The Devil is In Deadlines
And so we come to the end of the thirteen weeks, and I have about a quarter of the book/maybe a half written. The indecision is that I don’t know how much it will change and how much I’ll keep of what I wrote.
Part of this of course is that – as I explained – I started the book before I was quite ready to do it, and part of it is that I seem to have this odd relationship with deadlines, particularly self-imposed ones.
Take National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO), for instance. My very first year participating, I completed Darkship Thieves. But any attempt to recapture such success has been mixed at best. What seems to happen is that the moment I commit to NANOWRIMO all heck breaks loose in my personal life.
I’m not particularly inclined to New Age explanations of such things. I can completely understand how reluctance to finish a novel could give me a massive cold/sinus infection – or at least there seem to be indications of psycho-somatic effects of that kind in other contexts. However, I defy anyone short of a committed solipsist to tell me how it is possible for my reluctance to close with a deadline would cause my sons to get sick, appliances to break and/or other emergencies to land in my lap.
And yet they do. I’m not alone in this – I have a friend who refuses to do NANOWRIMO because when he tries it someone close to him dies. I have another friend who says she can’t afford the home-repair bills that NANOWRIMO induces. Having watched her through three bouts, I can say she’s right.
Perhaps there is some field of anxiety that writing generates. Perhaps a century from now someone will say “oh, of course, that was the book Gremlin field. How could they not have known it?”
I’m joking of course, but when I think of this one book I’m supposed to write that every time I start working on causes my basement to flood, the laughter turns a little shrill. That book has been under contract/on the backburner for eight years, but the effect never fails to happen. Perhaps I only work on it when I feel a flood coming at a subconscious level? Maybe I should just buy a sump pump and bite the bullet?
On the serious side – and something I’ve discussed with my publisher – I do have a serious adverse reaction to approaching deadlines. Besides the chaos that periodically engulfs my life, there seems to be a psychological aversion to writing to the deadline. I do regard this as a personality failing, but it seems pretty common to writers.