June 21, 2011

Why Do I Not Write? - Sulo Moorthy

        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."


  1. I had a very refreshing experience last year when I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. I was forced to put aside my perfectionistic tendencies in order to bang out those 50,000 words. You should try it :)

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  3. Anonymous8:27 am GMT-7

    I so understand this. It is hard to just let the words flow. And I agree that writing it by hand helps me to "not edit" while I write.

    I have joined the Gypsy Mama, http://thegypsymama.com/challenge to write for 5 minutes without editing and then post that.

    It does free the thinking process. I do cheat and look over what I have written for typo errors but overall I let my free-for-all writing stand as it came out.


  4. Thanks Tracy, I appreciate your encouraging words.

  5. Thanks Jan for your input.I'll give a try and take the challenge you've suggested. Good to know that I'm not alone with this problem.

  6. Ahh, the curse of perfectionism. Unhappily I can't take two aspirin, lie down and be assured that the illness will be gone in the morning. But I have discovered that unlike most diseases, this one has gotten to be less of a problem with age. Perhaps that's because I am more secure in myself and not so driven by whether anyone out there likes my "stuff" or not. Or (LOL) it could be that I'm getting lazier with age too!

    In any case, you are not alone so be encouraged, my friend.

  7. Thanks Linda. It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

  8. For me, the problem is always some improvement to be made. When to stop, call it quits, and move on is always the big question.

    Does that make our work inferior or mediocre? Perhaps so, but is also a picture of who we are, fallen, restored, but still unfinished works of His grace.

    By the way. Try "cannot not." Says what you want but a devious way of avoiding two "nots."


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