Monday, February 8, 2010

The calm after the storm

This is the poster that hangs above my desk. The Builder bought it for me for our first Christmas in the Fibro and I glance at it often. I need to.

If there's one thing that makes a person eminently suited to life as a freelance writer its the ability to work at the last minute. Actually, adjust that: the ability to thrive on working at the last minute. It's a technique I've been honing since, oh, second grade when I'd do my reading homework over breakfast (or not do it at all and attempt to forge my mum's signature...and get caught (oh big surprise) - sorry Ms Taylor). Most of the time it works like a charm and allows me to juggle multiple deadlines, two kids, The Builder and all the demands of life in the Fibro.

Sometimes, though, the magic deserts me and Procrastination seeps in. If allowed, I am a world-class procrastinator. I have been known to clean the oven instead of working on a story that was giving me trouble. That was in the old days, BF (Before Facebook) and the myriad other time-wastes masquerading as 'research' on the internet. Now the oven stays grimy, the work remains undone and countless hours disappear into my (very large, very bright) iMac screen.

Take today, for instance. I spent about two hours putting off the start of revisions on my book. It's hard. Really hard. So it's best avoided. Once I finally got going, I was on such a roll I nearly forgot to collect the kids. (Not really, but it sounds very writerly, don't you think?) Then I was into legitimate procrastination territory - guitar practice, reading homework, baths, dinner, choir. Monday nights are big in the Fibro. (Bigger than Saturday nights now I think about it...)

But overshadowing all this activity was the story on vintage cars that was due last Friday. Due and unwritten. Due and nothing more than a blinking cursor on a blank screen. Ugh. My least favourite sight in the world. I've been putting off this story for over a week. Not because it's not interesting, but because I just couldn't think of a hook. Give me an opening sentence and I'll give you 1000 words in an hour. No opening, no nothing.

But push came to shove. The anxiety was mounting. It was time to begin. Bettina Arndt caused huge controversies last year when she suggested that women should have sex with their husbands whether they felt like it or not. Start and you'll be amazed at what happens, she argued. Writing is the same. There's no point sitting around waiting for the muse to show up. In my case, she was clearly enjoying a very long drive in a vintage Jaguar.

Nope, you have to start. Once you do that, you can be amazed at what happens. The vintage car story may not be great literature, or win any prizes. But it's clean, it's information and it's done. It might even be a little bit entertaining, come to think of it. And the overwhelming feeling of relief and satisfaction that I'm feeling right now is worth the price of admission.

Can someone remind me of this next time I'm considering Procrastinating for Australia?

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