I saw this great (and timely) YouTube video the other day, from internet legend Ze Frank.
It’s all about getting started on a new project, and the roadblocks we tend to put in our own way, and the morning I watched it, I was just sitting down to start writing the first chapter of a new book, and I was terrified.
I was terrified for all the same reasons any author starting a new project is always terrified. For example, what if I worked hard and the end result still sucked? What if people said lots of mean things about it on GoodReads when it came out or, worse, what if no publisher would want to touch it and then they’d all get together at some kind of top-secret publishers meeting and decide that I am lame and to banish me from the entire industry for life, etc., etc? Don’t laugh! It could totally happen.
Considering the risks, it seemed safest not to start writing at all… but then, Ze Frank talked some sense into me. My favourite line from the whole video is this:
“Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes, but he’s a bit of an a**hole, and no one invites him to their pool parties.” – Ze Frank
HA! Too true! Why is it that so many of us feel this extreme, soul-crushing pressure to produce something perfect, or to BE someone perfect when NOBODY really likes perfection anyway?
I remember being a new mom and taking my daughter to a mommy and me group. We were all surviving on zero to three hours of sleep and had barely combed our hair in two months… except for this one mom who always managed to arrive wearing spit-up-free clothing, makeup and ACTUAL earrings. I disliked her right away. Not that it was her fault. It’s possible that she was an entirely decent person, but I just couldn’t get past those damned earrings. They made me feel so bad about myself!!
In a similar way, I feel most welcomed when I visit friends apartments and there are a few dust bunnies in the corners and dishes in the sink. I like old houses with creaky floors and weird, useless nooks and crannies. I SO admire people who learn a new language and then speak it, in public, getting their words all mixed up and their verbs all wrong. Again and again, I feel drawn to anyone who knows how to mess up, and fall flat on their face, and then get up and laugh at themselves and keep going.
And, weirdly enough, I’ve found over the years that the things I see in myself as the biggest imperfections are often the same things my friends admire most. I hate that I’m quiet and shy. (My friends sometimes call it ‘thoughtful and wise.’) I have two wonky teeth that are really crooked and really bug me. (When I said I was thinking about getting braces my best friend said she was going to miss my cute teeth.) I feel like I stress about money too much. (Other people say I’m smart to be frugal and ask for advice on RRSPs.)
And so, I guess, all this is to say ‘Hey, thanks, Ze Frank.’ Because I started my new book after all and, yes, it is a total mess, as first drafts tend to (in fact NEED TO) be. And that’s okay. Because out of the mess, the story is emerging in its own imperfect way. And the fact that I’m busy writing again has filled me with optimism and made me smile, cute teeth and all.