Perfectionism: So Why Do I Write?

Wow. We end up here after all this.

I’ve been thinking about my psychology, but never in my (almost) 50 years have I thought about my psychology in terms of perfectionism. Which is amazing, because if you are my friend, you know it, don’t you? Especially if you are my friend and you have weathered several years of me, my high standards, my gruff demeanor and my attempt to alter your behavior, sometimes without being conscious of it, and sometimes cruelly on purpose, because I like to pretend I know what’s best for you.

You’ve noticed me not being happy with myself and trying to show that I am worthwhile by pulling stunts. I have always started out these stunts in an origin of desire. I wanted to get my PhD, for example, but by the time I finished it, I had managed to turn it into this mighty effort that I did not much enjoy. I often say that I enjoy having my PhD. That’s classic perfectionist. Shoot for the destination. Don’t enjoy the journey. The ends justify the means.

It’s the same with my weight. Even though I have slimmed down somewhat, I am inching my way back up. I want to be healthier, but what that means is eating good food and working out. However, the perfectionist says that life doesn’t start with fashion until you have reached that perfect weight. Again, I’ve improved, but you know, why am I waiting to enjoy something when I can enjoy it now? Why, when I look at a picture do I see all the flaws? Why can I not activate the content circuit?

These are rhetorical questions. You don’t have to answer them. I am very aware of my background and my genetic heritage. Like it or not, this is my battle. I need to work on these issues for all of you, but I also need to work on these issues for me.

Okay, so here’s this question: why do I write? Do I want to enter the published author industry? I’m knocking on the door, and people are letting me see in at this point. It’s just a matter of time if I keep doing what I’m doing, but I know people find this industry frustrating and high stress. Hey, I can make taking a bubble bath frustrating and high stress, so I wonder, is this a wise path for my sanity?

The biggest reason I started writing when I was a kid was because I wanted to submerge myself in story. I wanted to play. I enjoy video stories and written stories, and I live for those moments when characters laugh, cry and are triumphant, when emotion transcends their beings and they become more than themselves. I love story.

I love story whether I am orchestrating many characters, or I am acting as one. I love gaming, I love gming, I love writing, I love dressing up. I love story.

To make a book good, you revisit, refine and shape a story so that it is more of those incredible moments that you can live. I am in story telling because I’m looking for that story high. I watch Dead Like Me over once a year because I can find that story high. I game with my talented ensemble of actor friends because sometimes we stumble on that story high.

Of course, plotting the game can be a chore. Revision and proofread can be a chore. I can make this all one bleak, gray job. Another thing in my long list of things that I have to do. Not living in the moment of the thing, but being frustrated by the thing not being done.

You know, like exercising every day and not cracking the 200 pound barrier. Like feeling guilty about the ice cream cone rather than choosing to enjoy one every now and then because I like ice cream. The damned goal, over and over and over.

I will say something dramatic, like I’m done with it, but I am so not. It’ll come up again. It always does. Heck, this year was the biggest Type A train wreck I’ve had in a while, and that was just because of destabilizing change. And my first instinct? Run away, find a new job, and start fresh, which isn’t necessarily bad, but is a classic perfectionist technique.

That’s the thing about perfectionism. It’s a double-sided coin. I mean, I need a new job in Florida. Absolutely. But right now? Three years before Bryon’s ready to go? What about enjoying the ride? Living for the moment? Dick move, perfectionism. I see what you’re doing there.

So, back to writing. The journey is the important thing. The journey is the important thing Falling into the characters, loving what I’m writing, and doing the rest as part of a long stream of doing my art. Worry, angst, sadness, depression, procrastination, the illusion of no time, NONE of this helps me in any way. None of this produces results. It just wears me out so I can write less.

I write because I want to enjoy my life, and this is one of the ways I do it. I don’t care about the rest. This is vital for my health and well-being, and my sense of joy.

And that’s all I got to say about that.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

3 thoughts on “Perfectionism: So Why Do I Write?”

  1. As someone who has known you a while, I’m pretty sure you love writing. Not every bit of it, because you aren’t some non-existent writer creature, but lots of it. You’re a writer.

    Also, I have something for you that was going to be a birthday gift but might be an anniversary gift, but I probably won’t see you until WisCon so I guess we’ll find out then!

  2. But the reasons I give above are also the reasons I like reading, watching movies, gaming, and putting on a costume. I like pretending, plain and simple.

    Not in a creepy bad way. In a creative good way. You betcha.

    I am intrigued by your present. As you probably guessed, Bryon has yours in hand, and I will bring it along to the con.


  3. I write because I want to enjoy my life, and this is one of the ways I do it. I don’t care about the rest. This is vital for my health and well-being, and my sense of joy.

    Yes! 🙂

    And have a great time at WisCon.

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