This is How I Successfully Procrastinate
The Fear of ‘Second Pages’ aka How I Successfully Procrastinate
I am so happy to report that I have gotten through one of the great quagmires I created in my little author brain – the absolute final revision of my novel, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS.
How My Procrastination Starts
‘Second pages’, as they are referred to by editors, are a terrible thing, in that they are the ultimate, the definitive, the no-turning-back, version of a book…and scary as hell. I have spent literally years writing and editing my work with the end goal being a finished, perfect manuscript.
Note the word perfect and then go ahead and tie it back to fear. I think you get the picture.
Once I received the dreaded email with my manuscript attached and the request that I review, revise and return in ten days, I went into my by now, dead-line specific panic cycle. Otherwise known as the ‘authorial ooze’, I swear, it is the worst form of suffering on the planet (no drama here!).
Authorial Ooze aka Fear
Usually, the first thing I do is call my friend Doreen and whine. She listens for maybe two minutes and then reminds me there are real problems in the world and then, to add insult, actually begins to list them! Diseases, bad weather, the pestilence of humanity in general.
My unresponsiveness draws out the big guns. This is when Doreen mentions that if I just sat my butt down and got to work, it might break the spell of paralysis I’ve cast upon myself. I pretend to listen to her and snap out of my misery, but once I hang up, I find better ways than a phone call with my friend to procrastinate; like watching ‘70’s re-runs, or devouring gallons of ice cream.
About two days in, I begin to play games with my brain and decide I should start on a new project to stimulate work on the project at hand. You heard that correctly – a clear thinking approach for certain. So I begin a short story or personal essay and then guess what? A big hairy brain clog visits and now I have two projects to worry about.
More ice cream to the rescue.
Other friends sense my dilemma. They offer walks in the park, fresh air. ‘Nope, too busy,’ I say. ‘Okay,’ I hear after the guffaw on the other end. I stop picking up my phone and only text.
This is around day three or four, which means only six days left until deadline. Uh-oh.
Moving On to Extreme Self-Doubt
This is also when the great swamp becomes quicksand. Extreme self-doubt.
How can I possibly do this? If I actually try, it won’t end up perfect, and then I am a perfect failure, etc., etc.
Did I remember to refer to the authorial ooze as primordial? Why do you think that it took millions of years for the first lobe-finned fish, or half-amphibian creature (not exactly sure which) had the brilliant (and, by the way, very creative) idea to test its land crawling skills?
Don’t you think it probably had something to do with extreme doubt? Things like won’t my fins look awkward on land, or the ubiquitous, what will the relatives think when I’m gallivanting on the rocks?
You get the picture. We all suffer some form of it.
And Then…The Tide Turns
Here’s where the tide turns, not geologically, but in my life. When I have wasted fully half my allotted time, and I discover the lock my husband has placed on the ice cream freezer door (I call it an ice cream freezer because that’s all we stock in it), when all of my friends ignore my texts, I go for symptom relief.
Note I didn’t say remedy. There is no such thing. Because I will do this all again next deadline.
I sit my patootie down and pinch myself. Hard. Like a hungry crustacean gone wild. And I don’t allow myself to make a sound. It reminds me that I hate whiners. And self-loathers. I face my manuscript. It’s slow at first, even a little awkward, like an old cat getting acquainted with a puppy.
Little by little, I slip back into myself. And it feels right. I address the grammatical errors highlighted by the copyeditors and then circle back to the small plot misses and thematic oversights.
Fully wrenched from the ooze, I remember how grateful I am to have gotten this far, to have the people in my life that act as my support system. That this manuscript is my work, my creation. It has taken a lifetime to get here, and by golly, I will see it through, tiny warts and all.
And I will be okay if at some time in the future a reader points out an error here and there. I may even smile. Because I don’t want to be a perfect failure, instead I want to feel the joy of trying my hardest and being okay with the imperfection of a completed novel.
After finishing my edits, I am celebrating momentarily until the next deadline looms!
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