A few days ago, I hit a big mental roadblock.
While knee-deep in revisions for three separate works-in-progress, my brain just shut down on me. My first completed book was with my editor, and the other two were in very early drafts that needed some reworking.
But every time I thought about opening one of my manuscripts, I had a near-physical sense of repulsion. I felt like a child being forced to eat their vegetables. “No. I don’t wanna and you can’t make me.”
The question was… why? What underlying thing was making me drag my feet?
After a few days of poking at the problem, I uncovered the root of the issue. I didn’t want to fail. I’d fallen into the curse of the perfectionist procrastinator.
If I couldn’t do it right, why bother? My subconscious was doing its best to protect me from falling on my face… by keeping me from doing the thing at all.
See, the revisions I have to do are new territory for me. One is adding a mystery subplot, and I’ve never written mystery or suspense. The other manuscript’s main character needs major finessing. It will involve digging deep into writing a story with two distinct POV voices, something entirely unfamiliar to me.
In both cases, deep down, I’m afraid I just don’t have the skills to pull it off. So I waffled and balked and didn’t work on them at all.
After all, if I don’t do it, I can’t screw it up, right?
Of course, the fallacy in this is obvious. I need to get over my fear, and the only way to do that is to tackle it head-on. Jumping in to swim with the sharks, as it were. (I’m terrified of sharks, by the way).
And really, that’s the only way to break the Curse of the Perfectionist Procrastinator. To plow on, tell your procrastination-brain to get wrecked, and just keep
swimming writing. It’s gonna get ugly, and yes you might fail. In writing something new, it’s highly likely you’ll miss the mark on the first try. But that’s the beauty of writing and revision; it’s not set in stone until you decide it’s done. You get as many do-overs as you need.
But my first manuscript took 25 drafts to get polished up; why am I having issues now?
To be blunt: I’ve gotten better at writing. While I was revising Cambiare, I was absorbing a ton of information on writing craft and learning through the process of editing. The manuscript grew with me as my skills increased.
Now I’m knowledgeable enough to know when something is bad, and I’m harder on myself because of it. But that also means I’ll come out with a solid book on the other side once these revisions are done.
I just need to put on my scuba gear and say hi to those sharks.