Sunday, February 1, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

I realize there’s a parallel of self-defeating perfectionism at both of my keyboards

DebraDeAngeloW

By
From page A10 | January 05, 2014 |

Last week, we talked about letting go of things that aren’t serving us well. This week, we’ll flip that coin over: hanging on to certain things rather than giving up.
This is the conundrum of my life. I hang on to the wrong things, like rubber bands and regret, and let other more significant things just sail away on the S.S. Neglect. Writing projects are always on board that ship and lost to the seas of memory, until I randomly rediscover them on my computer. There they are — abandoned novels, screenplays, nonfiction books. And I think, “Oh yeah — I was gonna write that.”
I’m a great beginner of things. I’m a not a great finisher. Probably because I struggle with all the stuff in between. I’ll know where the story’s going. Sometimes I’ll have it all completely worked out in my head. Getting it from my head, through my fingers and tapping out onto the keyboard is another story.
Ha. “Another story.”
Me so funny.
In the beginning, I’ll be bursting with enthusiasm about my latest writing project. Obsessing about it. Researching it. Making little notes and Post-Its. Daydreaming about phrases, descriptions and dialogue. I’ll sit down and tear into the story, and then it happens: The snag. How do I get Jane from point A to point B, with that big ol’ crevasse in the middle? Will she fly? Jump? Throw a rope across? Turn left? What if there are bears on the left? Bears, wait, what? How did bears get into this story?
Will she marry the bear trapper?
Let’s start over.
And there you have the cycle of my (non-column) writing projects. I smack up against a problem I’m unable to solve, and go back to the beginning and start over, because clearly I screwed something up along the way. I need to find it, and fix it.
And then I fix it again. And again. And again, until, eventually, I’ve written my way out of the story I set out to write, and no longer have any idea what I’m writing about anymore.
This is where enthusiasm, creativity and wild, wanton inspiration go to die, boys and girls.
This pattern of obsessive-compulsive self-defeat is not exclusive to writing. I do the same thing with music. Thirteen years of piano lessons, and even a quarter at UC Davis with Lois Brandwynne (who accepted me only because I played Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude so badly that she felt sorry for me), and there are still very few piano pieces I can play perfectly from start to finish. “Perfectly” being the key word. For me, when it comes to writing and music, anything less than perfect is failure. Humiliation. Remove it from my presence — it disgusts me.
Must. Start. Over.
When I was taking piano lessons as a child, I drove my piano teacher nuts because I refused to play through the mistakes. I had to start over.
Writing? Same problem. And, oddly enough, my perfectionism is reinforced by writing columns. A column is so short, I can zoom from Point A to Point B, and leap the crevasse in one stride. I decide where I’m going before I start, I analyze the course, set my eyes on the target, and then… GO. I can achieve perfection in 1,000 words or less (in my own mind, anyway). I’ve experienced that satisfaction in knowing that I can’t possibly do something any better than that. That satisfaction is crack. I must have it. I lust after it every time I sit down at the keyboard.
But that’s a column. Let’s say it’s a novel. I begin just like I would a column: Point B, baby — there it is. GO! And then … bam. At the bottom of the crevasse. Again.
I was explaining this to local author and fellow iPinion contributor Spring Warren one day over lunch, and she told me something that shattered all my beliefs about the writing process: many novel writers (herself included) just keep going. They hit the rough patch and keep on writing. They can clean it all up when they’ve finished the book. And, she added, they don’t keep going back and rewriting the first chapter over and over again until it’s perfect. They just move on to the next one.
Mind. Blown.
Spring advised me to do the same — just keep going, and don’t look back — and I could feel my anxiety simmering just thinking about that. Not only was this “just keep writing” notion an epiphany, I recognized the obvious parallel between the piano keyboard and the computer keyboard. I must continue through the “mistake” or there’s no hope of finishing, let alone mastery. My piano teacher tried to convince me of this when I was 11, and I wasn’t buying it. Fifty-plus years later, I recognize that my own perfectionism is often the very thing that prevents me from succeeding.
Spring enlightened me to another thing I hadn’t considered before. Writing is all about mindset; mode, if you will. When I’m in Columnist Mode, my mind is geared up for a short, focused, powerful burst. It’s a sprint. In Screenwriting Mode, I’m writing from a completely different place in my brain — I’m putting sounds, images and movement into words and directions. It flows. When I’m in Reporter Mode, I’m locked in to getting all the facts down logically, correctly and economically. It’s staccato.
But Novelist Mode? What the heck is that? You mean … it’s not just Sequential Columnist Mode? Or Stretched Out Columnist Mode? You mean … there’s a whole ‘nuther unknown place in my head from which to write?
Wow. It’s like discovering a room in your house that you’ve never entered. I need to get in there and explore — just write through the mistakes. Just write it. But first, I think I’ll sit myself down and play all the way through Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude. Warts and all. Just for practice.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at [email protected]; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

Comments

comments

Debra DeAngelo

.

News

Well-loved library has services for all ages

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
The end of an era for The Enterprise, as pressroom closes

By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Jewish fraternity vandalism classified a hate crime

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

Man arrested after body parts found in suitcase

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Islamists post beheading video

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

More than a foot of snow possible for Midwest, Northeast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
 
UCD Med Center patient tested negative for Ebola

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Kudos to the Thomsons

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A3

 
Arboretum ‘I do’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
The story of Mark and Maria

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Summer lovin’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Stories come alive at the library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

Stepping Stones supports grieving youths

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9Comments are off for this post

 
Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Japanese students seek Davis host families

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
And bingo was the game-o

By Tate Perez | From Page: A9

Lee will speak Wednesday about city issues

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Training starts Tuesday for Jepson Prairie Preserve tour guides

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Lecture looks at women in Egypt

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

 
Questions and answers about breast cancer set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Davis Arts Center welcomes students’ work

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Tuleyome Tales: Searching for the elusive McNab cypress

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

.

Forum

Three old ideas going, going, gone

By Marion Franck | From Page: A10

 
How much drinking is too much?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
They’re experienced and honest

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

Toy drive was a big success

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

 
One-way street solves dilemma

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

Council, follow your own policies

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

 
Ensure that you’re protected against measles

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

Act would let patients control their own fates

By Our View | From Page: A12

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

Wi-Fi in our schools could result in health impacts

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

 
Life goes on in Rutilio Grande, despite country’s gang violence

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13 | Gallery

.

Sports

 
Depth charge: DHS girls defeat Elk Grove

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Blue Devil boys lose on Herd’s buzzer-beating trey

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
UCD women survive against winless UCSB

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Foursome will represent Davis at national soccer tournament

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Aggies make a racket but fall to Sac State, Pacific

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Kings get past Pacers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sharks blank Blackhawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Doby Fleeman: Toward a more perfect Davis

By Doby Fleeman | From Page: A12

 
Ullrich Delevati, CPAs, adds senior accountant

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

And the survey says: Success for Davis Chamber

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

 
Putah Creek Winery launches ‘Give Back Tuesday’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

Seminar will cover business challenges

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A13

 
Japanese fondue dips into Davis scene

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Novozymes, Cargill continue bio-acrylic acid partnership as BASF exits

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, February 1, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8