Apathy & Rhetoric

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Apathy & Perfectionism (aka: Writing & Rewriting)

Let’s get real. If everyone was a perfectionist the world would be a better place. Nothing more needs to be said because we all know it is totally true. The world would be cleaner, smarter, and way more efficient. I’m not saying people need to be OCD like Monk and want everything even and the same size. No, I’m talking about having things organized, and doing things correctly, and well, making things even and the same size would be nice too.

Sadly, the world is not this way.


But wait. I can guess what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Charlotte, your site is called Apathy and Rhetoric. Isn’t apathy the opposite of perfectionism?”

Pretty much, yes, which brings me to the point where I’m almost to the point of this post.

Because we live in a world where perfectionism is impossible there are times when apathy must be applied to maintain sanity. For example, I own way too much stuff to ever be able to efficiently organize my bedroom.  Whenever I clean I get frustrated and overwhelmed by the futility of making my room perfect; therefore, I apply apathy and never clean my room. Problem solved. (This is called the All-or-Nothing Method. If you can’t make it perfect, don’t do it at all. Try it some time. It works wonders.* I don’t recommend trying it at work though. You might get fired.)

So when do we choose to be perfectionists and when are we apathetic? Well, that is up to you, but there is one scenario where I think apathy always applies: writing. (And in case you missed it, this is the point of this post).

When you are writing I have one simple rule: Aim for completion, not perfection. If you are constantly going back and fixing errors, changing dialogue, deleting characters, making new characters, or redoing the entire plot of your book you will never finish. I repeat, you will never finish.  Now please don’t stop reading because you think I’m crazy and want you to write a horrible book. That is not what I’m saying. I’m saying I want you to write a horrible rough draft. I want you to get your story out of your head, all of your story, and not worry about fixing it until you’re done. Writing is not the time for perfection. Perfection should be sought during editing and rewriting. (I bet you didn’t even realize rewriting was a separate thing, did you? Well, it is.)

images (1)This is easier said than done. Here I am an hour into writing this post, and I’ve lost count of the number of edits I’ve done before even being close to finished.  Keep pushing. If you find yourself worrying too long about the perfect word pick a crappy one and move on. Remind yourself that you can fix it later because if you are any good at writing you will be rewriting your novel (or blog post) at least fifty-million times. This is what writers do.

However, I should make it clear that even the best of writers never achieve true perfection. Paul Valery said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” I’m pretty sure this applies to all writing. Ask any author and they will probably tell you there are many things they would change in their novel if they could, even the novels that are best sellers.  So yes, apathy has its place in rewriting as well. In fact, apathy has its place in every aspect of life, but that conversation if for a different post.

If you find yourself wanting to practice the utilization of apathy I suggest starting a blog. My posts never seem perfect or finished to me, but I force myself to publish them anyway because otherwise I’d never publish anything and wouldn’t have a blog. It’s actually quite exhilarating to know that once the posts are published I can stop thinking about them and move on. Writing is much more fun this way.

And on that thought, I’ll end this post by sharing some quotes I wanted to fit into this post, but couldn’t find the “perfect” spot for.

“The first draft of anything is $*!%.”  -Ernest Hemingway

“You can fix anything but a blank page.”  -Nora Roberts

“The best writing is rewriting.” –E.B. White

Happy writing. 🙂

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*You may be called lazy when utilizing this method.

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Mental Disorder Vs. Alternate State of Mind

Before I start this post, I have two disclaimers:

  1. This in only an introductory post to my thoughts, and therefore, will be missing a lot of key points I want to make.
  2. There are a lot of mental disorders out there that I know almost nothing about. I will not be discussing them.

Mental Disorder. No matter how many times I tell myself that it is nothing to be ashamed about, I still cringe whenever the term is used. It has been used as an insult too often. People are doing their best to repair the damage, but in my opinion it might just be easier to change the word. Look at the word “retarded”. I feel guilty for just writing it. People will never be able to use that word again, when really it is just a word that people picked to describe a type of person. You’ll notice the same thing is happening with the word “special”. That is not to say all is lost. The word “gay,” while no longer meaning happy, is no longer the insult it once was.

But I’m getting off track. This post isn’t about the stigma attached to mental disorder, at least not completely. No, this post is about the fact that there are some mental thought processes that I don’t think should be called disorders at all. In fact, there are some that I think should be celebrated.

Let’s start with the definition of Mental Disorders. I pulled this off Wikipedia:

mental disorder or psychiatric disorder is a mental or behavioral pattern or anomaly that causes distress or disability, and which is not developmentally or socially normative. Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feelsactsthinks or perceives. This may be associated with particular regions or functions of the brain or rest of the nervous system, often in a social context.

You may have to read it a couple of times to understand it all, but basically, it means this:

A way of thinking or feeling that is

  • harmful and unhealthy
  • inhibiting to your way of life
  • not considered normal by society.

Ok. Harmful and unhealthy. I will agree that those things are bad and should be remedied. Take depression. No good has ever come from depression, and no one should have to endure it.

As for inhibiting, well, it is really up to you to decide what you find inhibiting, and whether or not it is a bad thing. Apathy makes me not want to do a lot of things. This is ok, so long as it’s not something I actually want to do. In fact, I rather enjoy most of my inhibitions. They keep me from making an utter fool of myself.

And then there is “being normal”. I find this last one rather ironic because I’m pretty sure society also tells people to love themselves for who they are. Apparently, they only mean that when the way you are isn’t something they consider weird, but that’s a discussion for another post. I’ll just say that I believe thinking differently is a good thing and should be encouraged.

This brings me to my point. While there are mental disorders, there are also things I like to call Alternate States of Mind (ASMs). These include things like ADD, OCD, shyness, and yes, apathy. States of Mind that might be different, are usually disparaged, but are actually perfectly ok and healthy. In fact, sometimes they’re even useful. Embrace them.

Hopefully, I’ll find time to write more about this soon.