In order to combat my perfectionism, I made a rule that once I start writing on a particular title for Not This Song, I have to finish and publish it before I can write any new titles. Today I’m breaking that rule. For the last four hours I’ve been writing an article, one molasses-sticky sentence at a time, and I cannot bear the thought of publishing it.
It’s not about the fact that I don’t think the piece is very good. That would be no excuse for breaking my rule, because I need to get used to writing a lot and some of my works will naturally be better than others. No, the reason I want to break my rule is that what I was trying to write isn’t true. It feels as forced as cocktail party conversation and I just can’t go on with it!
Is it okay with me that I am breaking my rule? It feels like the right course of action to me at this moment. But there have been times in the past that I rationalized drugs I said I wouldn’t take, or food that I said I wouldn’t eat, or lies I said I’d never tell. What is the difference between this rule and other rules that it wouldn’t be OK to break? Where do I draw the line?
Kindness to myself, and acceptance of my imperfection, is important to me. But self-sabotage has masqueraded in this costume so many times that I am wary. “It’s all right, go ahead, nobody’s perfect,” it murmurs to me. “Take the pills just for tonight. You need them. Eat the extra food, it’s understandable. Stay in bed today; you deserve it.” The voice pretends to be kind while convincing me to do things that are anything but kind to myself.
I don’t have an easy answer about how to tell when breaking a rule is or isn’t all right. Honesty and self-awareness can help me examine my reasons for wanting something and make me less likely to rationalize. I suppose I just need to keep working on my recovery so that I don’t try to talk myself into breaking rules designed to keep me alive.
In terms of my writing, I can always fall back onto my deepest rule: when all else fails, tell the truth.
So what’s the truth?
The truth is that my ego is trying to get in the way of my writing again.
The truth is that I am caught between the desire to write more often and the desire to submit polished things.
The truth is that I’ve now been doing this writing for long enough that my inner saboteur is realizing that I’m serious about it.
The truth is that the little kid in me delights in the feedback when I post and doesn’t want to go without any for long.
The truth is that I’m disoriented because my daughter’s away for a week.
The truth is that I feel stuck in my twelve-step writing and can’t wait to be done with the section I am in.
The truth is that I’m worried about many things I need to do in the next few months and scared that I’m not up to them.
The truth is that I have a marital “date night” coming up and I’m acutely aware that I don’t know what I’m doing.
The truth is that I’d really prefer to feel relaxed and secure right now.
The truth is that my addiction is whispering in my ear about there being ways to arrange that.
Which brings me back to rules. Some rules are not made to be broken. For example, the rule that says I don’t use drugs. I guess obeying that one is going to have to be enough for today.