A-Z Check In, Vol. 1

It’s a few weeks into the A-Z project, and though there’s a lot of writing challenges to go, it’s time for a check in.

This is something learned from one of my favourite writing mentors, Peter M. Ball: if you want to be a better writer, you need to actually look critically at the process as well as the finished product. You learn more during the process than in looking back in the midst of a post-finish delirium. You know, in the same way that some women forget how gross and painful childbirth is when they start contemplating another kid?

So what am I learning?

It’s kind of terrifying to hit ‘publish’. It’s a grit your teeth and go kinda deal. It’s hard to not schedule editing time into the mix, and I’m not always good at not slowing the process right down so I can edit a bit easier.

It’s scary to put work out into the world unpolished. It’s at least a little easier if you know you’ve done all you physically can to make it perfect. If you can say every word is as good as you are capable of making it, if you can craft instead of scrawl, it takes some of the anxiety out of it.

That anxiety is actually a good thing. Time shapes stories. We put them aside, we edit, we do all these things that take a lot of time before we reluctantly call them ‘done’. And I’m the sort of person who is way too capable of spending the rest of my life faffing about trying to perfect a story.

Perfection is bullshit. I’m a perfectionist, but perfection is a lie. That idea that it must be perfect is so different to the idea of doing my best and then letting it go. Perfectionism means feeling bad because even under vastly different circumstances, I expect myself to craft in 20mins to the same standard I’d manage after a few hours, or days, or weeks. Giving my best (and accepting the reality of the challenge) is so much better than hanging on and trying to make the impossible happen.

Setting limits about how long I can spend on a project forces me to let each piece go, even if I’m not 100% happy with what I’ve written.

I put a lot of bullshit in my way. I worry that people will hate things- no one has so far, which is nice. I worry about the potential reader over the story. I hesitate to look too closely at the things that matter to me. And all of that makes it harder to actually get things done. I need to quit that shit.

It’s a lot of fun, but it could be more productive. There are a couple of stories I’m at an impasse with, and maybe attacking them from a different angle will help. So I might try a slightly more targeted approach.

Some limits make me more productive. I need to add more boundaries to my writing time, because it ups my productivity and forces me to work through problems and indecisions rather than stepping back or freezing up. I just need to figure out what boundaries help, and when.

Some limits shit me to tears. There are moments of inspiration that I’ve ignored to try and get writing done on Sundays. I’m ditching that particular boundary. I carry a notebook, so why not take a moment rather than holding off for the sake of an arbitrary idea?

Challenges and prompts are fun. I kinda want to do more of them.

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