Monday, January 27, 2014

Ready! Set! Procrastinate?

I wish you could see my underwear drawer. It’s—pristine. All divided by color, and lined up in nice perfect rows. (I will spare you the photo, so just imagine.) I have organized the heck out of it.

You should also see my upstairs summer closet. It is fabulous. Every t-shirt and even slightly saggy or out of fashion item has been removed, cleaned and donated. There is actually room in the closet for what’s there, and even a little left over. I could close my eyes, and select something wearable and the right size. I have organized the heck out of it.

The reason I am on this organizational rampage is that I will do anything, anything to avoid starting my new book.  Girlfriends, I have actually considered changing the shelf paper in my kitchen cabinets.

 Do you realize what that would entail?

Taking out each and every canister, jar, and can, weird tubes of anchovy paste and  marginal cookies and packets of salad dressing, peeling away the tattersall-plaid paper lining, cleaning the wood underneath,  driving through the SNOW to the the hardware store, choosing the perfect new paper, making sure there’s enough in stock, driving home,  measuring, cutting, peeling, sticking, applying, and then REPLACING every canister, jar, can and tube of anchovy paste.

Do you REALIZE how long that would take, and what a PAIN that would be?

And yet, and yet, it is a walk in the park compared to sitting at my computer and starting my new book.

Now, truth be told, I do want to write it.  (And TRUTH BE TOLD  is an especially funny expression, since it it’s the title of my new book—my finished book!—the one which I had no idea how to write a exactly this time last year, and that is now about to be in galleys and is really really good if I do say so.)
So why am I contemplating actual housework instead of starting the new book? Why am I intimidated by myself? I have written SIX SUCCESSFUL NOVELS, (the most recent is THE WRONG GIRL)—I say to myself. Each time, (except the first time, which is an altogether different story because I had no idea) each time, I was apprehensive, and afraid, and each time I second-guessed my self.

“What if this is the time it isn’t going to work?” I wailed to my husband.
“That’s what you always say,” he replies,  “and then it always works.”
“But what if this is the time it DOESN’T work?”
"That’s what you always say, too,” he says.

And he is right right right.

I just gave a movie-book talk about To Kill A Mockingbird , one of my favorite books and movies, and learned in my research that Harper Lee tossed the manuscript of TKAM out the window and into the snow, because she was so frustrated with it. Her agent made her go out and pick it out.  You of course know Stephen King threw CARRIE into the trash—and his wife had to retrieve it.

It’s such a climb, isn’t it? Or like one hilarious and well-meaning pal of mine once described: “Like Godot pushing that boulder up the mountain. “

Yes, indeed. Or something like that.

So girlfriends, here’s the thing. I have a very good plot idea. And a title: WHAT YOU SEE. And I have—well, let’s call it faith in the universe. It has never failed me, not ever, that when it is really and truly time to start, the perfect words form in my brain, and there’s no force in the galaxy that can keep me from my desk.

Has that happened to you? It’s like some force says—okay, ready.

Peter DeVries famously say: “I write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired very morning at 9 am.”

So today, as you are reading this, picture my house in Massachusetts. . My underwear drawer is perfect, my upstairs closet is perfect. My kitchen cabinets-- forget about that. I ‘ll do them next time. But  it’s time. Really and truly time. I will  be at my desk. 

And slowly and wonderfully, I have complete confidence, WHAT YOU SEE will come to life.

I don’t have to write a whole book today, I have to write one page, maybe two.  I’ll have great days, and I have horrible days. Ill have days when I’m in despair, and days when I secretly applaud myself.  Word by word, page by page.

And soon, well, not soon, but eventually, I’ll do what I always do. I’ll call my husband in the study and say, “Sweetheart, watch this.” And I’ll type: THE END.

And next year, about this time—I’ll be thinking Wow. I did it. And I can’t wait to start again!

I might have to alphabetize my spices first. But hey. We do it how we do it. (What have you ever done to procrastinate?)


  1. Hank, I'm procrastinating right this moment. I'm sitting here typing a comment to you instead of getting dressed to take my father in law to the bank. My partner is already dressed and making breakfast.

    I hate taking him anywhere since he's slowed down so much and his cognition has slipped a few gears. Maybe I'll start to write that review I was supposed to post last week?

  2. Oh, thing at a time. You're a good daughter in law..and that's lovely of you. And you can write the review when you get home! (And I don't think commenting here is procrastinating--so you're off the hook for that one!)

  3. And I'm procrastinating over revisions to a ms. a publisher is willing to look at again. Closet organized so I could actually find that red turtle neck? Hmmm.

  4. Oh, Kath, what is it you care about more? What's the MOST important thing? Finding that sweater? Or getting your book published?
    Come on--you can look for the sweater AFTER you get your ms. perfect. Right? And when you get on the NYT list, you can get a NEW sweater!
    Let me know when you send it...xoxo

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to encourage me. I am indeed working on the revision. And it's finally coming along. This draft is as much re-vsion as revision. Which is harder, but my favorite kind of revision. I'll let you know when I send it.

    2. One more detail. The good kind of procrastination. I downloaded Air Time from my library's ebook site. I'll save it for tonight.

    3. Awww...thank you. That is incredibly lovely of you. And I am crossing fingers for you! and sending good vibes. Keep me posted!

  5. I have been procrastinating all day - because I have that pesky day job thing to do. But it is now noon, and I can stop procrastinating, at least for the next hour. (As soon as I finish this comment).

    And I can't imagine you writing anything that is less than awesome by the time it is done. I saw a saying I love this past weekend: First drafts don't have to be perfect, they just have to be written. =)

    1. Yes, indeed, dear Mary! And I--hurray!! am now up to 100 words. Ninety-nine thousand to go. NO problem! Bwa ha ha... and thank you so much for your confidence...xo

  6. Great post, Hank! Good to know that even after six successful books, the trick, still is, and always will be, butt in chair and write.
    My debut comes out in June. I've written the second book in the series, am polishing it for my editor, but am procrastinating on my WIP -- using the holidays (yeah, I know it's nearly February) and kids home from school because it is too cold -- After reading this post, I'm going to lock myself in the bedroom for two hours and butt in chair, get her done!

  7. Hank, it's a good thing this blog is called "Girlfriend's Book Club" because having someone with an X chromosome imaging your underwear drawer could give you a whole new idea for a book ;)
    Now about procrastinating, I am such a fiend for staying on a schedule you might call me just a little bit anal about it, so cleaning my underwear drawer would have had to have been planned weeks in advance. In fact that last time I did something on impulse when when I found out you were going to be appearing at a local library near me. That I had to make an exception for. I also really empathize with all my creative author friends who put their souls out there for public display everytime they release a new book. You my friend will not have to worry. All I have to do is read one of your FB, Twitter, or blog entries and I'm enthralled so when you actually sit down and put 300 or so pages together and tell a story. Wow I'm all yours. :)