Saturday, November 5, 2011

False starts and the perfectionist

In the Enneagram system of personality traits, I am a One. Ones like being in alignment with order, are partial to the details and rules of life. They are often labeled Perfectionists. Both of the first two attributes are definitely characteristics of mine. But I seldom think of myself as a Perfectionist. I'm the one with toothpaste or spaghetti sauce on her shirt., I don't agonize over the documents I write or edit for clients; I do my work, do a good proofread, and move on. It isn't a struggle. I keep my home tidy but I don't stress over dishes in the sink or the rug pad showing in the dining room as it has for the last two weeks. I'm not compulsive about that.

But I realized this morning that the One's perfectionism is a part of my struggle with this new novel. I mentioned in an earlier post that the first two novels sort of unscrolled in plot and organization. And this one is not doing that. I'm struggling for the first time with what feel like false starts. And a perfectionist part of me doesn't like that.

Last week at Writing Friday, I read a chunk of a chapter to my astute friend Jan. She loved the story part of it but felt it couldn't have come from the mother as told story, that it was really the narrator telling this, that it was too perfect, too rehearsed to come out of the mother's mind. Well, of course it was and that had even nagged at me. But it meant I'm not yet on the right track with this book and I'm annoyed about that.

I know this happens all the time to the best writers. And I know my story idea is a solid one. It's just taking some time to find itself and to connect with me. It's a great learning experience, it expands my abilities. But it isn't as easy or fun. So I find myself bumping up against shoulds (it should be easier than this, it should go more smoothly, I should have it all figured out) and that is clearly perfectionism.

So time to go with the flow, go with what is, and keep following the leads.

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