Rainbow Rainbow by Lydia Conklin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Truly brilliant, honest, queer stories told without judgment of the idiosyncrasies and paradoxes of the human experience. Rainbow, Rainbow by Lydia Conklin takes us inside queer and trans characters’ minds with raw awareness. It took a few chapters for me to adjust to the white-hot honesty, but I settled into a tempo of gratitude for these truths. They were like a map to some of my own memories of adolescence, past relationships, perceived mistakes or contradictions, and the shadowed aspects of all humanity.
It can feel disturbing to read about life’s most undiscussed internal battles and societal issues, and that’s exactly why this book left me contemplating the vital importance of bearing the discomfort of painful truths so we can see with clear and open eyes what’s essential for our growth. Maybe if we dared to be this honest and open with one another in day-to-day life, we could heal wounds and lessen the transmission of unhealed pain from person to person through every aspect of our societies.
Each essay helps us see through another’s eyes what it means to navigate bodies, identities, relationships, needs, and desires all while constantly evolving and changing within and without. Most stories want to promise us some kind of certainty. I know who I am, this story will show you my struggle and my resolution – that’s what we commonly see, but it’s not how we actually function. Rainbow, Rainbow flows more like real life. There aren’t neat resolutions or comforting moral lessons. It is raw, true, often ugly, not precious but sacred because we are so used to seeking inspiration in ideals and washing our hands clean by denying the messiness that is the human experience.
I would recommend this book to lovers of creative nonfiction and memoir, LGBTQIA+ readers, and fans of authors like Melissa Febos and Carmen Maria Machado.
View all my reviews
Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is my first time reading anything by Melissa Febos, and now I’ve vowed to become a Febos completist!
Body Work by Melissa Febos offers creative nonfiction essays about the vital importance of writing about trauma in a society that shames people into silence and the transformative internal work that goes along with reclaiming your story. We delve into how to write honestly about sex, how the process can make us more aware of the difference between internalized misogyny and our own truest desires, how to write about other people without destroying them or ourselves in the process, and some of the deeply spiritual aspects of writing.
While reading this book, I was also taking an online course in creative nonfiction. As a newbie, I felt frozen, staring at the blank page, questioning whether I could really write about trauma. I wanted to write about sex, queer sex, dissociation, growing up an unusually precocious and sensitive child, the pervasiveness of patriarchal oppression, and I needed to make it compelling and honest and to “excavate events for which I had been numb on the first go-around.” I saw myself in Febos, and seeing her thrive and heal and do so through writing gave me a framework to visualize what I want in my own creative life. Body Work found me at the exact moment I needed it most.
One of my favorite essays in Body Work is A Big Shitty Party: Six Parables of Writing About Other People. I feel relieved to have read this essay before publishing anything of note! Febos shared her own mistakes, regrets, and shifts in perspective with such insight that my own immaturity as a writer felt impossible to ignore. I had ideas for essays that had long been brewing that weren’t necessarily cruel nor untrue, but they could sting someone. Febos reminded me, “There are good essays that there are good reasons not to write,” but also, “…a difference in individual truths is not always a conflict. So long as we don’t try to speak for each other, there is room in our house for more than one story.”
I’m always looking for books that illuminate the experience of gifted children (a term that’s not always appealing, and yet we don’t have any other highly recognizable terms for intellectually advanced kids and adults), as these children tend to have difficulty seeing themselves reflected in the world. She describes her heightened perceptivity, openness to spiritual experience, early advanced reading and writing abilities:
“I wanted to be a writer very young because writer was the only role I could see myself occupying in society, the only one that might hold everything that I was: queer, overly emotional, burdensomely perceptive, reluctant to do any kind of work whose purpose was opaque to me, ravenous in ways that made me an outlier. It was an occupation that seemed to offer respite and relief, but also was connected to the sublime—it offered the gift of self-forgetting, a transcendence on the other side of which lay insight. I did not think to compare this with any description of religious experience, because I had not read any. Now, it seems obvious.”
My copy of Body Work is so laden with highlights, it’s impossible to pick out the most profound or exciting quotes. I felt magnetically drawn into the writing world of Febos with each essay. This book is like a course in itself, and I’m sure I’ll read it dozens of times over the next few years both to learn and measure my learning and just to hear the voice of someone who actually gets it…someone who has done the work, knows the work never ends, and sees transformation and art as necessary to one another.
I recommend this book to writers of all experience levels, and to anyone who has ever considered telling their own story through memoir. If you consider yourself an intersectional feminist, queer, contemplative, and literary, this book is a dreamscape of inspiration.
Thank you, NetGalley, for this ARC!
View all my reviews
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
I’m embarrassed to share this, but I have 65K words in a Scrivener database and 80 unseen blog post drafts collecting dust in WordPress. If I want to overcome perfection and finally hit “publish,” then I’ve got some work to do.
Hiding is painful, yet reasonable excuses are endless. If we don’t challenge these reasons for hoarding our creativity, we might end up buried alive in manuscripts and brilliant but fading pages.
Overcome Perfectionism and Writer’s Block
To free the mind and body of the constriction perfectionism places on them, we must create movement and flow. Let’s dig into these actionable tips and resources and overcome perfectionism together.
1. Change How You See Your Inner Critic
What if you could push that inner critic down so far back into the shadows she’d find those single lost socks you haven’t seen since 2011? Maybe that’s what causes writer’s block. You successfully strangle the inner enemy and the unexpected side effect is the silencing of creativity.
What if your inner critic wasn’t your enemy at all? What if a little love and compassion could make that critical voice softer and more secure?
When we seek to numb or quash the parts of ourselves we aren’t so keen on, we also suffocate the brilliant and joyous aspects. To overcome perfectionism and produce work we can feel happy with, we must give the inner critic a good dose of compassion and change how we respond to tough emotions.
Find out more about healing your inner critic…
2. Address Imposter Syndrome by Dancing the 2-Step
In the podcast The Long and the Short of It, Pete Sheppard suggests using the Imposter Two-Step to get past the ubiquitous Imposter Syndrome.
Step 1 – Ask yourself what the critical voice is saying. Step 2 – Respond to that inner voice with your truth.
Don’t let those thoughts take up space without addressing them. Sometimes confronting these doubts head-on is just what’s needed to diminish their power over your choices. I highly recommend listening to the linked podcast episode on this topic.
3. Know Your Value is Not Dependent on Achievement and Mastery Requires Practice
Intellectually, we can be aware that worth isn’t dependent on what one accomplishes, but the subconscious mind may be running on outdated beliefs that anything less than perfect is a failure. This part of ourselves needs a reminder that practice promises improvement, not perfection.
You may be naturally good at many things. You may not even have to try very hard to be good at most things. Practice is something even brilliant artists need to become masters of their craft. Know that anything new requires effort and mistakes.
Really take a few moments to sit with this thought – without doing or achieving anything, you are worthy of love, respect, kindness, and patience. Give those things to yourself and the grip of perfectionism will loosen.
4. Mistakes Can Be How Progress is Made
There’s no avoiding making mistakes. Instead of trying to subvert the inevitable, work like a scientist.
Scientists don’t set out to prove themselves right, that would lead to uninformed conclusions. They create a hypothesis and try to prove it wrong. This is how discoveries are made.
We experiment and improve by figuring out where we went wrong and observing what worked. Make mistakes and you’re making progress!
5. Overcome Perfectionism by Creating Community
Interrupt the cognitive dissonance of unrealistic standards by enlisting outside reviewers you can trust at every stage of the writing process.
Have a couple of writer friends look at an early draft. Get a fellow blogger, author or freelancer to check out your midpoint work. When it’s in the final stages, have a mentor or senior writer give their input.
This won’t be necessary for every piece of work you do, but it can certainly help move your greater works along the pipeline and give you valuable skills and connections too.
For more details on this step, check out Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s invaluable advice on writing and procrastination here.
6. Know your writing process and set realistic expectations. Avoid procrastination.
[x_pullquote cite=”Kerry Ann Rockquemore ” type=”left”]For most writers this involves a process of initial drafting, editing, sharing, discussing, revising, presenting, more revising, and submitting. If you can get clear about what your actual process looks like … then you can start to have realistic expectations about each stage of the process and your timelines for finishing manuscripts.[/x_pullquote]
Structure and self- awareness will free your mind from unrealistic expectations and help you have a better relationship with time. We often overestimate how much we can get done in the time we have available. This can cause stress, procrastination, and burnout.
Give yourself more time than you need for projects and become mindful of how much time each step of your writing process requires.
7. Create a mind-map
Maybe you’re like me, and you’re a visual-thinker. Create a mind map to visualize all that’s involved in your topic. Plot out the main idea and branch off into questions, answers, problems, and related ideas.
If you’re feeling blocked, this could be just the thing to get those wheels turning again. You could even include the visual in your published post or article.
8. Freewrite first
Do you find it easy to write inspired Facebook comments or insightful journal entries, but when you go to write a blog post or academic paper you freeze? Capture that feeling of spontaneous flow anytime using the freewrite method.
Don’t censor your words or think about the purpose of your writing. Let anything and everything flow from you. This intuitive rhythm of writing will undoubtedly produce something you can incorporate or massage into a rough draft.
Overthinking and imposing unnecessary structure on your creative mind can halt the process of developing ideas. Let go and free those words.
Learn more about free-writing here.
9. Create a recipe for focus
Use a timer or word count motivation to put some fun and excitement into drafting written works. Let music trigger your creative process. Set up a recipe for success and do it every time you sit down to write. D. Allision Lee wrote an excellent blog post about staying focused while writing here.
When I hit play on my Vaporwave playlist, that first song immediately gets me into a writing groove. If you write regularly and pair it with a set of habits, like playing a particular playlist, you’re tapping into the power of your adaptive unconscious. Focus can become second nature when it’s a learned practice.
10. Don’t edit until you have distance from your writing
Han Solo in Carbonite by William Warby
Don’t read your writing until the next day, the next week, or at least a few hours later. Distance = objectivity.
I tend to write a sentence and immediately read it over, obsessing over each word, immersing myself in the piece so inextricably I feel as though I’m Han Solo in carbonite.
For the love of muffins, do not take that route if you want to overcome perfectionism.
[x_blockquote cite=”Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird” type=”left”]Of course there will always be more you can do, but you have to remind yourself that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.[/x_blockquote]
11. Soothe Your Nervous System
If you’re really stuck – your body may be the answer.
I’ll wager while you’re in the grip of an episode of self-critical brain freeze your body is also feeling tense. You might be holding your breath and sitting for hours with your shoulders up to your ears.
Those deeply embedded fears of not being good enough are stored in your body as sensory memories. To change your response mentally, try responding to emotions in a new way physically.
Practice breathwork, meditation, and somatic experiencing. Make these beautiful practices part of your every day, and you may notice a new you forming.
12. Change creative mediums
Take a break from writing and make a collage, draw the tree outside your window, do a little karaoke or have a dance party. Any creative activity can get your writing juices flowing.
Try switching from typing at your computer to handwriting. When done writing, edit in a new location. Anything that forces the brain to switch gears can dig you out of a snowbank of perfectionism or writer’s block.
[x_blockquote cite=”Marsha Sinetar, Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics” type=”left”]By relaxing our grip on the inordinate need for perfection we create a better emotional atmosphere to experience actualization.[/x_blockquote]
Overcoming perfectionism and developing creative flow is a journey that requires patience, practice, time, and often silence.
In this silence, we go inside ourselves and learn the skills of self-trust and self-acceptance. We integrate our strengths and weaknesses into a realistic concept of our whole self. This is the core of how to overcome perfectionism.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite tips from the post were and if you have anything you’d like to add.
[x_share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”]