Deadlines. Time management. Self sacrifice. Giving 110%. At home with your 2 bar heater and a stinking coffee pot on New Year’s Eve, pulling the last drop of creativity from the reserve of reserves. We all do it. But sometimes, you shouldn’t.
Most writers I know fall into two camps. The ones who procrastinate and the ones who have to be pulled away from the desk because their unwashed bodies smell up the house. I fall into the latter group; those are the people I address today. Please sit down, because my next sentence is going to upset you.
Sometimes, you need to miss the deadline. Heresy, I know, but let’s get a little crazy.
Let me tell you about my week. (I’m an Appalachian writer, so I can’t make my point without a digression.) Ten days or so ago, my husband filled the fridge with ready meals and went to London to see the Queen. Well, it turned out to be Charlie, but the impact on myself was the same.
Here I am in a house with all the amenities and no other human. I don’t get dressed until a break in the creative flow for fear the dog will want a walk. When we do go out, I confuse poor Big Nose by reciting dialogue as I hoist him over stiles. I eat standing up. I go to bed with the computer and reams of manuscript. I wake up and write notes. I’ve got the energy of a spaniel on No Doze.
When my husband comes home, I press through the world of my mind into the world I share with him. The next morning I wake to someone panting at the side of the bed. My husband’s back has gone out.
If you’ve had to take care of someone with a bad back, you’ll know how ridiculous I was to think my life could go on as normal. Once the central heating went out, it became a week long picnic in the living room interrupted by house calls from the GP and trips to Neurosciences made possible by my husband crawling down the front steps on all fours. In the middle of this, I had a deadline. With a week to go, piece of cake, right? If I wrote like my son does, probably.
He's writing, I swear.
My son has a wonderful creative process. On the outside, he does everything but write. At some moment inspired by the gods, he commits his work to paper in nearly completed form. He makes it look easy but while watching telly, braiding a rug, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, he’s diligently at work. My process includes a kinaesthetic aspect which is clearly visible. Without that process, there’s plenty of words, but little creativity.
Which didn’t stop me. However, my husband (or the diazepam) decided he could walk. What he did was fall into the dog’s bed while Big Nose was in it. When the laughing stopped and I got them both in their respective beds, I realised that just because you can walk, doesn’t mean you’re going to reach your destination. I could send 300 pages in, but I owed the characters in my novel better than that.
Deadlines are good. They give us an end stop but they aren’t the goal. Forgive yourself for being slower than some editor or competition wants you to be. Let your writing mature in its own time. Let your process be about the writing, not the deadline.
Big Nose gets his revenge.