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Where Does the Time Go?
Old writers do it. Young writers do it. Even famous writers admit they cannot help themselves. I canít seem to stop myself doing it. And Iím sure you do it, too. I havenít met a writer who doesnít. So, what are we talking about here? Some secret anti-social behavior that nobody likes to discuss? Not quite, although most of us would like to find a cure. Itís really a writerís affliction and itís called putting it off. Many of us are quite accomplished at this, seeking out ever more inventive distractions to prevent us beginning the job in hand. Anything, it appears, not to start writing.
Take last Sunday, for instance.
I had designated this my Writing Day, to be devoted entirely to this purpose. I knew what had to be done - the first two chapters of my next novel. All the groundwork was complete - the characters, plot and structure had been sketched out and I knew roughly how many words I needed to write per chapter. Purposely I had ensured that every regular chore was completed - vacuuming, washing, dusting, cleaning, shopping, responding to letters, as well as watching a videotape of the last episode of a TV drama recorded weeks before. So, no excuses not to write.
The alarm clock is set for 8 am - a respectable time to start. I get my best work done in the morning, and if I can just get Chapter 1 under my belt by lunchtime Iíll be well pleased. At 4 am, my cat jumps onto my bedside table, deliberately knocking my watch, earrings and inhaler onto the floor with a series of thuds, finally waking me up by lapping water from my glass in a very noisy fashion (Biggles wonít drink from a bowl like other cats). I groan, trek downstairs and open the patio door to let her out. Blinking, I climb back into bed. I ignore the alarm and sleep until 10 am - after all, this is a Sunday. I deserve to sleep in.
At 10:30 am I feel annoyed with myself, and rightly so - Iíve wasted half the morning. Still, after a cup of coffee and a bowl of Branflakes, the latter shared with Biggles, Iíll be ready for action. Iím just about to turn on the computer when the phone rings. Itís Debbie, a friend I havenít heard from in ages. She has boyfriend problems, so I listen and offer advice, when asked for, as a friend should.
An hour later, we finish the call. After so much talking Iím thirsty and need another cup of coffee. As I fill the kettle, I notice all the limescale that has accumulated inside. It must be months since it was de-scaled, and it really should be sorted out....
While the cleaning solution is fizzing away for the designated half an hour I also notice the cupboards could do with a wipe-down, and the plastic drainer is really disgusting, with soapy residue trapped in all the joins. Very unhygienic. Itís a fiddly job, but it has to be done. And then the draining board and washing up bowl could do with cleaning, so out comes the Flash and......goodness! Is that the time? Nearly 1:15 already. No wonder Iím getting hungry. Oh well, better get something to eat. Then Iíve got the whole afternoon clear for writing.
So I sit down to watch an old repeat of Columbo while I consume my microwaved curry, and I decide to watch it until the end, just to see how Columbo gets his man - after all, this might be useful research material for my novel.
At 3.05 pm, I go to switch on the computer. Then, (would you believe it?) the doorbell rings. My next door neighbor has brought over some tomatoes from her garden, so it would be churlish not to offer her a drink. At 3.30 pm I am actually feeling a bit sleepy so, when she has gone, I lie down on the settee and take a little nap. I only doze for about ten minutes but when I wake up, Biggles is curled up on my chest, purring contentedly and I havenít the heart to move her so I pick up the remote control and watch an old episode of Hart to Hart on satellite for a while. Well, an hour, actually. (I wish I could get work writing episodes of American TV series - Iíve heard the pay is great.)
Now, itís 4.30 pm and I really must get down to some writing. I switch on the computer and insert my diskette. No, I donít want to reformat the disk, thank you - it is already formatted and full of data.
Three attempts later and my computer informs me that I have performed an illegal operation and will shut down, which it does. I spend the next twenty minutes trying to get through to the helpline, before I am advised to turn off my computer and re-boot. This time, it decides to read my disk. Grrr......
Itís nearly 5.30 pm. For some reason, the creative juices are just not flowing and thereís no point just staring at a blank screen, is there? Iíll take a short break and tackle that pile of ironing thatís been sitting in the airing cupboard since the dark ages, and sew that button back on the skirt I want to wear tomorrow.
Now, itís 6.45 pm but before I start writing, Iím going to look up something in my notes that I need to check. I get out my box file of jottings and cuttings and start to search. Whatís this? A poem I wrote when I was sixteen. That brings back memories. And pinned to the back, the synopsis for an adventure story I was going to write last year. Re-reading it, I am sure it has potential.
7:40 pm. I am finally sitting at the computer and I am writing. In fact, itís going really well. I might get the first chapter finished, at least. I wonít bother to stop for tea - donít want to interrupt the flow.
Midnight. If only I wasnít so tired, I could write all night. If only I had left all the housework. If only I hadn't watched TV. If only I had started writing earlier! Where does the time go?
Jane was born in 1962 and had her first short story published at age 14. She enjoys writing articles, fiction and, sometimes, poetry. In addition, Jane also teaches in a college.