I used to be a perfectionist like you. The kind that would type this sentence then delete it and type it again a hundred times over. Then type ‘I am so stupid and don’t know what to write… ” etc. Not making any progress, not knowing what to say… just stuck. But not in the sexy soap opera film haze, wearing glasses and a half buttoned white dress shirt, sitting alone in a dark apartment at the end of a long day, glass of wine in one hand distantly staring into a computer screen, then with a big sigh blowing bangs out of my face bored and tired of the game but still mysterious and beautiful kind of way. Nope. I was staring into my computer with bloodshot tearful eyes full of anger and frustration. Three a.m. with a paper due in five hours. Too judgmental of my own writing, my own thoughts. I couldn’t put anything into words. I had opinions and ideas but I was frozen by fear of not being good enough, not being perfect. Regardless of how much I loved to write I was convinced that I had become a terrible author. Convinced that writing would have to be a ‘guilty pleasure’ as none of my works would be worthy of being read. On the up side, telling myself I was awful took the pressure off trying to be good. I became a self fulfilling prophecy. I could believe I was bad, write whatever crap came out, and never share it with anyone because it sucked.
Then a friend gave me a book. She had finished it and thought it was clever so she gave it to me. I read and reread it over and over. It was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It touched me deeply almost in a spiritual sense. I had a great awakening. The veil was lifted. I saw the light. It was like she wrote it just for me. You get the idea. I didn’t know what to expect as I didn’t realize I had a problem. Yes, self loathing when you are young is not a problem but an expected normality. However, the first step to recovery is acceptance… or admittance, I’m not sure but I know I must have done it.
Anne walks you through the struggles of creative writing, her main point being to just take it one step at a time and ‘I think I can, I think I can’ chug to the top of the mountain. But the thing she said that really stuck with me was to write shitty first drafts. She said no one has to see your first draft unless you want them to. No one has to read it but you. Duh, why didn’t I think of that? What a brilliantly simple idea. So perfect and so pure. Write. Write whatever you are thinking at that moment. Write ‘I am so stupid and don’t know what to write.’ then write then next thing that comes to you and the next and when you are past your writer’s block go back and edit the parts you don’t like. Change the phrasing. Copy and paste and cut until you get what you want but you have to keep writing. You have to have something to edit.
Or, you can opt to stare at a blank screen and let that damn curser mock you with every sick little blink. Your choice.