Monday, March 24, 2014
Finishing the first draft of book two
It was the dream. I had 6 months off work, all above board, approved, work handed over, and a job to return to. For the first time in my life I had long service leave, and my boss had approved me taking it at half pay for twice as long; 3 months became six. 'What are you going to do?' people asked. My workmates were more likely to ask, 'Where are you travelling to?' They looked at me with disbelief when I said I might not travel. It wasn't their fault, I wasn't exactly candid about my goal. I wanted to write my book. And as it was going to be a bit raunchier than the last one, I didn't want to alert them to the fact. But that was my plan. The holidays started well enough, family Christmas by the beach in Lancelin. The days between Christmas and New Year hurried past, shops had sales, then it was the first day of the year. As is tradition with my friends, we dressed up and took ourselves off to Perth Cup. I love the idea of spending New Year's Day in a nice dress, heels, drinking wine and champagne, betting (or my case, donating) on horses and watching them race at Ascot. Afterwards we took the free bus to the casino, and danced amidst the glitz of the revamped venue. What I like most about starting the year this way, instead of having a big NYE, is that I don't start my year with a headache. Okay sure, the second of January may bring a slight dullness of mind, the after-effects of a great day out, but the first day of the brand new year, with all the possibilities before us, that day starts clear headed and dressed to impress. I didn't expect to do any writing on the second of January; that day was designated for Recovery. But I did expect to start writing on the 3rd. Or the 4th. Or sometime the following week. I didn't. What I did instead was plop on my couch and watch some terrible TV for two weeks. Heck the Australian Tennis Open hadn't even started yet, and with friends on holidays I hadn't managed to borrow their promised TV series. I had nothing good to watch, time off, no excuses - yet I could not get myself off that couch. It is, to be fair, a particularly comfy couch. 'What am I doing?' I scolded myself. 'I can't sit on the couch for 6 months. This is not why I got approved for this time off.' It didn't work. Nothing moved me. I surrendered. Then something strange happened. After two weeks of being deathly dull, not even having lunches or nights out to fill my free time and keep me entertained, I was well and truly bored. Completely. Out of my skull. Then two things happened. The tennis coverage started, and I enjoyed it, feeling like I'd played every shot with both players, every match. And I started to jot a few ideas down. I'd had my laptop on my table for the entire two week slothathon, but hadn't used it. The only pivotal thing that happened in that time was an IT friend who insisted on helping me set up my 'new' laptop, the one I'd purchased on the 30 June 2013 in time to include it in my tax return for that financial year, but which had remained in its box until then. He set it up, I left it out on the dining room table, and I walked past it every day for two weeks. But now that the tennis had begun, and I finally had something worth watching, I found that I began to tinker. I opened it. I turned it on. I wrote a few sentences. I moved around a few scenes. I checked the total of pages I'd written so far. I found a freebie minicalendar I'd been given and wrote out a plan. I really didn't want to spend the next month being as slack as I had been in January, so I wrote up aims for each day in February. I decided I didn't have to count it as procrastination until the end of January. I allowed myself the time off to be bored and unproductive. And slowly, bit by bit, I started to work. Until one day I realised I'd missed most of an exciting Nadal match, because I just had to finish the scene I was writing about. 'Just had to'. I have always loved talking about writing, but now, after fits and starts, I felt that inner calling. I was ready. In a nutshell, this is what I've learnt: Never underestimate the power of allowing yourself to get well and truly bored. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the creative nonfiction writing schools in the USA are in the 'unexciting' interior states, the midwest. Likewise Perth's nickname of Dullsville just might have come in handy. Emptying the vessel makes room to fill it with something else. I was finally in the right mental state to do something about my goal, not just talking anymore.