I am a Procrastinator. Queen of the Procrastinator Nation. I live and breathe by finding new ways to procrastinate. If I spent as much time doing what I know I should be doing as I did finding creative ways to not to do it, I would have written three books, found a cure for cancer and finally perfected my cheese souffle. To quote both my mother and my Grade 5 teacher, Miss Isabel Darling (who also insisted that girls should walk putting their toes down first. Try it. It’s impossible.)
I say this because I accept that this can be a fault, but also because sometimes, perhaps in unexpected ways, holding back or putting off can pay off. Sometimes one finds a better bargain, a better working partner, a better result by waiting until today to accomplish something you probably should have crossed off the to-do list on Friday. Although sometimes, you just piss off people who want what they want when they want it.
All this is to introduce the idea that because I procrastinated on a project, a procrastination I did not take lightly and for which I had what I still believe to be thoroughly professional reasons but in doing so nevertheless managed to piss off some rather nervous people, who then punished me for that procrastination amongst other real or imagined faults, I am doing something now which I truly, deeply love. And for which I have just received – yesterday, by email – the most wonderful support I could hope for, at least at this stage of the project.
My entire life I have worked off and on at being a writer. Or pretending to be a writer. There were quite a number of years, actually, when I did write, but not the creative fiction stuff I (said I) longed to do, but as a journalist and columnist. Which I thoroughly enjoyed and sometimes miss very much! But there was always a part of me, deep inside, afraid to come out into the light, which really wanted to explore writing more creatively, telling stories I was making up not reporting. When my life turned upside down a year ago, I decided that I could no longer just say I wanted to be a creative writer – I needed to work at it.
So I started with this blog, partly an exercise to exorcise some demons and partly as a way to force myself to sit down and WRITE. And then I pulled the short story “Darby Riley” out of my head and put it on paper. That story, which is on this blog in the Short Stories category, was “written” every day on my drive to & from work (about 30 minutes each way, 4 or 5 days a week) for almost two months. I started with the opening sentence, spoken out loud and repeated several times, before speaking the next sentence or two, and repeating them, revising verbally until I felt it was just right, and then going on. By the end of that 7 or 8 week period, I had a complete story memorized and waiting for me to do…. something.
As it turned out, that something was waiting for me to be forehead slapped by fate (and maybe a little fear).
Yesterday’s email came from someone whose opinion I respect enormously. Actually, a huge chunk of the literary world respects his opinion on matters literary and otherwise, and the fact that he took the time to read four of my stories – twice through – and offer insightful comments, suggestions and further help thrilled me, scared me, and energized me. And it’s reminded me that my mother and Miss Darling were not completely wrong about procrastination.
I have an enormous amount of work to do on the stories he’s already seen, and the others waiting for their next round of revisions before I would consider sending them, and the others who are still just outlines in my binder. For all the incredibly kind words friends & family have offered me on this blog and about these stories, it wasn’t quite enough. I needed something more, I needed a real critic-cum-editor to start moving me in a better direction, a truer direction, for making my work the best I can. And now that I sort have a little bit of proof that maybe I can be a creative writer… I feel as if anything was possible.
My father told me once that he believed I had it in me to be a writer, but that I needed to write, write, write to achieve my goals. So at Ross’ behest, I gotta go back to work writing now. And you need to keep reading this blog to see how I’m doing.
Thanks for all the support…