Confession time: I’m a perfectionist.
I’m also a well-read perfectionist, so I know that it has less to do with genuinely wanting to create something that is the best that it can be and more to do with social anxiety and fear of rejection and avoiding vulnerability. (Thank you, Brene Brown.)
I’m a hot mess, but at least I’m self-aware.
I also seem to work in cycles, the duration of which varies by how much effort and enthusiasm are involved in a particular project. The cycle goes something like this:
- Pre-Project Hyperfocus: A wild New Idea appears! Said idea slams into my brain and promptly takes over approximately 90% of my thought processes. This is the stars-in-my-eyes, love-at-first-sight stage, when I can see all the possibilities.
- The Flash: The work begins. Heart, soul, and sanity pour into the project. Planning and plotting are so much freaking fun, I swear. (Is there a job where you can get paid just to plot stories? I would rock that.) If I’m lucky, the Flash stage lasts into—or by some miracle, through—the writing process. That’s rare. So rare.
- Post-Flash Depression: The energy is gone, hope is lost, the project stretches into infinity with no end in sight, and the world is a cold, dark, lonely place. You know when I vanish from the web for days/weeks/months at a time? This is that. (Sorry. I’m working on it.)
I’m still trying to understand my own brain. The more I learn, the more I see how to work with my idiosyncrasies, and the easier my life gets. Sometimes. Also, the more I feel like my brain is actually a separate entity more akin to a sleep-deprived two-year-old.
There are certain things that help string the Flash out longer. Dropping back to planning/plotting can help, but it also tends to bite me in the butt—it leads to things like scrapping entire swathes of finished story, redoing outlines from the ground up, and basically starting everything over at square one. Repeatedly.
(Ask me about my Dominion novel sometime. Actually, don’t. Please. I think I’m on revision three-hundred and ninety-something…)
Slowing down can help… or it can send me into Stage 3 even faster. Rather, the key seems to be finding ways to increase momentum, yet not too much! Too much also leads to Stage 3. Surely there’s a happy medium?
Interaction helps, getting feedback and being able to talk it over with others, hear what works and what doesn’t, but that can backfire spectacularly. (“Did you just say you’re writing about giant alien lizards?” / “No. No, I did not.”)
I keep seeing the advice to “break it down”—take a large project and divide it into small, manageable chunks. And that can work for a little while, too, if I can trick my brain to give up the Big Picture and focus on the Small Picture, which it does not like at all.
I think this stems from certain chunks being less shiny than others, and my brain knows that there are really shiny chunks it could be working on but instead it’s stuck with this ugly, non-shiny chunk to finish first and it’s just not fair. (I mentioned that my brain is a two-year-old, right?)
So at the moment my projects break down something like this:
- Nanoia planning – slowly pulling my way free of Stage 3
- Nanoia draft – easing warily into Stage 2
- Any Witch Way serial – so much Stage 1, oh, my god
Now, please excuse me. I have chapters to write, plots to weave, and self-help audiobooks to peruse. Until next time!
TL;DR—my process remains a work in progress, my brain is weird, and holy crap, I have got to get to work.