Good enough

murakami

I hate everything I am writing lately.

I hate the way I can’t seem to get my words out, the way my writing never flows.

It just doesn’t come as naturally as before.

You know how when you’re drawing, and you keep trying to draw a curved line a certain way, or are attempting to make an identical “other eye” and it doesn’t work ? And you keep erasing it over and over, tracing it back on with the mechanical pencil and erasing again until the paper just—tears ? Rips apart under your fingers ? And the frustration builds up from your gut, rushes out in a guttural roar, and you just, tear, tear, tear. Swear you’ll never do this again.

Well, the paper is my brain.

Or feels like it.

But that’s my own fault, sortof.

I keep trying to make everything I write “good enough”. Keep trying to stamp ‘perfection’ on everything that leaves my brain. So before the idea even starts out, takes shape, it is garbled up, mashed into a mould it doesn’t fit into, trying to be what it is “supposed to be” : good enough. I don’t know what the standard is, what “good enough” really looks like. It’s just a vague idea that has been built into something immense. Like a balloon dressed in a crisp, black suit. Like the biggest matryoshka that has been emptied of all its other dolls. It stands tall, intimidating, daunting with the knowledge of all that it entails, but is just so damn empty inside.

But the image is enough to tie all the faucets of my imagination shut.

Ideas are meant to be like this, I almost say, pointing to my memory of anything that has ever made me feel anything worthwhile. But there are examples (of writing, mostly) that are far too precise as well, down to the sentence. It has not yet devolved into anything matching an “I wish I’d written this.” spirit, but I wonder how close I am to that.  If I had to envy other writers, I don’t think I would envy their intelligence or their finished works. But rather their capacity to be both authentic and interesting. Two things I don’t think I can manage at once.

‘If you’re not the kind of idea that looks like this,’ I almost say to myself, ‘if you are not this kind of authentic, please go away.’ Sometimes, I look back at things I have written and wish I could write them again. Why can’t you be like this idea ? See how good it was ? Why can’t you write like how you wrote back then ?

And it’s all because of the (not-actually-stupid) stupid writing contest I’ve been trying to get into. It’s huge and amazing and it’s the first time I’m actually going to do something like this and it has to be amazing and breathtaking, revolutionary and so interesting that every word drips with meaning because what’s the point if it’s not, right ?

I’m not in it to win.

I could never win. 

I thought saying that would remove me from the idea of a “race”, a “contest”. That I could then go on my merry little way and dissolve into one of the ‘worlds’ I am so keen on writing about. But if I’m defining the whole artistic venture that is a writing contest as not even a prize to be won, but as a prize that cannot even be won, you can clearly see how peaceful writing removed from internal pressures is not a thing that’s going to happen. Because at this point, I am facing an impossibility. It’s not even a boolean “You’re going to win” or “You’re going to lose”, it’s a : “You’re going to lose. What are you going to do about it?”

Try to make it so perfect I can’t lose. 

If, by nature, I am a perfectionist, I am also someone who sees far more possibilities in something than there actually are.

I might not win, but boy am I going to learn so much from this experience.” 

That is my train of thought, often enough.

But not now.

I’m an idiot, in that sense. A perfectionist idiot who’s afraid of time running out and so is  constantly rushing into doing things. But I am also one among to many others like me.

Like people who thought they had to be a certain way, to write in a certain way. Good stories are written like this, and here’s an 800-page guide on how to do it…said nobody ever. 

Maybe it was fortuity, maybe it was Fate, but not knowing what they were about, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s first works “Hear the wind sing” and “Pinball” this past week. Accompanying them is an introduction from the author, the first time I read anything of his that isn’t fictional. And it’s everything, everything I needed to hear.

Give up trying to write something sophisticated. Forget all those prescriptive ideas about “the novel” or “literature” and set down your feelings and thoughts as they come to you, freely, in a way that you like. 

I am no Haruki Murakami, but perhaps that’s the point. Haruki Murakami did not know he was going to be Haruki Murakami. He just learned, in writing, to be himself. And everything else arranged itself around that, good or bad. I think I need to learn something similar to that. Something that applies to me.

I have so many ideas though, so many things I want to write about. NaNoWriMo’s even coming up and there’s so much I want to do. I keep jotting things down, from keywords to sentences and summaries ( “observatory”, “A cat’s life”). I still need to overcome my overthinking, still need to work on so many things.

But maybe I just needed to say it, because thinking it wasn’t enough.

Anyway, if I have to choose between being authentic and being interesting, I would rather be authentic first. I can learn to be relevant and impactful later.

Meanwhile, I’m still going to try for the writing contest, because it would feel like giving up at this point. It ends November 1st, the day NaNoWriMo starts. Ends are beginnings, always, so I’m going to count on that.


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