Sunday Scribblings: Decisions, decisions
But is it ever..REALLY?
You know how difficult it is for me to make a decision? I just wrote out about eight different first sentences for this post—and that was after I spent a few hours debating whether I should attempt to write fiction or nonfiction!
Seriously, I am probably one of the most indecisive people you could ever meet, a fact that has caused me serious unhappiness in my life. I'm a devotee of the “deer in headlights” method of decision-making, aka “if you ignore it long enough, it will change and then you won't HAVE to decide.”
I once debated for years about whether or not to buy a pair of sneakers.
This is not good. This leads to regret. And I do regret—I regret almost everything that I've done in my past—or failed to do. The wrong jobs. The right jobs left for the wrong reasons. The wrong jobs left for the right reasons, but which perhaps could have worked out if only I'd stuck it out. Not going to graduate school before getting married. Not going after getting married. And most of all, I regret not using that lovely expanse of time before motherhood to write seriously. Oh, sure, I wrote, in spurts...but considering how much time I had to work with, what else was I doing? Sleeping? Eating?
It's ironic that I want to be a writer at all, considering how much decision making THAT entails. I have no doubt that is why I am so often blocked. Should Catherine break up with Nick before or after she gets fired from that last acting job? Should Marisol reveal her family's deep dark secret in order to save her best friend's life? And...what would that dark secret be, again?
And it's not just plot points. Every time I read a book on craft, I am paralyzed by the sheer number of concepts I need to keep in mind. Narrative arcs. Character arcs. The three act structure. Point of view. Is my dialogue moving the story along, and revealing character without being too “on the nose?”
By this point, I've vowed to read and re-read the Literary Canon before attempting to write another word. Or else I've already allowed my attention to wander to the television, or to conversation. Or, usually, I just keep writing in my head, convinced that if I just work out all of the possibilities in my mind, I'll smooth out the tangles before my words land on the page.
Writers, stop laughing.
In fact, I think this ceaseless search for certainty—for direction that will help me avoid mistakes—fuels my passion for reading. When I'm feeling more self-confident, I read novels—exploring each character and their universe, discovering snippets of wisdom along the way. When I am feeling less-than-confident, I read self-help books. And writing books. And horoscopes.
Guess which ones I'm reading more and more lately.
I think my inertia about decision making stems from this absolute belief, one I can't shake, that if I make a mistake, I won't be able to fix it. If I go down the wrong road with my novel, I will have ruined it beyond repair, squandering a promising idea and proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that I'm never going to accomplish anything in my life. If I apply to the wrong graduate school program, then I will have squandered our hard earned money, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that...well, you get the idea.
So I wait. And I read writing books. And every day, I decide to stop, and then I decide to start. Stop. Start. I dither, and doubt, and do everything except just write. I try to keep William Stafford's exhortation in my mind, the one about "aiming lower." I really try. But...in those OTHER immortal words, the ones said by Yoda, "There is no try. Only do."
I can't even choose whose advice to take...about making a choice.
I'm not sure how to end this post. Maybe I'll decide that later as well.
Oh, and I finally bought those sneakers. And enjoyed them to no end. But never really felt like I lived up to them.
There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.
If only I could decide what it was.
Decide to read more posts here.
Labels: sunday scribblings