Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Colossally Bad Day

I’m having myself a glass of wine right now, because today—a day during which I had intended to make very industrious progress on two work projects—turned out to be pretty much a lost cause, and I feel I need to do something proactive to erase it from my memory.

It really wasn’t anything all that bad. Just sort of a pile-up of minor irritations that just kept accumulating, e.g., a snippy e-mail from a guy I dislike who’s my contact person on a project I dislike (intensely) and a screw-up by another client that resulted in my having to spend 45 unpaid minutes printing out files; and the knowledge that time is ticking away and deadlines on both projects are fast approaching.

By noon, I’d hardly gotten anything done except to make nice with the guy I dislike and print out those files. It was then that I decided that in order to salvage the day and give me the energy necessary to be ultra-productive for the remainder of the afternoon it was imperative that I immediately go get a Colossal Burger (and fries) from Burgerville. So I got in the car and drove there, dressed in sweat pants with Led Zeppelin blaring out of the stereo (sweats and Zeppelin, could I sink any lower?). I didn't even get out of the car but got in the drive-thru line, pondering just how enormous my ecological footprint must be at that very moment and realizing that I was canceling out any eco Karma points earned yesterday when I rode my bike to the bank instead of driving.

It was a beautiful day today, too—sunny with temps in the ‘50s, and I started descending into a rut I sometimes get in when I feel pressured with work deadlines (and the weather is nice) that goes something like: “Why do I have to work? It’s not fair!” It’s totally irrational and self-pitying, I know, because most people would give their eye teeth to be able to work from home and to have the flexibility to run to Burgerville on a whim. I try to snap myself out of it, but there it is: I’d rather be loafing.

So I got back home, snarfed down the burger and fries and, hmmmm, somehow not all that much productivity occurred. A lot of papers got moved around and scribbled with indecipherable notes, but I didn’t actually get through the shuffling and scribbling phase until about 5:00 at which time I should have just called it quits. But I dinked around for about another hour, and now I have a Word document on my computer labeled with the name of the assignment and 28K of actual content. Very good. Not!

Oh, well. It will all get done somehow. It always does, but I think I may be turning into one of those people who works best under pressure and waits until the 11th hour to get started. How did that happen? Where’s that college girl who used to have all her papers written a week before they were due?

On another topic, I am really enjoying writing my (non)NaNoWriMo novel, even though it means that I never get to bed before midnight. I’ve got this little ritual where I turn out the lights and light a pillar candle and just start pounding away at the keyboard. I’ve always thought that the concept of “writing rituals” was sort of hokey, but I’m telling you, I don’t think I’d be nearly as far along as I am without that candle (even though I’m still behind on my word count).

Sometimes I’m keenly aware that what I’m typing is doing nothing to move the action forward. And I’m often aware that I am churning out crap, but I’m hoping that somewhere buried in the crap are a few salvageable paragraphs. Actually, I don’t care that much that it’s not very good and that the characters are ludicrous, the dialogue unrealistic, and the plot meandering and implausible. I realize that part of my motivation for doing this is to gain closure on that job I left eight years ago, but part of my motivation is also revenge (what does that say about me?). I think I actually need to be doing this—it's become clear to me that it's baggage I need to rid myself of. Plus, it’s such fun to find ways to incorporate actual events, conversations, and mannerisms into the manuscript. Fodder was shoveled at me (and all my colleagues) daily while I worked there, so I've got plenty to work with.

It’s also fun to make stuff up out of whole cloth. I like the process, the way the deadline forces you to just write full steam ahead and not linger and agonize over gross and glaring imperfection. It’s kind of amazing sometimes what can happen. I remember once going to a Sherman Alexie reading at Powells City of Books, and people in the audience kept asking him over and over again about where this or that particular scene or character came from. He just kept shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I have no idea! Ya got me! I don't know where this stuff comes from!” And that’s sort of how I feel sometimes. Once you really let your imagination take over and toss your internal editor in the dungeon, you don’t know what will happen next—who will show up or what unforgiveable social faux pas they’ll commit—and that’s what’s fun and exciting. It’s definitely a new experience for me, but it’s a good one. I hope I do make my 50,000 words by November 30, although—holy crap—I am really going to have to pull out all the stops to do so. I've got 27,474 words to go.


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