Did Someone Let in a Draft?

It’s wintertime. It’s cold. It’s fireplaces and curled up cats and cups of tea on the couch.

I like winter. I like being able to rug up in jumpers and wear hats and gloves. Most of the time, even when it’s chilly, I’m pretty hot. Maybe it’s got something to do with genetics and my metabolism or whatever, but unless I’ve got the flu I’m usually trying my best to cool down.

I stick my feet out the side of the bed. I wear only pants because a pyjama top is too constrictive. I don’t like having a warm cup of cocoa before hitting the hay. Give me some water. Just the way God made me, I guess. On a side note, it’s the Smashwords Summer (Winter in the Southern Hemisphere) Sale – get e-tonnes of e-books for bargain prices, with many of them (including all of mine) as free.

One major benefit of being a walking radiator is that I’m quite at home sitting outside on a cold night, and that’s where I’ve been during the cool autumn nights and winter evenings. There’s a little table and chairs set up on the porch, you see, and it’s perfect for writing out my drafts for the next Tedrick Gritswell. Perched out there with a coffee or a cognac, take your pick, I managed to knock out the first draft fairly quick.

Now I’ve done the ol’ red pen trick, and I’m happy with my second. I’ve already made notes to myself for where I’ve dropped a few stitches, and I’m tidying those up as I’m going. Nearly time to print it out again and go for the third.

There’s something special about this time of the book. It’s ‘done’ but not done. You can see it, touch it, it’s there and real, but not so real as being published. That rumbling feeling that comes up as the anticipation builds. The myriad conflicting ideas about whether a section should even exist, whether Bill should have a greater role in the story, whether this bit is too verbose, too lax, too crude. It’s time to chill again, be patient and print it out.

It’s a laborious process, believe me, and there’s every temptation to put it down and play Metro Redux, but that’s not going to get the cows milked, is it? It’s the final slog to the end, to keep pushing until it’s at that point I nod my head and say, “That’ll do it.”

Until then, to keep my mind in the zone, I’ve been working on the cover and the title page. Here’s the latest:

There’ll be a bit of poking an prodding with this bit – I don’t want to rush out the front cover just yet. Once I’m happy, I’ll make a post about the design process behind it and let you know.

Thanks!

Self-Imposed Deadlines

The deadline to get Portsmouth Avenue Ghost up on pre-release was the 21st of November. I hit that deadline. Great. Yay me. Well, I didn’t hit it as much as I flopped messily against it, exhausted, frustrated and strung-out. With everything else that’s going on, the point of hitting the ‘upload’ button on Smashwords felt like an afterthought.

Who made that deadline, anyway? What’s the point of it? Why bother putting myself through the wringer just to hit some arbitrary date scrawled on a whiteboard? Doesn’t that turn writing into a chore?

Let me answer those one by one: I made the deadline. I made a date for the first draft. Then, when I reached that, I made a date for the second, then the third and also for the cover.  Finally I made the deadline for the pre-release.

The point is that by making dates and tracking my progress, I force my focus onto getting that task done. I then prioritise writing over, say, playing video games or watching television. The priority game also comes into play when I’ve got other creative tasks on the menu, like making You Tube videos or drawing or painting or crafting.

Sounds good, right? Keeping myself on track, avoiding the pitfalls of procrastination and distraction. It’s more than that, though. There’s this thing called Reality.

Most decisions are beyond me. It’s often not a matter of ‘I can do this, or I can do that’, rather it’s ‘I must do this and must do that’. See the difference?

The real question is why do I threaten my health and sanity just to reach some uninteresting date imposed by no one other than myself? It’s quite simple, really. I have commitments. I have to work, no questions. I have to take care of my family, no questions. I have to deal with emergencies and chores and errands and last-minute things. There’s no choice about that.

If I want anything of my own to be accomplished, then I have to afford it a status of ‘has to be done’, otherwise it can’t compete against the rest.

And, yes, it does turn writing into a chore. If I was writing for myself or for a friend, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m writing for a bunch of people I’ve never even met. I’m putting my name to a book that can be read by some guy on the other side of the world and he expects that what he gets passes a basic standard, and, more than that, expects it to be entertaining or informative. He won’t be as forgiving as a friend or relative. My credibility is directly linked to his enjoyment of it.

You’re damn right it’s a chore. It’s bloody hard work!

Imagine you’re making a batch of home-brew beer. There’s the cleaning and the sterilising, and the washing and the cooking, checking up on it, then the bottling and capping and storing it all under the house and checking again at intervals. It’s hard work, for sure, and one could easily pop down to the store and buy a slab, but that’s not the point, is it?

Deep down we want to create something. We want to put ourselves into what we do, express ourselves creatively, make something from nothing. That’s being human. Not all creative endeavours benefit others, of course, but those that do must be taken seriously.

A sketch on a napkin or a ditty in one’s head remain just as they are until they get turned into something ‘real’, in that they get taken seriously. The ditty gets engineered into a song. The sketch gets worked into a painting. Time and effort, lots of both, must be spent making something from nothing, creating things that never existed before we applied what God gifted us. Otherwise those little bursts of creativity stay on that scrunched up napkin and eventually get forgotten about.

Believe me, it’s all too easy to pretend that it doesn’t matter. You can think, “Ah, I’ll miss it by a day. Big deal.” It is a big deal. I’ve missed many deadlines and, each time, I kidded myself that there was nothing more that could have been done.

Bollocks.

Each time there was something I could have done. Without exception, every time I looked back, with honest eyes, and understood that I had left things too late, wasted time at the beginning of my project, spent too much effort doing trivial tasks. I could have done more and I could have done it better. Criticising myself retrospectively (another useful tool) means that, now, I reach my deadlines.

Deadlines are a front-line weapon against Entropy. They are an essential tool to make stuff real. Use them honestly and they’ll keep you honest.