dear reader deserve no less.