Thursday, January 17, 2008

Procrastinating? Me?

I'm just past the halfway mark in the second-to-last draft of my kid's book. If that sounds like I'm counting too much, and looking too closely, and measuring success in teaspoons, it's because I am dammit! How else am supposed to measure something that advances by ten or twenty pages a day if I'm lucky?

And the exhaustion. Did I tell you I'm exhausted? Did I mention that? Ready to flop on the couch for a week exhausted. And all I'm doing is editing. But it's like pulling a long squid tentacle out of my nose: long, difficult and uncomfortable. A bad sign? Not at all. I think it's just a long, pain-staking process. I made the horrible mistake of reading the how-to books by S. King and R. Bradbury (their names have been changed to protect them). Oh my God. If you follow their lather-rinse-repeat advice, you'd think all you had to do was whip up the bulk of your story, then do a quick, edit, a polish, and then drop it off at your editor's. I guess I'm not the Stephen Bradbury I imagined I would be. But I am finishing the damn thing. And this month. Dammit. Did I mention dammit?

So, enough complaining. It's time to stop procrastinating and get down to writing this article. So I'm going to a book conference. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It's not nearly auspicious as it sounds. Just some really cool Children's and YA writers getting together in balmy New York. In February. I've paid my conference fee, bought plane ticket, committed to the hotel. But the book? Is it ready? Will it ever be ready? Will I ever be ready? Well I sure would be if I'd finish the book. But it's not that easy. I've got work. Then I've got to have some social time. I've got to check email, the stove, how's the weather outside? What's in the fridge? And don't I really need to start my taxes? Yeahhhh. Riiiight.

Beware all else that needs to be done lest you talk yourself right out of finishing. Beware the spontaneous phone call for drinks, the impromptu lunch invitation, the ringing phone, the email inbox, and a hundred other things that will seem like a really, really great idea. They're not. They're distractions. The great idea is the one you're avoiding. The one you're putting off while you fix the toilet leak, the squeaky bedroom door, change your anwering machine message, and starting taking "Spanish In 20 Minutes A Day".

Writing takes about two hours a day. Well, for me that's how long it takes. That's just the actual sitting in front of the computer and interacting with the text, the words, the document, the manuscript. And if I can just do that, I can really feel I've done enough. Much more than that, and I somehow start to feel drained. A lot more and I'm totally wiped out. And writing isn't just writing, it's synopsizing, and chapter-outlining, and looking for agents and publisher and reviewing the list of speakers at the upcoming SCBWI conference in balmy February New York. So AFTER you've done your "pages" for the day (that's exciting writer-speak for what you're really committed to working on), then you can play with the cat, think about cleaning the rain gutters, check out Oprah or, or see what's on your Tivo listing.

Me, I think what I'm exhausted from is all this procrastination.