When Revision Happens Before The First Draft Is Done

Last night was brilliant. Completely unexpected and frustrating beyond frustrating, but last night may have been the best thing to happen to my book since I started writing it.

I have been sending chapters as I write them to a friend of mine, and I finally was able to sit down and talk to her last night. She gave me excellent feedback, not pleasant to hear at times and not all that unexpected either, but it was very helpful. I had no idea who my main character was, and I had no idea what anyone’s motives were. And it was blatantly clear in my writing. All of that brought attention to the fact that the historical backdrop was full of holes, lacking essential tension to make the story I had mean anything. There was no reason for any of it to be happening! Like I said, it was frustrating.

After about an hour or so of agonizing, I pulled out the map I had drawn for her to take a look at. Slowly, we began to piece together a history for this world, one that would give motive and meaning to the story I wanted to tell. The ideas picked up speed, snowballing and gaining substance. I made the decision to cut out several minor characters to keep my already complex world from getting more complicated. Politics were added. The first four chapters were cut and replaced with a new storyline that would fit into the world we created.

I still didn’t know who my main character was. I had facts about her, knew her name and her story, but I didn’t know who she was. My friend hopped on her laptop, pulled up a personality test, and had me answer the questions for my main character. At the end of all of that, I finally knew who she was.

Now, I am faced with the dilemma of what to do with all of this new information. I have quite a bit of my book written, and I just had a few scenes here and there near the end to stitch it all together into the hodgepodge mess that I like to call “draft zero”. I can’t decide if I should write those scenes before beginning the next draft with all of this new information. I now have a different story from the one I started telling, and it is with a character that I know instead of one that I don’t know. The stories are similar, but they are not the same.

I don’t want to leave draft zero uncompleted before starting in on revisions. Well, I suppose I have my answer. I’ll stop stressing over the details and get those last few scenes onto paper, regardless of the quality. I can fix it later. The sooner I get those scenes written, the sooner I can start revising.

Stumbling Through Life

I don’t know what I’m doing next, and that scares me. For a long time, I had my life planned out. I knew what was going to happen and where I was going to be. Now, none of that applies. It’s scary. There are so many options. I don’t know what scares me more – the abundance of options or the complete and utter lack of control. 

If I’m being honest with myself, my biggest issue is with the absence of control. My perfectionism stems from a need to have control. But the reality is that I don’t know what is yet to come. I can’t tell you what will happen next or where I will be in five years. I can’t even tell you where I will be in the next five minutes. I can give you an idea or a well educated guess, but none of that is for certain. Nothing about the future is. 

I base my life off of the what ifs. Not only does that hinder what I do today, it keeps me from moving forward in the grand scheme of things. I am terrified of the future. I will admit that. My past informs and still affects my present. I am not proud of some of the things I have done, but I am learning to own them. When I worry, I always leave out the most important figure in my equations. God. God is the one who has control, not me. That thought is both comforting and terrifying. 

I do not know what I am doing. I have ideas, things I think I would like to do. And if you ask me, I will gladly tell you about them. But do I know what I am doing? Nope. Not even close. I’m just stumbling around, trying to figure things out.

Actively Waiting While in Limbo

I have never been much of a patient person. I do not like to wait, which is probably why I am having such a hard time with being in a state of waiting, in limbo. I like to be active, doing things. I tend to forget that I can still be active while I wait. I don’t have to sit around for hours on end, stare off into space, and twiddle my thumbs while I wait for the next step.

I don’t have to have life planned out right now even though it feels like I have to. I can still get involved in the community even though I don’t have a set plan for the next few years. My life doesn’t have to be perfect. It can’t be perfect. There is no magic formula to create your future and the rest of your life. It doesn’t work that way, but sometimes it feels like it.

Although it feels like I’m not doing much, I am doing things. I am being active.

  • I am unwinding from the insanity that was all those years of public school and the intensity that was my four years at a private Christian university.
  • I am taking time to get to know myself and see how I function in the workplace.
  • I have a job.
  • I am involved in community theater.
  • I am writing a book.
  • I am slowly building new friendships.
  • I am seeing a therapist that I finally think I can stick with (She is number 9 or 10).
  • I am digging through the gunk and sludge, smoothing out the sharp rocks, and clearing out those places in my mind I locked away.

I may not be sure of what is going to happen next, but I am making progress. And that is a pretty good start.

What’s in a Name?

It took me days to come up with (and settle on) the name of my blog, and it was even more hours of agonizing over a tagline. Deciding on The Indecisive Idealist as my title and “recovering from perfectionism” for my tagline was difficult, but, ultimately, it seemed to be the best fit.

I am a horribly indecisive individual. It is a trait of mine that is well known among my friends and family, and it isn’t well liked. I have improved over the years, but I am still known for being indecisive. Personality tests label me as an INFP, and the description of that personality type is scarily accurate when compared to my personality. INFP’s are known for being idealists, and I am very much so one.

I have always been a perfectionist in one aspect or another. Whether it was following the rules EXACTLY to the letter and tone in which they were given or that the line I was drawing HAD to be straight, there has been an undercurrent of perfectionism running through my life for as long as I can remember. Whatever I did, it needed to be perfect. It couldn’t just be “good enough.” It HAD to be perfect.

This way of thinking bled into my life and my subconscious to the point where I did not realize that was one of the main driving points beyond my reasoning for doing things a certain way or simply not doing something at all.

In college, I started to break away from this toxic way of thinking because it is impossible to do every assignment perfectly. Between sleep, classes, homework, choir, and dealing with the after effects of multiple traumas, I learned to acquiesce to the necessity of “good enough”. I would not have survived otherwise. It would have lead me straight into a nervous breakdown and taken me away from the university I stubbornly stayed at in order to complete my degree in 4 years.

Now out of college, I have discovered a new importance to the words “good enough”. Where I am right now is good enough. The job I currently have is good for now. I was so scared for the longest time, and I held onto ideas of what I felt my life should or should not be. It did not help my search for my next step. In fact, it was a hinderance.

There is no perfect path. There are always going to be decisions that we have to make, and we might make a few mistakes along the way. But our path is not set in stone. We have choices.

In my last post I mentioned my commitment of obedience to what God wants for my life and for my decisions to reflect that. While in some situations that is cut and dry, there are others where that is not the case. There are many avenues in which my life could go, and I believe that there are several different paths that God would bless. I am not stuck on one straight path. God hasn’t got my life written in stone. He has given me the power of free will, the ability to make choices for myself, and opportunities to do so. I always have a choice.

Perfectionism gets in the way. It warps and twists those words of choice into my needing to choose “the right thing”. Perfectionism takes all of those good paths of potential and blessing, and instead, it whispers lies that there must be one perfect direction to choose.  Instead of inspiring, it stifles. Instead of motivating, it paralyzes.

I am learning to live in the good enough. To be clear, this is not settling. It is putting aside unrealistic ideas that may never come to fruition. It is living in the here and now rather than the “perfect” idea I have in my head. It is keeping my dreams, but not allowing them to prevent me from living life today.

I am The Indecisive Idealist, and I am recovering from perfectionism.