The Trouble With Definite Articles

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be the prettiest. (Hello, cultural indoctrination.)

By the time I was in fifth grade, I had figured out that I wasn’t going to be the prettiest.

So I decided I was going to be the smartest.

By the time I was in ninth grade, I had figured out that I wasn’t going to be the smartest.

So I decided I was going to be the thinnest.

By the time I was in my junior year of college, I had figured out that not only was I not going to be the thinnest but that journey was particularly sucky. 

(Sucky’s the only word for that. I promise you.)

I’m a perfectionist to the point where I’m a procrastinator. I can be so paralyzed by my desire to do things perfectly that I simply don’t do them. I doubt that this will surprise any writers reading this as it’s a common complaint/shared misery amongst artists of all sorts. That’s why writing advice almost always includes advice about first drafts being bad, about turning off the ‘inner editor’, etc etc. 

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Writing advice should also include pretty cats who help you write.

Sometimes, though, perfectionism is sneaky.

I’ve been stuck for a month now. Don’t get me wrong. I get words down. I write a few hundred here and there, in as many as five different open WIPs. I reoutline a few projects, glare at my revisions, refresh my email. Tweet more than I write. The usual.

But my days of thousands of words every day were gone. I alluded to this a little bit here, but I think it was just last night that I realized that I was growing frustrated with my ability not to be THE. 

The writer. The best writer. The writer with the high word counts. The reader who finished all her books first (I’m a little competitive too. This is great if you’re athletic. When you’re not, you end up being competitive about the weirdest freaking things.). The writer who is the [basically substitute anything here].

If you scrolled back up or remember, you’ll see why I titled this post the way I did.

The. The. Not just a writer. I was stuck in the mindset of being THE writer who [did X, Y, AND Z, dammit]. The reader. The smartest, the prettiest, the thinnest.

I previously focused on the ‘-est’ part of that. But maybe it’s because I keep focusing on the definite article too. 

I am a writer. I don’t *have* to be The Writer. I am a reader. I don’t *have* to be The Reader. 

Today, as I now feel like I can breathe and go back into my WIPs with less pressure on myself, I’m reminding myself that I don’t have to be The anything. I just have to write. And it can be bad. Or it can be good. And that’s okay.

Perfectionism hides in the little words. My internal editor is targeting those words today. 

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Spine poem made with ARCs from ALA Midwinter 2014
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