Writing requires deadlines and other rituals.
“So, how much writing did you get done today?” asked my friend, concerned that I kept putting off the most important task of all.
“I’m just getting started,” I said at 7:30 pm.
“What? What did you do all day?”
“I had 2 loads of laundry to wash, hang, let dry, fold, and put away. I had to clean the bathroom, the fridge, and the floor. I still have to clear the paperwork on my desk.”
I was not complaining or procrastinating. While I was doing the house chores, I was thinking about how and what to write.
I wish there’s a magic wand to make all the words appear. I’ve drafted the outline. I’ve given myself and others a deadline. The raw material is totally here, in my brain, on my computer, in e-mails, and in printed form. All I have to do is copy and paste, write, rewrite, and polish it.
But there is a million other things on my mind. I can’t work in a dirty and messy space. My Brazilian friend admired how her German husband could plant himself anywhere, in the middle of a mess, and work away. She has to clean the entire house before she can begin to think. I am somewhat the same way. While cleaning, I am thinking. I am plotting.
When I wrote concert reviews, I forced myself to write and publish as soon as the concert was over. The longer I waited, the less compelled I was to write a review at all.
On my first day as magazine editor, my publisher said,”You know what a deadline is? If you don’t make it, you’re dead.” Since then, my life revolved around deadlines and word count.
The latest threat I received was compelling enough for me to meet my first deadline. “I will not talk to you unless you submit that chapter.” Thankfully, it was real enough that I submitted the chapter the day before it was due.
So now, I tell my friends, “Please do not bother me. Do not talk to me. I will not and cannot engage in conversation until I meet my deadline.”
The trouble is, I have set myself a deadline every week. It will be several weeks before I emerge to embrace the world again.