Splotches, My Dear Friend
Remember that time in kindergarden when the teacher gave out some coloring paper with a few images and told us to “color within the lines.” What? No? You don’t remember? (Tsk, tsk).
That time was the beginning of the beginning — we said hello and you remembered when I had my birthday. It was also when fear and creativity weren’t intertwined. No; I hadn’t yet learned that judgement on my creativity was judgement that I shouldn’t value.
Being judged by outside forces at such an early age had a psychological impact in how I approach creativity; and now, everything I do. In most instances, perfectionism (or the goal to be as close as possible) has showed me that focus and discipline can equal wonderful results. But, in the instance that author Anne Lamott is describing in the excerpt on perfectionism, being a perfectionist isn’t always helpful when writing drafts.
Drafts by nature are supposed to have mistakes. Try telling that to a hard-core perfectionist. Author Anne Lamott tells us that “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” This is true. Not only has perfectionism lead to a one-too-many stare off at my blank computer screen, it has undoubtedly lead to too many harsh judgements on my own experimentations with language (“pitiful!”).
“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground –- you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip.” — Anne Lamott
This is the second excerpt from Signature’s The Writer’s Guide to Poetry (read about the first), and it’s the most important of all sections of the book. The advice given has positively overwhelmed any negative advice that I’ve encountered; so much so that I highly recommend this guide for any-level writer, regardless if you consider yourself a poet or not. What’s most important about this guide is that it gets you to think about language — and it doesn’t necessarily have to be only about the English language.
Experimentation is a gift that perfectionism holds back. Being a perfectionist isn’t always a bad thing — but if we allow it to dominate our thoughts and our creativity, then it can take a while to breakthrough and to refocus our energy. What I learned most from this guide is that writing must be treated with the same value as any other art. It must be treated as a craft that is continuously and meticulously being honed upon and worked at from different angles — this includes from different perspectives and worldviews. I also learned that writing must be fun; so we better enjoy playing with it!
• • •
I hope you’ve enjoyed the review snippets on Signature’s The Writer’s Guide to Poetry! I’ve enjoyed reading the guide as much as writing about it. I’ll add that I reviewed each part of the book out of it’s normal order and out of sync — this was just a preference and an order that I recommend reading, if inclined:
1. ‘Telling It Slant’ (A good mini intro to poetry)
2. ‘Testing Form’ (Short advice on poetry form)
3. ‘Taking Flight’ (General advice on writing)
4. ‘Excerpt: School Of Verse By David Orr’ (On dismantling poetic expectations and on reading Stephen Fry)
5.’Excerpt: On Perfectionism By Anne Lamott’ (On allowing for mistakes and messiness in our drafts)
6. Misc. extras (Poems)
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