Had holes in my jocks. It’s a thing, you know, when your undies are old and you’ve worn them so much there’s nothing left in the rear and it looks like a farmer has gone and blasted you with rabbit shot.
Normally it’s a matter of going through the drawers – no, not like that, the drawers that hold the drawers – and fishing out the knickers that don’t look like they can survive another round with Mr Crotch. Those with flaccid elastic or holey rumps get tossed into the bin, neither reprieve nor quarter.
Today was different. Today we had a problem. Lock-down says we need to wear a mask or face a fine – real money – and I wasn’t about to hand over my dosh for want of a piece of material across my snoot.
The Mother of Invention tapped me on the shoulder and presented the two problems before me: Worn out smalls and the need for a facial cover. What else was there? The front of the noodle bag has a gusset, or is that a pleat? Whatever it is, it’s the bit that holds the goods and it’s shaped perfectly to form a chin. Heck, it’s like the guy who designed them used his own face as a model.
So what was left? Trim off the bits on the outside, seal the edges, put some elastic down the sides and add some pleats (or gussets?) around the nose, and job done:
Holds my sideburns and goatee, doesn’t flop around and it’s made out of that soft material that can sit against your skin all day long.
They hide behind corners, slipping away as you turn your head and stare at the spot where you could have sworn something was. They crawl through the roof spaces, making soft scuffles as they dance over the insulation and under the wiring. They flit about at night above your head, just out of reach, disappearing in the morning light only to reappear in the next evening.
They are always there, always snapping at your brain, whispering as loudly as they can, vying with each other for a few seconds of your attention. You can entertain them or ignore them, it doesn’t matter, they will persist, for there is nowhere else for them to be, nothing else for them to do.
Then you pick one. You sneak up on it while it shies away, corner it. Sometimes you are scared of what you see, what you feel. It’s a blasphemy, a curse. It’s hideous. It’s ugly. It’s downright sinful. Other times you find a curious, almost enlightening sense of wonder. There’s something different about this one. You hold onto it, teasing it, ignoring the others that hiss jealously. This one, you think, wanted to be caught because it’s special.
You don’t know why it is special, it just is, and you know it. You couldn’t pick it up and show it to anyone and ask them, because as soon as you did so, it would melt away in your hands and you’d be left with nothing but shadows. How many have gotten away like this? How many are so swift as to erase themselves altogether, never to be seen again.
They can come back, though. Not often, but they do return. Like an old friend, you feel emboldened to dispense with the usual superficial nonsense and let it do the same. It envelopes you, moves through you, becomes you. It shares secrets and steals yours. Such familiarity is dangerous, dangerous yet necessary. Once you have it in your power, or the other way around, you can bring it into this world.
There’s the necessary groundwork. Rituals, incantations, sacrifices – oh, so many sacrifices! You do it in the dark, in quiet nooks where no one disturbs you, late at night, cheered on and jeered at by the others. You emerge, each morning, with bloodshot eyes and raspy voice, stumbling and weak. Yet you persist, because you have a purpose and you must finish it. Even if it all turns to dust, you must finish it.
But why? Why go through the pain? To what end? To the end of so many human pursuits – to create. To make something where there was nothing. To share with others a discovery, a riddle, a joke. To do, to be, and let it, too, do and be. For to ignore it would be akin to murder, only that which never lived can never truly die. By symmetry, perhaps that which has died may yet live?
And once you have brought it forth, you are responsible for its welfare, for it did not ask to be in this world, that was all you and you must be prepared for everything it will do, everything it will be. So your destinies are entwined from that point onward. Don’t be scared, it’s yours to command, within reason. That is the reward for the price you pay.
I started the audiobooks off with The Bullet. Why? It’s short. It’s slow. It’s silent.
I needed, more than anything else, to launch an audiobook off the ground and see how it flies. Unfortunately for The Bullet, it’s my Woobie. The book I abuse when I want to ‘Test the Waters’ and see how things work. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed writing it, and I enjoyed reading it out loud, but since it was the first of my AudioBooks, I made the most mistakes with it.
Because it is short, it lends itself to being the one to be thrown in the test-tube to see how it reacts. Because it is short, it gets pushed around, it gets forgotten. Because it is short, I could finish the audio and see how difficult the process would be.
I stammer. It’s a thing I’ve got going with my mouth. The jaw moves, the lips move, but, quite often, the words don’t form properly, and I find myself yammering out the same syllable again and again. It’s very difficult to control, and I often don’t say what I truly want to say, because I know that if I try, I’ll mangle the words up. Sometimes I’ll sit and practice saying a sentence just to build up enough confidence to get it out. Too often the topic has gone stale and I’ve missed the opportunity.
The Bullet, being a slow, rhythmic piece, forced me to pace over the words, bring my normally rambling and mumbling mouth to account and put effort into forming words properly and slowly. I don’t remember how many takes I did of the first few paragraphs, or even the chapter. Each time I’d listen and realise that I was stammering and rushing through my words.
Voices. I’m not bad at voices. I’m not great, but I’m not bad. Joey tells me. He likes my various accents. I know that a true Scot would laugh at my attempts, and a Londoner would scoff, but that’s not what I’m aiming for. All I really need is a way to associate a voice with a character.
Still, adding the necessity of dialogue on top of the rigours of the audiobook proper was way too much to handle. As such, The Bullet, having no conversation, is a prime choice for a book upon which to cut my teeth. I could speak freely, then, with no need to put on a voice or persona or accent. I could just be me and concentrate on speaking slowly, properly, carefully.
I am pleased with the end result. The Bullet is still my little friend, that book that I kick around and abuse when I’m unsure about things.
And so the time came to click that little button: Publish.
Whether it’s on Smashwords or Amazon’s KDP or Findaway Voices, it’s a bloody hard button to click. The cursor dances around it. The mouse button doesn’t seem to click properly. Joey comes asking for something or other. Either way, the gremlins and gods conspire to prevent that button from being clicked.
Who am I kidding? Me, obviously. Just press the damn button already. It’s only a mouse click, after all. Two glasses of whisky later and a stiff self-reprimand, I get to the point where I’m about to do it. No, wait, I’d better check over it all. I’ve already checked it twice, but hey, let’s go for a third time. There comes a wave of angst, followed by paranoia, followed by the chill of ‘what if…’
What if I make a complete fool of myself? What if my voice is too nasal, too dry, too Aussie, not Aussie enough? What if I’ve mispronounced a word or skipped a sentence or edited out a crucial piece of prose? What if I should have used the Grosvenor Lane music for the intro? What if, what if, what if?
One more shot of whisky, one more attempt to blind my conscience and fool my censure and just go for broke. One more shot to hit the damn button that will release me from my anguish. After all, if I don’t publish, what was all the work for? If I do publish, and fail, so what? So what? So. What.
So… I take a breath and steel my nerves with whatever alcohol-free neurons I can muster, slap my already-red cheek for the last time and straighten my back. It has a curious effect, sitting up straight does. The spine clicks into place, the muscles stretch, rejoice. I feel empowered.
My glass is empty. Joey is in bed. The cat is asleep on the couch with Wifey. The computer fan hums. There are no more distractions. No more dancing cats on YouTube. No more, no more. Nothing left between me and the button.
It’s just a collection of pixels, anyway. About a hundred or so wide, forty or fifty deep. Push the button.
I’ve come this far. I can stall another week, yes, spend another week going over what I’ve already gone over. Yes, or I could push the button!
I’ve nothing to lose, except my credibility, but do I even have that any more? Is that measurable? Is that quantifiable? Who cares, just push the button.
I push the button. It’s a bothersome, annoying anticlimax. No fanfare. No sounds or rewarding animations or trumpets. Just a confirmation. A bloody confirmation. Well, that’s all I was after, anyway.
And so the button was clicked, Grosvenor Lane Ghost was published and the waiting game begins.
In the previous post, I explained that I will be undertaking voice overs and presenting some of my books as audiobooks. Great, awesome, let’s get cracking.
Not so fast.
After a practice run of about five minutes using my phone as the microphone, it was evident that there were issues with simply reading out a book.
There was too much background noise
I was inconsistent with the distance to the microphone
The quality was ok, but not brilliant
Every stuff-up kind of got lost
I was mumbling a lot
I was interrupted even more
What I needed, I decided, was a proper place where I could lock a door and do the recording in peace and concentrate solely on getting the words right. For that, I needed a room. The bedroom didn’t work out, nor the loungeroom, nor the laundry or toilet. Echoes and funky acoustics. Noisy neighbours. Running water pipes in the walls. On top of that, I wasn’t keen to slap a bunch of foam on the walls and get yelled at by Wifey.
A few solutions on the net, like making a foam-encased shroud, came up and I got some materials to make that happen – the top of an arch, some foam and baffle boards. The end result was not so great. Ambient sound still polluted the recording, and my phone was just not up to scratch.
Nope, no good. A room with a phone wasn’t going to cut it.
I needed to build a booth.
I had space in the garage. It was all over the place. A little bit here, a little bit under there, lots of it toward the roof. The hard part was consolidating it all, sticking all the space together to form a cohesive area. I rearranged shelves, threw out a bunch of junk, packed half-finished craft into boxes and got to the stage where I had enough space to knock up a wooden frame.
Now, I was going to buy some lengths of wood to make the frame, get it square and right, make it a little hut inside my garage, only at that exact time I came into a lot of scrap wood from the side of the road. Armed with a bunch of screws, a saw and a pencil, I made a fairly decent frame, using an old desk as the base of the booth.
To block out the noise, I used fibreglass insulation bats, sandwiched between masonite on one side and this funky white plastic sheeting. On top, more insulation, some plyboard and masonite. It has a door with a lock and a handle. When I close the door – it’s a lot quieter. Not dead silence, but a heck of a lot quieter.
A quick update on the whole ‘getting things from Amazon US into Australia because I can’t buy my own book to check if it’s actually properly configured’ thing.
I don’t remember just how much of the story I’ve gotten through, but from my hazy memory, the last point I was at was somewhere around making the purchase.
As a recap, KDP allows the author to purchase ‘author copies’ of their books – they aren’t for resale, but you can purchase them to make sure the end product is as you’d like. That’s kind of cool because, unlike Lulu, KDP doesn’t force you to buy it at retail. Instead it offers the author copy at cost price, which is an incentive to do the last, final check.
Anyways, I had issues where I couldn’t get the items from Amazon Australia because of something to do with the GST, so I purchased from Amazon US, and had the items shipped to MyUS, which is a US forwarding service based in Florida with all dem gators (And a I wish you all the best, Florida, for the impending storm!).
Well I waited. And waited. Then I got an email a few days later from Amazon saying that my payment was declined. Strange, but it’s not the first time. I tried a different card and waited and waited, then got another email saying the payment was declined. Weird. What’s going on? So I tried using PayPal but, nope, PayPal and Amazon don’t like each other, what with the whole online market rivalry thing between eBay and Amazon.
I also got another email from Amazon warning me that if I didn’t finalise the order, it would be dismissed from my cart and I’d have to start it all again. Bum.
SO I added another card and crossed my toes and fingers and nostrils (very tough job, that) and waited, and presto! It worked! My stuff was despatched. Alrighty, now that should be it, right?
Nup. The package eventually arrived at MyUS, and I got an email, but when I went to look for it, it wasn’t there. I had a number, it had tracking, but it wasn’t coming up in the list. More than this, the automatic payment (from PayPal) was apparently declined. Say what? Yup, once again, payment was declined. What was the payment, anyway? SOMEWHERE IN THE ORDER OF $100!
Are you serious? Really? How can it cost $100 to send 4kg from the US to AUS? Mumble, bloody grumble. Seriously, ok, fine, I’ve dipped my toes in the water, I may as well jump in and get eaten by the sharks. I tried again with PayPal, no dice. I tried once more, using a different card, still nothing.
I used their chat widget and spoke to some guy, ready to just say ‘keep the damn package, this is all just too hard.’ Well, I must save Ivan, the service guy, helped me out there, and he tried to do the payment and, again, no deal, because apparently PayPal had already sent the payment. Say what? Yup. Paypal had already made the payment.
So he escalated it to the developers or something and told me to wait a day. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Another day, another email, and it looks like payment has been taken, and MyUS has shipped on the order. Wait. Waiiiit. They’ve taken the payment twice. So now I’m nearly $200 in the hole and sick of the whole thing.
In the end, it took a week to get the payment refunded, about a day before the goods actually arrived. They arrived? Yes, yes they did. After an exhausting excursion into the world of logistics, I’m now a bit wiser and my wallet is a lot lighter.
When I was a kid, when the world extended as far as my house and school, when the only people who exist were my family and friends, it was easy to make decisions. As I got older and my world expanded and time weighed down upon me, as conditions altered and people came in and out of my life, priorities necessarily changed.
Things that were hard become easy and vice versa. When problem A was no longer baying for my attention, I had more time to focus my energies on problem B. Or C. Or D…
Constant reassessment of what’s more important, and urgent, is a factor of life. Keeps us on our toes, makes us more adaptable to the winds of change. Sometimes I keep prioritising things lower down than they deserve because I want to artificially increase the priority of other things in order to reach a goal.
For example, health. As a young fella, I took an able body and the ability to walk up stairs for granted. I could eat hamburgers, drink up-sized milkshakes, and sample super-hot peppers and not worry about the consequences. I could take the stairs, or not. I could walk, or not. I had the choices before me and, therefore, had no need to prioritise keeping in shape.
Then bones start clicking. Muscles start hurting. Tight skin becomes flabby. The time invested away from health, and into other activities, started to tell. Things become harder than they should be. I struggled to get up, to keep up. Add a little boy into the mix and it only got worse.
So what’s more important? Family? Work? Leisure? Community? Hobbies? Sanity? Or is it ‘Health’? Ask me about ten years ago and I would have put Health somewhere near the end. Ask me today, and I can safely say I’ll put it up near the top of the pile. Why the shift?
Last year I had a problem in my neck and shoulder. I had a tingling sensation in my fingers. My arm just wasn’t working. I couldn’t lift myself off the ground. That’s bad. I went to an osteopath and she helped lay it all out for me.
It’s actually quite simple – I can’t help with anything if I’m not alive and, to almost the same extent, I can’t help effectively if I’m not well.
How about that? I used to consider focusing on myself a selfish act, something that could only be realised once everyone else was satisfied which, let’s face it, is not going to happen. Now I see, and it has taken a long time, let me tell you, and a lot of introspection, that by neglecting my health I’m also neglecting my family, my career and my community, not to mention my own interests.
In short, over the past year, I’ve been spending a lot more of my time exercising and eating better and that means time for writing, craft, videos and blog posts. Cardio, weights, boxing, running, that kind of thing and I’m feeling a lot better. Like, a LOT. That said, I’ve regained strength in my shoulder and arm, so I’m looking to ease back on exercising and resume some of my other tasks.
Me? Sleeping? Anything but. I understand where you’re coming from, though. I mean, it was yonks ago when I said I was cracking on with a sequel to Borobo Reef, right? That’s true, that’s true.
I’m still running with that, sitting somewhere around halfway done with the first based on a desired word count. Halfway. I’d love for it to be further along but stuff just gets in the way. Urgent stuff. Stuff that can’t wait.
For starters, I’ve designed, re-designed and then re-re-designed an electronic solution. I confess I had to grab my old books off the shelf and do some scrambling to remember the differences between my PNPs and my NPNs and figure out how to do high-side switching. There have been many nights in the cold garage, hunched over a soldering iron, burning my fingers and breathing pungent fumes of flux, and even more nights drawing up schematics and placing components on a circuit board.
That’s not all. The Amazon AWS Summit was on up in Sydney. We like to keep our finger on the pulse of technology at OrderMate so up I went to see what I could see. It was a real eye opener, to say the least. The rate AI is progressing is nothing short of astounding and the demos and presentations given were inspiring. Almost as inspiring as the city of Sydney.
Along with all the travel and fiddling with resistors, I finally got to sink my teeth into custom graphical images on thermal dockets.
Hey, it’s a big deal, alright? Devs get excited by these things. Well, there’s that and a handful of larger enterprise developments that need development.
And craft. And videos. And learning how to box. And teaching Joey how to box, and play basketball, and draw, count, spell and read. Then there’s heading to the local school fetes and various birthday parties and helping out with homework and making scarecrows (I’ll post that soon, don’t worry), so there has been very little time left over to sit in front of a keyboard with a cup of tea and type.
That said, I’m working at getting myself back into a rhythm. Watch this space, I’m still moving, just spread too thin.
In the previous post, I explained that Deadlines are a necessary tool to keep yourself on track so as to make your dream a reality. Being honest with yourself is key, but that brings up an important point: The creation and maintenance of Deadlines is just as important as the fulfillment.
Imagine this scenario: You want to publish a book by Christmas and it’s the start of November. You set yourself the Deadline of first draft by end of December. Second by December 15th. Third by 20th. Cover by 22nd and the publication by 24th. Whew! You busted your hump and drank way too much coffee and typed until your fingers bled, but you made it, right? Right?
Result = Shemozzle.
Why? What went wrong? You adhered to the Deadlines and you hit each one! Yeah, sure. But at what cost?
Firstly, your book is going to suffer. Unless you’re talking about a short story (and even then…), it will be rushed. It will be incomplete. Like a stew, a book needs a chance to simmer and reduce. It has to be tasted along the way to adjust the seasoning, the spices, the ratio of meat to vegetables.
Secondly, you’ve burnt yourself out. Yes, it’s essential to keep yourself motivated and moving, busting through Writer’s Block and keeping distractions away, you do need down-time. Sanity is expensive.
In short, if you’re putting all you’ve got into squeezing out an unseasoned, bloated sausage, then that’s exactly what you’re going to get.
Trust me, I’ve done it.
Here’s the deal – the first part of making Deadlines is to understand their purpose. A Deadline is a tool that you can use to stay on target to turn your dream into reality. The Deadline does not drive the book, rather it assists the author.
#1 Content drives the Deadline
The dog wags the tail. The hammer strikes the nail. The Book determines the Deadline.
The date of release of a publication is dependent upon the content of the publication, not the other way around.
“I’ve got a romance novel, so it must be up by Valentine’s Day.” No.
“This horror story will go great for Halloween.” No.
“The anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles is the ideal time to launch.” No, no and three-times no.
The problem here is that this attitude is giving all the power to the Deadline, and none to the Author. The Deadline, after all, is lazy. All it needs to do is point to a date and make you feel terrible that you’re about to go over. Who’s doing all the work? The Author is. How much work is involved? That depends on the size and scope of the book.
If you’re talking about an historical novel, there’s going to be a sizable chunk of research required. Notes. Cross checking. References. Interviews.
If, instead, it’s a romance, the steamy scenes and character development need a lot more than a cursory glance.
In short, the book will take as long as it needs to take. If you force the book to conform to an arbitrary date, then something will inevitably be cut out.
#2 Be practical.
I can type fast. I can’t break any records, but I can pound the keyboard at a solid clip if I’m on a roll. Does that mean I can divide the total number of words I wish to write and divide it by my average word per minute score to find out how long it’s going to take me? Yes, that would make mathematical sense, but in a practical sense it’s far from useful.
Let’s say you type at 60 words per minute. For an 80,000 word novel, you’re looking at 80k / 60 wpm = 1,333 minutes or 22 odd hours. Less than a day! Hotdog, let’s crank out a library by the end of the year.
You can see straight away where the problem lies: No one is going to type, non-stop, at one word per second. Heck, even while writing that last sentence I stopped and thought, corrected an error or three, and planned what I was going to write next. The reality is that your rate of writing is not going to be 80k words per day. Not even 10k.
Base your estimates in reality. If you can, on average, push your commitments around enough to squeeze out 500 words per day, then you’re on a good trot in my books.
80k words / 500words per day = 160 days or about 22 weeks. Now that’s a lot more realistic.
The rule here is to determine what is an achievable, maintainable rate of progress, not some theoretical maximum.
#3 Be honest.
There’s the external, physical reality to contend with, and there’s also your own abilities, failings and commitments to take into consideration. You’re not a machine, you’re a person. It’s not a matter of flicking the creative switch, leaving your fingers to type for an hour and then turning the switch off.
There are distractions. There are emergencies. There is the constant reshuffling of priorities. The boy comes in with a tummy bug. There’s an open for inspection on the weekend. You have to stay back an hour at work. You find out, firsthand, the tummy bug is contagious. Ew.
All that and more.
Your 500 words per day is looking a little shaky. You know what, let’s drop it down to 400 words per day, and give yourself a 20% buffer zone. That means if you happen to bottom out one day in five, you’re covered.
You can argue that it can go the other way, that there are times when Aunty Mavis cancels her booking and won’t be coming over for the weekend. That frees you up, and you can do more than your quota. This is true. Averages says that you will win. Sometimes.
From my experience, though, any free time available is quickly sucked up by other tasks. Aunty Mavis isn’t coming down? Then get cracking on cleaning up the garage. Pick up that list of Honey-Dos. Nature abhors a vacuum and the same can be said for disposable hours.
If you happen to reach the Deadline beforehand, bully for you! That’s great! Crack a beer and pat yourself on the back. Budget for a 20% buffer, and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
#4 Create Milestones.
You’ve done the maths and factored in a buffer and you’ve made a deadline for your first draft. Turns out it’s a good 26 weeks away. Might as well be Christmas, right?
The 26 Week mark is your Deadline, the target you must hit, but it’s so far away. How do you know, after you’ve gotten started, that you’re on track? This is where Milestones come in.
Remembering that Deadlines are a tool to keep you on track, not for punishing yourself, think of Milestones as reminders that you’ve committed to finishing what you said you would, when you said you would. Everyone else who wants something will make noise at you, post reminders, nag even, but a Deadline really only gets vocal as you approach it.
Milestones give your Deadline a voice.
More than this, though, they highlight early on whether you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. If, by the end of the first week, you haven’t crank out 2000 words when you said you would, then something might be wrong. If, by the end of the first month, you’ve not finished two chapters like you said you would, it’s time to reassess.
While Deadlines are hard and fast, Milestones are more flexible, kind of like a mid-term report card. If you create your Milestones when you create your Deadline, you can plot these on a calendar and refer to them regularly.
I don’t like going into word count too much, so my Milestones tend to be based on structure and Chapter count, but nothing says you can’t have both, or something else entirely. Heck, if you’re doing a multi-arc story, you might consider the completion of one arc a milestone.
Deadlines are commitments. If I commit to finish my first draft in six months, and the second draft by the following month, and the third by the month after that, I’m setting myself up for failure.
Why? Because I don’t know what I’m going to be like in six months. I don’t know what I’ll be like the month after that. There’s a jolly good chance I’ll be rushed off my feet, incapable of doing anything!
The lesson here is to commit to the next Deadline in sequence, not all of them at the start. Plan for them, sure. Set up the expectation with a fuzzy “I’d like to be finished by about… July”. That’s good, since it gives you a general goal.
But don’t say, “I will have everything done by July 14th” before you’ve even commenced. Instead, commit to shorter deadlines. “I will have the skeleton of the plot and structure by April 11th.” Doable? Yes. Reasonable? Yes. When you reach that Deadline, look to the next one. “I will have the first draft written by August 10th”. Doable and reasonable? Yes and yes. OK.
When you reach August 10th, and you wearily click the ‘print’ button, then step back and look to the next Deadline. You’re knackered. You’ve been burning the midnight oil. You need trolleys to carry those bags under your eyes. Can you keep up the same speed? Heck, no. Need to give yourself more time to do the second draft? Yes, please! Reassess and adapt the deadline to how you are after each completion.
Adapting also comes in the form of learning about yourself. Naturally, you’re going to get faster at writing, at correcting and editing, at formatting and the like. The time taken to create a skeleton plot and structure this time around is going to be less than last time. If you’ve got a series, and you’ve already introduced characters and places, you need even less time for their development.
If you’re writing about a topic on which you are well versed, it’s going to be heck faster than if you need to stop and research every other page. If you’re used to writing short stories and you want to tackle a novel, consider that it’s not a linear relation between time taken and word count and so past performance may need an extra buffer when it comes to doing something unfamiliar.
Rushing to completion is bad for the book, bad for you and bad for your audience
Be fair and honest with yourself and your abilities
Consider all of your commitments
Use Milestones to keep yourself on track
Create Deadlines adapted to your current situation
One must be disciplined when it comes to following Deadlines, so ensuring that they are achievable at the point of creation is essential to success. Creating iterative, shorter Deadlines rather than a few, long ones will allow you to reassess your progress regularly and give you breathing space.
Being honest and practical, using reality to drive the Deadline rather than desires will give you the best chance of meeting your goals, and, at the same time, gives you a solid base upon which to base future estimates.
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 I 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.
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.