Procrastination is a big word – it has a lazy ambition & is, frankly, a bit pretentious. I do my best to ignore it, in the hope it will go away. The other day though, I owned it. Hours past Virginia o’clock I was still messing about on Twitter. (I’d spotted a sister writer doing the same so what was good for the goose?) Nonsense of course & in any case, two geese are the beginnings of a gaggle & that way lies chaos. Eventually, we both flapped off to our respective typefaces & cracked on.
It’s easily done – disciplined or not (& I usually am) the temptation to lollygag around the interwebs is ubiquitous & wasteful. And me, in the middle of resurrecting an old story.
Rewriting an existing story is complex. You might be forgiven for thinking that if you have the makings of an entire manuscript down, it’s just a matter of tweaking. The thing is, I abandoned it twice, because two other stories insisted on being written first. But I did, effectively, discard it which suggests there was something about it that wasn’t quite right.
There is a lot about it that isn’t at all right. Grace, my main protagonist, knows it too, which is why she doesn’t mind if I take my time to get it right. Just as long as I do, albeit, murdering most of it en route. (She doesn’t seem to mind that either – anything that makes her look good.) She knows she still retains the starring role & that the essential premise still works. It’s the detail that doesn’t.
Grace is like a determined gypsy with a basket of lucky heather. She shadows me & there is no respite. Having survived being dumped twice – her story all but relegated to the Dead Darlings File – Grace is persistent. She’s not a young woman – far from it – she’s old & something of a curmudgeon. Grace doesn’t care that her story is ‘old’ – her certainty of her place on my modest list of books is such that she makes it hard for me to resist her.
I read a quote by Harper Lee the other day: “To be a writer requires discipline that is iron fisted. It’s sitting down and doing it whether you think you have it or not. Every day. Alone. Without interruption. Contrary to what most people think, there is no glamour in writing. In fact, it’s heartbreak most of the time.’
Until that last line, I agreed with every word. Showing up, regularly, is what writing is all about, but heartbreaking? Not that, not for me. Writing feeds my soul. It makes me happy. Even when I’m embroiled in a massive rewrite, messing about in my river (there’s a river in this one, dear reader – a tricksy one), wild-eyed & certain I’m never going to get it right, I somehow manage to wing it.
Out with the old then & (Grace notwithstanding) in with the restructured, reshaped new. If, on the way, I take time out now & then to have a bit of a dally (tea, cake, Twitter break, more tea/cake), it’s only because writing is sometimes quite hard & every now & then I need time to think about it rather than actually do it.
I shall keep at it mind, & keep an eye out for my stray sister doing the same. I know exactly what she’s up to. Procrastination is the new research. Trust me, I’m a writer, I know about this stuff.