I am a master of self-sabotage, so skilled in taking myself down I can do it with a single blow. I’m deadly—just only to myself.
My own personal internal refrain is that I’m just not working hard enough. I am fully aware of this, and yet it keeps coming up as if this is something far out of my control. It isn’t. I leave myself open to distractions—I seek them out. Then when I do have my own time to write I let the doubts take hold of me. I fold under rejection. I get talked out of things too easily—even when, especially when, I am the one doing the talking.
Exhibit A: The freelance writing projects I accepted, manuscripts for three children’s books. I am dreading them. The first deadline is May 21. The last deadline is September 1. I did not have to take them—I know, however they are handled, they’ll take some time—yet I took them. I needed the money. But I also needed the time. Which is more important?
Exhibit B: The freelance copyediting project I accepted on Friday. It is a manuscript that looks deceptively short (approximately 300 pages). Then, when you realize the whole thing is one-and-a-half-spaced instead of double-spaced (what ever happened to how reputable publishers supposedly refuse to accept manuscripts that are not double-spaced? the thing about double-spacing being an industry standard, is that a lie?) it turns out to be much longer. Due in about two weeks. Plus it needs to be fact-checked. Why did I say yes to that?
Exhibit C: The two unfinished short stories I have been carrying around in my bag for weeks, maybe months. How each time I sit down to tackle them—saying, always, that I know exactly what to do to revise them—I somehow find myself not doing it. If the stories are not finished I cannot send them out so I cannot possibly get one published so nothing will change. I know this. And still I do nothing.
Exhibit D: The folder of missed opportunities. One I remembered this morning involves that no-scholarship to the writers conference, but how they called me a finalist, how nice that was, no matter how many people were called finalists, how the letter encouraged me to still go‚ or to submit to their magazine, how I have not responded, how I have not submitted, how I have not done a thing.
Exhibit E: The novel I have been writing is not being written with publication in mind. I am not using an outline. I am not seeing how my new plot order works sensibly and dividing it into a three-act structure. I am not thinking about structure at all. I am just writing it. And in doing so, I find myself stuck at a spot between unnumbered chapters (that’s right; I’m not even numbering chapters!) that I couldn’t move past yesterday because I realized I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing. Is this really a smart, freeing idea, or just a way of stalling?
Exhibit F: Last night. I had the apartment to myself. My other half was coaching some guys at a jiu-jitsu tournament and would be out late. I had hours—HOURS. I could have written. I could have at least done work on Exhibits A or B above. I could have read aloud from one of the pieces in Exhibit C, trying to get a feel for one of the stories again. I could have moved ahead on some inkling of possibility found in Exhibit D. But what did I do instead? Absolutely nothing of consequence. What I did was (1) read a bit of Vanity Fair; (2) throw out the junk mail; (3) watch a TV special about twins separated at birth; (4) eat; (5) watch a movie about a writer whose character is actually a real person and wants her to stop narrating his life; (6) eat more; (7) stare at the ceiling, pondering my existence; (8) wonder about what to do with my novel; (9) watch the first part of Magnolia, for the 700th time; (10) stare at the ceiling, trying to “think.”
When my other half came home, I had to confess I’d done absolutely nothing with my time. Not unless you count keeping the couch warm.
I slay me.