Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is There an Antibiotic for Perfectionism?

The internet and I aren't getting along lately. I snap at it, and it snaps back, harder. I expect too much of it, and it disappoints me. I keep crawling back, like a fool, because I need it, but what I need more is to separate our work relationship from our emotional relationship and put all my efforts into the former. This process continues, haltingly, hurtfully.

Isn't this beautiful? I look at this picture when the internet beats me up and I feel sad.
I'm one of those little lights on the other side of the mountain. Click to embiggen. 

I've had middling luck with books lately. I was galloping along through two a week, or thereabouts, and then I read half of an uninteresting one and screeched to a halt. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I started Between the World and Me, which is quite short, but which I still haven't finished. I keep taking deep breaths between paragraphs, and I have quit a little over halfway through and can't seem to start again. Not just because of the subject matter, and the emotional difficulty wrought by my various histories held next to it, but because the writing is brilliant.

There's such a difference between good writing and full-on brilliant writing, and I always forget it until I am faced with the latter. Like an incandescent lamp (beautiful) against the morning sun (staggering). It's too much to take in quickly. The book, in multiple ways, is itself too much. Too painful, too many ideas too challenging to confront, too beautiful, too angry-making, too heartfelt, too guilt-inducing, too bright a star. I think this is part of the point, to overwhelm me, but that doesn't make it easier to read.

I've made an attempt to write every day, per my New Year's resolution, but I've written in six of 26 days in January. That is failure in any jurisdiction. I examined my failure this morning and came to a terrible conclusion: I don't want to finish the Ceremonials project.

In doing the math, I found that I could be done with a draft in maybe two or three weeks if I wrote a half-hour every day. I couldn't believe it, that this thing I've been putting off and chewing on and figuring out for going on two years could be over so quickly if I just sat down at the notebook for a ridiculously small amount of time each day (much less time than I waste on my abusive boyfriend the internet), but no matter how I rejiggered the numbers, the math came out the same. I did this math six days ago, and in those six days I wrote zero times.

This is an upsetting habit I've developed in the last few years: stopping right before the finish line. I do it at work, at school, at home, everywhere. From laundry to research papers. It's when I'm almost done, when the remaining work is goddamn negligible, that I feel the strongest urge to quit. This was not my work pattern when I was younger, not in my secondary school years nor in my college years nor in my twenties. I think it's some kind of adaptive mutation of that old foe perfectionism, but I don't know how to stamp it out. MRSA defeats state-of-the-art hospital environments, after all.

Because I could be done in less than a month, could start on what I consider (this time) the exciting work of rewriting most of what I've written, and I'm remembering every day that I'm supposed to write every day, and I'm still not goddamn doing it, the only conclusion I can come to is that I don't want to finish. When that thought shot through my mind, I immediately agreed with it.

I think it's because I've put a lot of feelings into the success of this project, even though what constitutes that success is self-defined. If I finish, I might look back and find that I have not succeeded. If it's unfinished, I don't have this problem.

Yeah, that's perfectionism, all right. Shitballs.

In other news, school starts today. I think I've bitten off more than I can chew - three classes - but I have pretty much never regretted doing so. I'm off to explore.

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