Yes, I am one of those procrastinating types. Grr, how annoying are we to deal with? Very, I know, and can only apologise. I would have abandoned it as a way of life by now if it wasn’t for one niggling little feature of advantage that it has to me in terms of being creative, and that is that I work better this way than I do when everything is recorded, noted, planned, outlined, scheduled and completed in a timely fashion. I was nearly in a coma by the end of that sentence, for example. I know I’ll never persuade sturdy, regular types that this method isn’t anything but selfish and thoughtless. That’s because it is selfish and thoughtless. My moral compasses are spinning like tops as I write. And yet.
As a result there is typically no plan to my working day other than that I am notionally ‘at work’ in it. I mess around endlessly with books and games, on and offline, excuse myself to make tea/do housework/exercise – anything can become a higher priority than actually writing. I used to feel dreadful guilt about this until I realized, belatedly, that there is a method in this madness and that the final results are at least no worse than those achieved by any other method. To a puritan eye (and I have one) this behaviour looks appalling. Every spiritual or moral code would dictate that surely it is better to write regularly, disregarding passing moods, in order to achieve the objectives? Because people who achieve are able to do what they have to do and dictate their own mental states instead of giving in to every passing whimsy. That’s just sense.
It is sense. There’s only one drawback to it at the moment for me, and that is that sometime around the 2 child mark my ability to dutifully go about the chores and routines of life with ‘sense’ (never very fond of these it must be said) reached a zenith, or a nadir, anyway, some critical inertia point. And then the creative bit of me dug in its heels and said, ‘all work and no play makes for zip inspiration. Why don’t you get an office job if you want to be an administrator?’
By play it didn’t only mean the fabulous distractions, it actually meant time to read, watch and otherwise accumulate interesting information. Time to sit with your mouth open staring into space in that manner that other people think is ‘wool-gathering’, or possibly ‘dust-gathering’. The very activity that you can get away with endlessly on public transport, but never anywhere else. With small children constantly around there is no wool-gathering, only toy gathering and the supply of food, drinks and attention. It is the polar opposite of vacant dreaminess. A job would be the same, only much, much less grating on the nerves, unless you’re a fighter pilot or something. So anyway, a couple of years ago after three books of sensible writing came my own personal Great Halt of Sulk in which I discovered that by goofing off a lot of the time I can sit and write reams at the deadline equivalent of ten minutes to go. Also, this method circumvents my natural tendency to worry everything to death if I have lots of time to spend on it. Time is not the issue, concentration is the issue and concentration doesn’t come to me in an infinite supply. But it really beats plodding along at 200 words per day. I’m with James Thurber and the creative dreamers of the world on this one – ‘Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy and wealthy and dead.’ Physically dead maybe, but dead for sure.
So, to conclude, here is my typical writing day: Get up. Children to school. Coffee. Computer. Fire up email, internet, World of Warcraft, word processor open to correct pages. Review To Do List. Ignore To Do List. Read a bit of book. Look at magazines friend has sent while chatting with other goof off friends on MSN/WOW. Read other book. Stare out of window at garden. Start to notice work that needs doing. Stop looking at garden. Do exercise video if remember. Panic administration on overdue items (tax, bills, unanswered letters, this column etc). Tea. Email. Pff, that was all too much like hard work. Play WOW dungeon, check Auction House, remember to consider Christmas gifts for friends and check Ebay quickly. Realise have not redecorated child’s bedroom despite promising to for two weeks. Search out brushes and posters and stickers to show willing. Realise have not got clean school clothes. Panic fling them into washer. Read another book. Consider the current writing project and test write a few lines. If good, continue. If terrible, another distraction – I know, check washer. Load has finished, have forgot to add laundry soap because it is still sitting on the side looking at me. Add soap, start program again. Lunch. Realise day nearly over. Continue skimming various books, also blogs. See full laundry basket on the landing. Realise several rooms of house need urgent attention of a tidy minded person. Wish there was one around. Shut the door on it. Write something: if good carry on until interrupted by school-run time, if bad try other writing project or websurf on various related notions. Children home – watch shows with them, make and eat dinner, and usual domestic catch-up stuff until they are in bed. Return to desk. Play game/watch comedy show or TV series I like (Better off Ted, the Middle, any SFF). Late night inspiration often strikes because now mind is not full of To Do List Of The Day and nothing will happen until bedtime. If anything has to be done it’s too late now. Feel great at this point. Write half or whole page or make notes. Sleep.
Here is a photo of my desk. You can see on it the printer is out of order – bought the wrong cartridge. Sweet wrappers are from late night sugar craving. The Royal Mail has still not delivered my friend’s book to me. Aside from my usual mascot of dust, symbolizing the entropy of the universe and essential triviality of all human endeavours you can also spot my other desk power items: from left to right of the display we have an anime model of a girl that my close friend Stephanie bought me a couple of years ago. ‘It’s so you!’ she said. Note prim clothing and wagging finger. Mmn, I thought, I wonder what that means.prim clothing makes no sense as I wear at best jeans and a jumper. Next along is the fat lady with the fat cat. I like her because she looks like I might be doing something interesting and she looks content with that. Next to her is a Chi Lin, or dragon dog, one of the pair. They face the screen to protect me from the horrors of the internet. In the middle is a gold dragon brooch my mother bought me in a moment of sublime inspiration. It stands for creativity, love, wealth and the ability to worm out of difficulties. Go dragon! Next to Chi Lin 2 is Lego Hermione Granger. No explanations needed I feel. Moving alone there is the elfin figure of Cloud, from Final Fantasy – just because he is cool and reminds me why I love fantasy in the first place. Behind him stands Earth Horse, from India, who is covered in the plastic heart tributes of loveliness, bringing friendship and peace to the desk. Finally on the edge there is the skinny silver faery. She’s glittery. Nuff said.
Underneath and obscured by mugs and glasses sits the Dark Fairy, queen of the underconscious. She’s parked on the steel hockey puck that is my Amazon literary award. That’s acting as the lid on everything she rules. She looks cute but her kingdom is the awesome fountain of all that is mysterious and good, scarey and terrifying. There’s an angel with her, just
in case – from my friend Freda that one. And for when things get really out of hand, there’s the Doctor, ready with his sonic screwdriver. I’ve got it all covered. At the back, lurking, is a pottery dragon and a glass stick of wheat. Both precious gifts from long ago, battered but surviving. And that’s it.
And yes, in case you were thinking of suggesting I could do all the To Do stuff during the day and just wait for the magical night hours to come, thus becoming super efficient and a much nicer human being – I have thought of this myself and tried it. After a day of dutiful appointment keeping and straightening up by the time the magical night hours came I was a powder keg of resentment and general misanthropy that took two hours to defuse. Then it was midnight and overdue for bed because at 6am it all starts again. I have to live with myself and other people, so I’m not doing that until the day comes when the children are older and I get my energy back. (I hope that day isn’t a myth). Meantime I am living a troll’s life of wheedling and bargaining with my inner child. It’s my survival ploy. If you must sue me, bear in mind the kids and their general expenses ate my wallet along with my sanity and the shreds of my social conscience.