I admire those who say, they can not not write with a double ‘not’s side by side. I dream of saying likewise, but usually end up short of one 'not'. Yes, I do write, and have enjoyed seeing my byline in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Yet, I do not find myself saying "I can not not write." Why so? I asked myself that question many a times and had come to a conclusion that I may be suffering from a chronic ailment called Perfectionism.
I grew up thinking anything done perfectly is a good thing. I never thought when this perfect word is chained to 'ionism' it could turn into an ugly word. The curse of perfectionism is too much for anyone to bear, especially for writers. It robs the joy of writing, slows down the creative flow and even deadens the nerve that stimulates productivity. Perfectionism commands us to write only perfect sentences, perfect paragraphs and perfect stories. Under its scrutiny, anything less gets rejected even before it finds its way onto the paper.
No sooner I type out the first sentence, my finger tip will tap hard on the backspace button to correct a word. Before I could finish my first paragraph, my right hand would have extended a couple of times to pull out the heavy Webster's Desk Dictionary and its buddy Thesaurus and a number of my notebooks from the bookshelf to scoop up the specific word or a quote to fit between the words. By the time I finish my first draft, the sun would have risen and gone down at least three times in a row. And the number of times, this draft undergoes revision and makeovers could count to eight to ten in my earlier years of writing.
Yes, the process of writing does become tedious and frustrating for the perfectionist. But it could have a positive side to it too. Most of my manuscripts that got accepted hardly underwent any major slicing in the hand of the editor. Except for a few minor changes, I usually had the joy of seeing my published work resemble the same as the one I submitted. To me, a perfectionist, that’s a big thumbs up!
But, is it worth the trouble? Maybe not. For there's no guarantee that whatever looks perfect in the perfectionist eyes gets approved by the editor or the readers. Further, perspiration with no pleasure leads to pain and procrastination. Writing a book then become a never ending process and a nightmare.
Little is said or written on perfectionism for writers. Probably only a few struggle with the problem that it go unattended, I assume. However, it does help me when I write by hand first, and then transcribe it onto the screen. Since there's no delete button to pound on a sheet of paper, or the ability to alter a sentences or relocate a phrase with the flick of a finger, the flow of writing goes unhindered for a long time on the paper unless the phone rings or the pen run out of ink. Sometimes, it helps to chew on an idea for a couple of days and write out the first few lines or a paragraph in the head first, and then sit down and bleed it out onto the screen..
Surely, it takes dream, determination, despair, exhaustion, lots of sleepless nights and prayers for a book to get it published, put on display in the bookstores and to get it in the hands of readers. It's a long and tiresome journey for any author, unless he or she's well known or a celebrity. Such tiresome could easily turn into torturous for a perfectionist. That may be the reason why the book in my head sits still in my bottom drawer in the form of fifty typed out pages for the last one year. If and when, it gets the courage to climb out of its dwelling and get stretched out in length and find its way to the publisher and to the bookstore, who knows I too might have attained the passion to say, "I can not not write." But for now, I can only say, " I do not write...as some other writers do."