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May 4, 2012

Pros and Cons of Perfectionism

I have an interesting book called Brain Lock about how to overcome Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with meditation techniques.

The way that OCD works is that the part of the brain normally reserved to signal DANGER is overactive. That's why a person can know, intellectually, that they turned off the stove, but still feel, at a "gut" level that something is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.... It's not the gut but the brain that is flooded with those feelings of danger.

The interesting thing is that the more someone with OCD gives in to the temptation to appease that sense of danger--be it check the stove, count the numbers, reorder the shelves or wash hands one more time--the worse the sense of danger grows, and the more the person "has" to do in order to try to make it right. It's a loop.

I don't have OCD, except when it comes to writing.

When I'm writing the DANGER zone of my brain can definitely get caught in a loop. One scene is wrong, so I need to change it. That scene now works, but another scene now makes no sense, because of the changes. I have to change that scene now. But now another scene is disturbed....

You know that scene in Fatal Attraction, where the crazy woman sits up late at night, just flicking the light switch on and off, obsessed with her lover? I am that crazy woman. Just replace a lover with a book. It gets to the point where I am so in love with the book that I begin to hate, I pick fights with it, I go for a long time refusing to speak to it, and then, when that doesn't work, throw things at it.

Like I said. Crazy woman.

On the desk around me are dozen little notebooks filled with successive outlines. There's another batch of hypothetical outlines on Excel files on my hard drive. I have been working on Wing (book 5) and Blood (book 6) later books simultaneously. They all have to hang together. But there is a danger, I realize, in endlessly seeking a perfection which doesn't exist.

Because it has to be right. It has to be perfect. And what drives me mad is that I know it won't be, it can't be. I can never truly do the story justice.

I am going to try to take a page from the advice for those with OCD. Relax. Let go. Get on with it.

Just as soon as I rewrite this scene.


Ban said...

sounds like me my dear - yeah, and I don't have OCD either ;) really, I don't ...

Davin Malasarn said...

I might be completely wrong, but since the last book I wrote required me to create a new world, I was much more sensitive to all of the details I introduced. Every time i changed some piece of technology, I had to go through the entire manuscript to make sure it was consistent and didn't somehow violate the restrictions of time and place that I had established. It was extremely difficult, and this is for a story that really played down the sci-fi elements because they were so new to me. I wasn't OCD, but I was terrified that someone reading would pick up on any inconsistencies.