Saturday, October 11, 2014

A 12-Step Program for People Like Me.

Are you a person like me?  I'm sorry.

No, really.  I'm sorry.  Because I get you.  I do.  I understand how you let opportunities pass you by because you can't give it--whatever "it" is--a hundred percent at that very moment in time, and that, in the moment, you believe that if you can't give it one hundred percent, it's not worth doing.

I also understand your frustration later, when you look back after the fact and realize that maybe you could have at least tried it, and that even giving 80% of yourself would eventually get you over the finish line, even if it's 20% slower than other people.

My uncle died this summer.  My dad's brother.  My husband and sons got to meet him in March of this year when he came to Florida for my cousin's wedding.  He stayed at my dad's old house, which now belongs to me, and he was so grateful to have had the opportunity to do that that he wanted to leave some tokens of appreciation for my two boys.  To the oldest, he left a guitar and amp; the other a long board (skateboard).

Days turned to weeks turned to months.  I sat with the "thank you" card in my top desk drawer all that time, never filling it out because I wasn't sure if it was too rude to include a typed letter inside.  I knew I wanted to say more than I could write on the card, so I was going to have to include an insert.  I wanted to hand-write the letter because I thought it was a bit more personal, but I never seemed to have the time.

I never had the time, because I believed I couldn't be content just typing something and sending it off.

He died.

Prior to that, it was my dad.  I wanted to go see him in December so I could show him something on Facebook, but I didn't think he'd be able to see my phone screen with his glasses on so I was waiting for my husband to borrow a tablet from his work.  "As soon as I've got that tablet, I'll go down and show my dad this thing on the Internet," I told myself.

He died on January 4th, before my husband could ever borrow the tablet.

Had I gone down to see him in December and just used the damn phone, I would have at least seen him one more time before he died.

People like us, I'm not sure what they're called.  Ultra-perfectionists, maybe?  I can think of a few other, choice descriptors, but I wouldn't want to insult you.  If I know you, you probably do enough of that on your own.

With November rolling around again, I now have a grand total of five unfinished manuscripts floating around my desk.  Five.  Five years, five great ideas, handfuls of fleshed-out characters, hundreds of pages of story arcs and plots.  Pages of description.  Outlines.  Settings.  You name it.

But I have yet to finish.


Why can I start so strong but not seem to make it to the end?  (I'm not sure if "end" means the end of the story or the end of the month, because I fail at both.)

Regular folks finish NaNo every year, but I get so hung up on the perfection of the whole thing that I can't finish.  My desk has to be perfect.  My coffee has to be perfect.  I need quiet.  I need a plant on my desk.  The dog has to be laying right here.  I need the right pen.  A blank notebook.  A device not tethered to the web.

I have every gadget I have ever thought I'd need, yet I still can't manage to finish.

If you're like me, we need help.  A program.  A twelve-step program.  Something to keep us honest.  A way to realize that the means doesn't justify the end, but rather the other way around.  I looked into some of the 12-Step affirmations, and I think with a few modifications, we might have something we can work with, but we first need to define what it is to which we're addicted.

Is it an addiction?  Is it more a compulsion?  I'm asking legitimately because I've never been diagnosed.  It's just something I've come to live with, like that small hole at my tailbone, or the way my right eye gets lazy when I'm tired.  (No lie on either.)

Maybe we're addicted to our own version of "how things are supposed to be."  For example, I never want to write when my 3-year-old is running around.  As a stay-at-home mom, that severely limits the number of hours a day that I can actually write.  (Read:  "Zero.")  I mean, he's here.  He doesn't have anywhere else to go.  I can't drop him off at the library and tell him I'll pick him up in a few hours.  He came from my vagina, and that pretty much makes him my responsibility.  But should I give up on writing just because he's here?  Wouldn't some kind of a compromise ("just try it," for example) at least ensure I get something written?

So we're addicted to our perceived idea of perfection.  And now we need to fix that.

Til tomorrow, and our writer's version of Step One,

Cherstin, out.