How many clothes are in your wardrobe that are unworn with the tags still on? I probably have five or six items I haven’t worn yet, all recent purchases that I can’t really afford. I’m a sales trawler, addicted to fishing out a ‘bargain’. I’ll convince myself that I need that new Breton top, in only a slightly different colour to the one I already own, because it’s a staple – because it fits well. I’m a size 12 pear-shaped lady, and while I’m not overweight, I have to seek out items that skim over my hips and not-so-flat tummy. When I find something flattering – a long-line top or an A-line dress, usually – I seem to become blissfully unaware of sneaking back into my overdraft. Equally if I find something smart and comfortable, something perfect for work – a practical purchase – it’s easy to convince myself to make my way to the cashier.
My life is cluttered by my addiction to the shiny and new, and I have to work really hard to stay on top of it. I take stuff to the charity shop a couple of times a month – clothes I’m bored of or I’ve decided don’t fit well enough, books I’ve decided I don’t need or will never read. It’s tiring, staying on top of the burgeoning piles of stuff. I know it’s a waste of energy, and yet I keep on shopping. I keep on worrying about money, too. I think I’m caught in this illogical cycle and while I’m not a full-on hoarder, I worry I’m addicted to stuff.
It’s not just ‘stuff’… I’m addicted to the new. It’s the first blank page of a new notebook, the first words written with a lovely new pen, the excitement of the beginning of a new project. This is really not good. I can’t call myself a writer if all I do is collect gorgeous stationery from Paperchase. I have to finish stuff. I have to accept that my creative outcome will not be – at least not initially – as perfect as a fresh piece of paper. I have to stop chasing that feeling of starting something new.
Looking back on my time at school and university, I can see that I have a tendency to be a perfectionist in my creative work. I have high standards. I get stressed and anxious that my work is not good enough. A case in point is remembering the painstaking hours of work I put into my A Level Art sketchbooks. I’d paint all the backgrounds in swirling gorgeous colours before I wrote my notes, and I’d produce a mountain of work over a school holiday, still anxious that I hadn’t done enough. I was always shocked to see the work of others in the class – in disbelief that I was quite often the only one putting so much time into my work. (I call it work, but A Level Art was really more like A Level Fun for me.) I sometimes wonder if I’m still applying the same attitude to my writing. I rework and redraft things multiple times, struggling to move forward because I’m not satisfied with what I’ve already done. I know that most of life as a writer is rewriting, but I suspect I might be overdoing it. I need to stop going back to square one. I’m beyond that now. I need to move on.
Fortunately this obsession with all that is new and shiny doesn’t extend to other parts of my life, otherwise I suspect I’d find myself permanently single, friendless, and unable to hold down a job. I’m not a commitment-phobe in other parts of my life, I need to apply this frame of mind to my creativity. Oh, and my wardrobe!