Is Writers Block Really Just Pride?
I can still hear her saying it.
“You know, Bridget, ‘The best is the enemy of the good’.”
This was a favorite phrase of Cris, a friend of mine whom I met while involved in Opus Dei in my high school years. She borrowed it from Voltaire I think. I was (still kind of am) a bit of a perfectionist when it came to certain (read: most) things, and she loved reminding me that while striving for perfection is all well and good, demanding it of everything on earth rarely ends well and almost never gets us any closer to real perfection. For instance, while I wanted everything just so for a Halloween party the high school ladies were throwing for the younger group of girls, she just wanted everything done. She was happy that we had apples to bob for. I wanted those apples to all be the perfect shiny shade of red with stems just long enough to make the game interesting. While attempting to get everything perfectly right, I ended up spending far too much time on it and had to cut out several other activities we were planning to make up for my lack of acceptance of things being just “good”. Cris was right, as usual.
Now that I’m a wife and mother, I appreciate the honesty in this phrase more than I ever could have before. If I spend three hours scrubbing a casserole dish, not to get it clean but to get it sparkling, will it make my next batch of cinnamon rolls any tastier? No. Will it mean that I may no longer have the time to spend making that next batch of cinnamon rolls? Yes. And no one wants to miss out on my cinnamon rolls. Sounds silly when put into these terms, but it’s true.
The idea applies to so many areas of life, but right now I think of it most often when I sit down on the couch with my laptop and prepare to write a blog post, especially one for Truth and Charity. You see, for the past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a severe amount of writer’s block and I think I know what’s causing it: the best, or rather fear that it won’t be. Knowing that when I write something for here, my post will be surrounded by all of the other awesome posts about God and the Church and the Faith, mine seem, by comparison, small and not all that interesting, pithy, or timely. It’s quite daunting. It makes one feel that her work might not be up to par and then she spends time obsessing over idea and generally pondering what topics could possibly be worth writing about and what might be interesting and how her faith has intersected her life in the past week and and and…You see what I mean? After a while of this I just stare at the screen and eventually, after a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit, I remember what Cris used to tell me, “The best is the enemy of the good,” and then I start writing.
I’ve realized that my writer’s block is essentially just another attack of the pride monster. The idea that whatever I write might not be good enough because it might not be the best is really just my fear of public failure or at the very least of mediocrity. In allowing myself to hide behind the shield of a perfectionist, I waste time that should be spent in anyway other than worrying. Some days I just have to accept that, while striving for perfection is always admirable, it becomes less so when that striving keeps you from beginning the attempt in the first place. After all, God gave us all talents to use, not to perfect. So, next time you start obsessing and nitpicking over things to the point that you either don’t start or don’t finish, remember this idea, take a breath, say a prayer, and move on.