My Writing

Multiple Perfectionist Disorder

Attempt One:

Working Title: Field Guide to Identifying, Stocking, and Killing a Perfectionist

You may count yourself as a skilled huntsman when it comes to other sorts of prey, but stocking the Perfectionist will take more cunning and determination than one might believe. You may say to yourself, “How can that be? I’ve scuba dived with great white sharks, wrestled hippos, taught a monkey to fly my private jet.” Trust me. None of those skills can help you in this quest.

The perfectionist is a strange sort of animal. Unlike any other beast, they take on many forms, shapes, and sizes so they are not easily identified from afar. There are a few varieties that wear pressed pants and button up shirts with no creases, but this sort of dress is not a guarantee. Some disguise their true colors with a messier appearance.

No. It is much more helpful during the identification process to ask them how they feel about lists.

(INTERUPTION: This is a public service announcement from the Grand Perfectionist of the World: Do you really think you can follow this type of story line from beginning to end. First of all, the joke about the monkey and the plane was not funny. Second of all, are you actually insisting that perfectionists be killed? How can this end in a way that isn’t either pat or inoffensive? You better abandon this attempt.)

Attempt Two:

Working Title: Penelope the Perfectionist and Bob the Slob open a Lemonade Stand

Penelope the Perfectionist needs things to be just so. She always wears a matching pant suit in either gray or back, which she takes to the dry cleaners on Tuesdays and picks up on Wednesdays. She keeps many lists and checks things off as she goes. She wonders how the rest of the world can be so lazy, not taking every minute of every day to fulfill a meaningful task. She lies awake in bed, trying to use the time before she falls asleep to contemplate the meaning of life or her next work project. Consequently, she has a hard time falling asleep because she is doing all this thinking. But, she figures, this is better than wasting time just lying there doing nothing.

Many days, Penelope doesn’t get her to-do list done. She sleeps too late or she spends too much time on the internet maintaining her many friendships, people who could not function without her care and concern. At the end of the day, she tells herself that she had a worthless day. She bucks herself up and says, “Tomorrow, you will try harder.” And so she has another bad night of sleep thinking over all she didn’t accomplish and about all the people she let down. She worries she will turn into a lazy person. She worries she won’t accomplish anything with her life. She doesn’t smile.

And all of this is why she must open a lemonade stand with Bob the Slob. Because she cannot say no. Because she is up to any challenge that anyone sets before her. Because Bob needs her. He is a slob after all.

(INTERUPTION: The Perfectionist would discreetly presume to remind you that you have not used enough specific details here. We have no idea how old your protagonist is nor the location of her home, why she even knows someone who is called Bob the Slob, or why she would open a lemonade stand with him.)

(Anna: Well I thought it might be kind of a funny idea. It would be a good situation to demonstrate how uptight she is and how loosy goosy he is and the hilarity that ensues when they meet different customers. I don’t know.)

(The Perfectionist: Well, OBVIOUSLY, you haven’t thought this through properly. Perhaps when you have figured out every single logical fallacy, you may begin again. It doesn’t even appear that you have done any proper character sketches nor drawn a map of the area or discerned the familial history of each of these characters. All these things must be known perfectly before you begin any piece of fiction. We’ve been OVER this. Also, not to labor the point, but this story seems like it would be funny. The assignment was to face your issues. Not laugh them away Chandler-style.)

(Anna: Right. Sorry. Maybe I just won’t write this story at all. And try something else instead that makes more sense.)

Attempt Three:

Working Title: Sally and her Lists

            Sally sat at a desk in a small room. She had three calendars in front of her, printed out on white paper. She also had a large notebook. She was making lists and noting things on the calendar, planning out every minute of her summer so that she could use the time as best as possible. This summer, she would finish decorating the house, write at least 3 hours a day, start a blog, follow a strict workout regimen, work three jobs, and maintain all her relationships. All she had to do was make sure to plan it all out and follow the schedule. Just follow the schedule.

As she filled in more and more days with different colored pencils, she started to feel a bit of panic at all that needed to be done. Outside the small window, the sun was shining. The sky was that perfect kind of blue with no clouds. Sally really wasn’t aware of any of this though. She wasn’t allowed to go outside until 4pm for her workout so what did it matter what the weather was doing.

(INTERUPTION: Ok this is a bit better because it’s more serious, but God is it boring. What’s going to happen now? We are going to watch her do all her tasks? Oh, let me guess, you are going to bring a man into her life to disrupt her and show her how much fun she is missing out on because she’s not following the lists. Because that plot point hasn’t been over done. Can you please try to come up with something original and not dead-DOG boring? Good Lord! What are we going to do with you? That’s attempt 3 now isn’t it?)

(Anna: Maybe, but I thought I was writing what you wanted in that last one. I thought you wanted something logical and real.)

(The Perfectionist: Well, that’s what I was looking for, but this isn’t it.)

(Anna: Well that’s just fine, because I hate Sally and her stupid lists and all her insecurities. She should just get over herself. She shouldn’t worry if her shit doesn’t get done or if she offends some friend of hers because she had to say no. She should cut herself some slack and her friends too and just try to have a little fun before she dies!)

(The Perfectionist: Fun? Life is not about FUN. If you think life is about fun, all you’re going to have to show at the end of it is a whole lot of nothing. You’ll be like one of those people who works in a factory their whole life, goes to Packer bars on the weekends, has a few dumb kids and some smelly dogs, and dies around age 55 from all the greasy food they ate. If you want that to be your “fun” little life than go ahead. You think all the successful people in the world are having fun? No one got anywhere by having any fun! That’s one thing I know for sure. You have to earn your place in this world or you’re just going to be another no body, no name, nothing person.)

(Anna: You know, you might be right. I might totally fail. I might be a no body. But I am so freaking tired of fighting with you. I’m so tired of getting up every day with the heaviness of what I won’t get done today already weighing me down. I’m so tried of going to bed at night thinking about all the ways I’ve failed. I’m so sick of not really feeling things, of not really being present and in the moment because I’m so busy worrying if this thing I’m doing right now is a waste of time or not. Always asking myself, is this the best use of my time? Is what I’m doing right now the best thing to be doing? What if it’s not? Well, fuck that. Maybe I won’t be someone’s hero. Maybe I’ll never write anything that anyone wants to read. Maybe I’ll die alone because I don’t want to have kids. But I’m going to do it with hope in my heart and YEAH, I’m going to use the phrase Hope In My Heart. And I don’t care that you think it’s cliché and doesn’t mean anything. It means something to me and doesn’t that matter? Doesn’t that count for something or make a difference in some way?

And let me tell you something else. I’m not a bad person. I’m there for my friends when I need to be. And I try at everything that I do 110%. I don’t know any other way. And I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am. I don’t even let myself watch TV unless it’s raining or it’s winter.

It’s time for you to just shut the fuck up and leave me alone because I’m doing fine without you and your guilt and you’re put-down motivation skills. Every day, I’m going to get up and I’m going to do some good things AND I’m going to do some really stupid things. I’m going to fail. And that’s OK.)

(The Perfectionist: Girl. You best shut your face because you have no idea what you are talking about. You just wait and see. You’re friends will leave you one after the other when they see how you really are. Pretty soon, you’ll be nothing. No one will have anything good to say about you because you don’t do anything all day long. Without me, you’ll check a lot of Facebook and that’s about it. You’ll eat a lot of cheeseburgers and watch a lot of TV because I won’t be there to tell you to stop. I won’t be there to control you because you can’t be trusted. You need to be controlled by ME. Yeah, you just wait and see. You’ll come crawling back to me.)

(Anna: You know what, I’m already crawling. Crawling along after you trying to keep up with your expectations and you’re schedule. No one can live the way that you are asking me to live. No one. It’s not humanly possible. And just in case you were wondering, I’m not getting all those things done you are asking me to do. I’m not doing any of them because I’m so locked up. So frozen with fear of letting so many people down. Of failing. Of letting myself down. And here’s the other thing: I like imperfect people better than the person you are trying so desperately to turn me into. If the worst that happens, is that I live a happy, all be it, meaningless life, then so be it. I’ll take the joy and the wonder over all your bullshit. This conversation is OVER!)

A large door slams in the face of the Perfectionist. She screams, “I’ll be back. I’m waiting here. Just outside your house. You can’t get rid of me. You need me. You’ll see. I’ll find a way back in.”

Anna knows she is probably right. Anna will have to be diligent every day to not open the door to her and her way of living.

Anna goes back into the living room and greets her Doubting Elephant who is sitting on her destroyed couch. The elephant looks at her with large black eyes and lets out of loud sort of trumpeting sound. The doubt never goes away, even if the Perfectionist is locked outside.

Anna goes into the kitchen, gets the peanuts. She feeds them to him one by one, as she begins to tell him a story about a teenage boy who lives on a farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. A lost boy who doesn’t know where his life is headed and doesn’t care much to find out. And about how that boy meets a sad girl. And how this sad girl finds out some true things about herself from this boy and how this boy discovers from her that you have to know what you want and go after it to get anywhere.

And it’s about love and dads and being young. And then about letting it all go, like balloons, drifting one by one from the small hands of a little girl standing alone in a field of daisies. Each red balloon drifting toward the clouds, holding a dream.

Pretty soon the Doubting Elephant falls asleep, and Anna sneaks past, picks up the gray cat where he’s sleeping in the sun, and goes up to her office. She starts writing. She can see the Perfectionist out of the corner of her eye, prowling around the yard. She ignores her. She hopes it will get easier. She closes the shades.

8 thoughts on “My Writing”

  1. Well, that was fun!

    • Thanks Josh! Are you a perfectionist or not so much?

      • I’m working on it. I tend to want to revise before the paragraph is finished. I think residency helped, because I had to produce things for people to read, which didn’t afford me time to revise incessantly. Now I have a system that seems to be working for me – I write out a chapter, then read it once. I might make a couple of edits (small ones,) but then I let it lie for a day or two. When I come back to it I can make more thoughtful edits, and I find myself reaching a point where I say, “Well, there’s nothing else I can do with this – it’s my adviser’s problem now.”

      • Letting it sit is a good idea. I have a hard time with that because I don’t like rereading my work just in case it’s the worst thing ever. But every time I can get myself to do that, it’s works out really well for me. Thanks for sharing! I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to comment much on your blogging. Art show + life + MFAC = killing me slowly.

  2. Loved reading this, friend. And I love what it symbolizes for you and your writing (and your life in general). 🙂

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