Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Procrastination, Perfectionism and Paranoia

Kilometers swum in July: 20 (halfway there!!)
Playing in the background: Sounds like Jonn Serrie.

It occurred to me the other day that procrastination and perfectionism are approximately the same thing. One is avoiding doing something, and the other is avoiding finishing the thing by trying over and over again to get it "right." And both are cheap excuses. (I'll get to paranoia in a second. What? Why are you staring at me? Who said that?)

Cheap excuses, you ask. Yes, says I. For what? For not doing something that scares you. If you don't ever start, then, obviously, you don't get it done. If you start it but then can't finish because you're trying to get it just right, you don't get it done either. And they both work for not having to do something that scares you. At least for a little while.

Y'all probably remember Scaley, my stressed-out, query-letter writing T-Rex. Scaley is the ultimate creation of a brain (mine) doing everything it can to avoid being scared. Ironic because what it's most afraid of is being scared. I mean, everybody hates being afraid. It scares us. Well, Scaley's tale (tail?) is now the subject of an essay I'm floggin' around to various literary journals and stuff like that. Two rejections and counting. Obviously I gotta write query letters to journals about this essay I wrote about writing query letters. And a very strange thing has happened. Nothing.

Look. Scaley not only resides in my brain, he's taken the penthouse suite, is tossing his garbage out the window and is sending out for pizza on a regular basis. Yet, on the subject of his own existence, he could care less. I mean, if the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, why is writing about fear not scary? What's more, if writing query letters is scary, then why is writing query letters about writing query letters not only not scary but not even all that interesting?

No wonder I like scary movies. It's not that the movies themselves are all that scary. It's that we're afraid of the fright we're gonna get when what we know is gonna happen, happens. Like the ever-popular "reflection of something scary in the mirror when the pretty girl who's fixing her hair looks away for a second" shot. I've seen this shot in every scary movie from "The Amityville Horror" (little half-seen pig creature) to "Thirteen Ghosts" (psychotic dead teenage girl) to "Mirrors" (holy crap, don't get me started). Every darn time somebody looks into the mirror in a scary movie, you can just count on having the bejabbers scared out of you in the next ten to fifteen seconds. But we still look, don't we? And we still go, "AAAAAH!" when it happens. Even though we know it's gonna happen.

Which brings me back to procrastination and perfectionism. The whole thing with Scaley and query letters (about things other than himself) is that I'm scared of scaring myself. Scaring myself how? Well, I don't quite have a grip on that yet, except to say, if I can't write a query letter, who's to say that I can write anything else? A novel? A blog post? A frick'n laundry list? So I procrastinate. And I agonize over the things. And both are amazingly effective as far as not getting Mindbender published, folks.

So here's the deal. I'm almost done with Soulmender. Well, maybe a month or two out, depending on how long it takes me to write the one story thread I've been avoiding because I don't know how in hell to do it. (Scaley had a brilliant idea on this one; start at the end and work backwards, like in Memento. What the hell, it's worth a shot.) I might possibly have a completed trilogy with no publisher for the first (and arguably best) volume if I'm not careful. And so, dear readers, I would like you to please nag me. Check back into this spot now and again and post me a comment along the lines of "Hey Jen, have you sent out any query letters this week?" (Kind of like, "Have you hugged your paranoid dinosaur today?") Because procrastination is a disease of amnesia. The less you think about something, the less you think about something. Constant reminders can do wonders.

I never did get back to paranoia, did I? Okay, let's just say that when I write a post like this, I'm paranoid that I really am as crazy as I feel sometimes. Eesh. Even Scaley's clueless brontosaurus buddy Clyde would freak out about that one.

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