Many people seem to think writers produce in a fit of creativity and mostly spend their days awaiting inspiration while going on cool trips to far-off places, and possibly drinking absinthe. While I get zaps of inspiration from time to time, I find creating any piece of writing mostly takes a lot of hard work. My writing life is made up of about 1% thunderbolts and 99% slogging. Not very glamorous, I know.
My friend, Luke, recently lent me a book by Stephen Pressfield called “The War of Art” (and it is a war – photo captions are currently my nemeses, sent down to punish me for my hubris!). Like me, Pressfield is a creature of habit who has created a routine and a special ceremony of sorts. He recites something to the Muses while holding a talisman. I light my aromatherapy candle, drink my tea, and turn on some Enya. Then I plug into the work at hand for a few hours, break for lunch and a walk, and get back at it.
This has worked very well in the past, but I’ve been finding it is nigh on impossible to get a rhythm going for editing, caption-writing, and so on when it involves doing more than five things at once. I once read that when you multi-task you’re really only doing more things worse. When my attention is divided and I’m constantly trying to stay on top of the latest email, mistakes happen, eyes cross, brains fry.
I am feeling particularly frazzled these days (which you would know if you read my last blog entry. Good news update: blood pressure much better today. No meds for me!). According to my publisher, the book should be at the printers no later than April 13th in order to stay on schedule. Sometimes I feel on top of this deadline. Other times, it might as well be tomorrow.
In the David Letterman tradition of top-ten lists, I decided to make a list for “You know you’re nearing your deadline and working too hard when”:
10. You’re writing a book on Canada and talk about things as happening “here” all the time even though you live in the States.
9. Your friends are sick of being turned down because of work so they stop calling.
8. You start wondering if you worked yourself to death, would that increase your street cred and book sales. (I’ve decided this is only true for literary books and doesn’t really work with aviation history).
7. The Domino’s delivery person knows your name and your dog’s favourite toppings.
6. You’ve gotten past the point where doing dishes is a form of procrastination. Now they sit there until they reach critical proporations and you have to wash them to reach the microwave (which is second only to the toaster for food preparation).
5. Going to the grocery store, having a shower, or sorting the recycling have become the “really fun” parts of the day.
4. Lean Cuisine goes on sale at the grocery store you get really excited, then load up (hence the need for the microwave).
3. Your husband makes rice crispy squares and they count as home cooking.
2. The only time the cat gets any physical contact is when he launches himself on the back of your desk chair and rubs against your head.
And the #1 way you know you’re nearing your deadline and working too hard:
You have nothing but work and your mental health to write about on your blog! 🙂