Write, Erase, Re-write

I have finally found a way to get over my incessant need to fix every single letter that I write on pieces of paper.

Since grade one, I have engaged in an obsessive compulsive behaviour that has brought my mother down to the school on more than one occasion for a meeting with my teacher(s).

This behaviour has followed me into adulthood. (Although I kind of have control of it myself now. There’s no one standing over me with a ruler, demanding that I not give into my natural instincts.)

What is this natural instinct that has caused a lifetime of annoyance to me and those trying to instruct me, you may ask?

Erasing everything I write and writing it again. And if it’s written in pen, touching up the pen marks made on the page until the letters blur together from too much ink in one fibrous spot on the paper.

I don’t just erase and touch up letters that are imperfect. If an ‘a’ or an ‘o’ forms a perfect circle, I will erase it to start over again so that its meer perfection cannot torture me.

For as long as I have been putting crayon, pencil or pen to paper, I have done this write, erase, re-write dance.

Pencil eraserImage: ningmilo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am now officially in my late 30s, having lived through that fateful day in any woman’s life when I crested then went over the edge of my mid-thirties. Yes, I “celebrated” my 36th birthday recently. And on that day, I discovered a way to get over my incessant need to fix the cursive swirls my pen makes on paper.

I have kept you in suspense long enough. I will not keep this little trick a secret a moment longer. Are you ready? Here it is…

I blur my eyes while I’m writing.

That’s it. I focus on a point somewhere just beyond the line on which I am writing, and I keep my eyes focused on that spot until I have finished writing. By doing this, I do not see whether the letters are perfect or imperfect.

Blue pencilImage: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, of course I will see my writing only moments later when I proofread what I have written. But for some reason, I am rarely concerned with the perfection or imperfection of the formation of the letters when I re-read something. And thus, it doesn’t bother me (as much).

So, now all I have to do is remember that simple trick when I’m writing by hand (which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen that much anymore anyway) and voilà! No more obsessive compulsive behaviour!

* * * * * * *

OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) can be debilitating. In this post, it is not my intention to minimize the seriousness of the condition by saying that, with a “simple trick” I can get over my obsessive compulsive desire to “write, erase, re-write.” As a child (and even now, as an adult), I suffer from a mild form of OCD. I say “mild” only because I am in some sort of control over it. It is a very serious anxiety disorder, and should be treated as such.


3 thoughts on “Write, Erase, Re-write

  1. dusterbed

    I love the simple solution! What a great workaround!!
    Not only that, but thanks for the link to another great stock photo site!

  2. Heidi

    I am SO glad I found this… My 7 year old boy started these “erase and rewrite” patterns a few weeks ago. He told me it all started when his match teacher complimented him on his AMAZING penmanship. Obviously this is not her fault, but something was triggered in his brain and now this erasing and rewriting is becoming a big problem for him. He gets so frustrated and I want so very much to help him. I don’t know if I should be drawing much attention to it in the first place (I mean sometimes making a big deal out of it makes it a bigger issue) or if I should be setting psych appointments right away. What in your opinion would be the best way to approach this with a 7 year old? I value any advice you may be able to offer since you understand first hand. Thank You so much in advance.

    1. Nancy Post author

      Hi Heidi. Thanks for reading. I can relate to your 7-year-old. There’s nothing wrong with being a perfectionist. And at 7, being complimented on our handwriting is a big deal. Good for him that he has such nice writing and takes the time to craft letters and words that are pleasing to look at. If I were in your shoes and had a child who was like me (I have two children who are the polar opposites of me, go figure), I wouldn’t make too much of a big deal out of it. When you see him erasing and re-writing, ask him gently why he’s doing that, what about the word made him want to re-write it? Was it because it wasn’t perfect enough, or was it too perfect? (Yes, that is a thing, that was the hardest thing for me as a child. A perfect letter on a page was a signal to my brain that I had achieved perfection and then I panicked because I had no where to go from there, so I would erase the perfect letter and start over again, trying to get back in control of the process.) I wouldn’t try to encourage him to stop his re-writing. But make kind comments about the content of his writing or some other aspect, talk to him about how he feels when he is writing something. And when he’s not writing, when he’s doing something else, like maybe having lunch or eating dinner, talk to him about perfectionism and how the world can be a messy place and that perfection is a great goal to have, but sometimes we have to accept less than perfection. Don’t relate it to his need for perfection in his writing, but maybe offer examples from your life where you had expected to achieve perfection and you didn’t and tell him how you handled it. Most of all, just love your little guy for the way he is. The thing with these kinds of things is, they aren’t really problems. They are our way of expressing ourselves. And the best anyone can do for us is accept us as we are. Acceptance goes a long way to helping us help ourselves.


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