Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth Time is the Charm

It's JULY, and as you no doubt noticed, my blogging resolution seems to have gained zero traction in June, despite my good intentions.  So at this point, I've written blogging on my to-do-list.

As in, "blog posts--3/wk."  That means I'm trying to remind compel myself to write 3 times a week during the month of July.  Because in all honesty, I do think I have blogging material, I just don't put my brain to the grindstone and grind it out.  And then it's gone.

I'm also trying to finish two other writing projects: an article on Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and the revisions to that ... blessed... article on Zola that I started lo these many month years ago.  That's the plan for the summer--and specifically for July.  Those two things.

Oh, and the courses that I'm revising and revamping as part of a curriculum proposal. (A course on literary journalism and two courses on world lit., thank you for asking.)  That work isn't difficult, it's just a bit time-consuming, and you kind of have to be in the right mindset for that too.  Personally, I find it easier to think about school-things when I'm teaching, but that's just me.

So what did I do, in my infinite wisdom?  I took on another project.  One with a concrete deadline and a contract.  It's an editing project and it's due... gulp... July 30th.  (As in, 4 weeks from now.)

In a strange twist of fate, an editor emailed me on Friday night (which was sort of odd timing, but whatever) and asked if I'd be willing to work on a small editing project involving Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde.  One that has a short turnaround time.

Normally, if I were swamping and trying to stay afloat, I'd say, "No, sorry."  But in the first place, I find it very hard to resist anything involving working on Jekyll and Hyde and in the second place, there was a little voice in my head that said, "This will keep you on-track and on-task."

I began to wonder if I was going insane and hearing voices the next morning, when I revisited my decision, but in retrospect, no, I think it was the right choice.

Because often, working on someone else's writing--the project requires some researching and quite a bit of editing of an existing essay--will get my brain fueled up to work on my own.  And if I've got that July 30th deadline staring me in the face, I can be pretty good about chunking out all of the components of the various projects, so that I'll make headway on all of them.

Really, I can.  I've done it before, had super-productive summers when it comes to writing.  It's all about getting into The Zone.

Because the temptation, unfortunately, is to occupy a very different zone.  One like the one I was occupying Friday afternoon, before the editorial email landed in my inbox.



Yes, I went cherry-picking.  Yes, it's an hour and a half drive each way, for all of about an hour of actual picking time.  Yes, I got a lot.  (Don't judge me.)

So now the temptation is going to be to make jam, and it's going to be exacerbated by the fact that I'd also like to make mustard.  And this is what happens and where the time goes: onto these little projects that give me a wonderful sense of joyous accomplishment, but that--if we're being honest here, and I'm afraid we have to be--also offer infinite tiny distractions from writing and work.

It's all too easy to step away from the computer (or the book or the paper) on the pretext that I'm going to recharge my brain-batteries by working on a little something else for a bit, and then... the month of June has somehow just rolled by.

At this point, the garden is in place (heaven help me), the fitness regimen is place (ditto on the heaven-helping), and the health is good (knock wood), which means that it's time to simply buckle down and do what needs to be done.

And the fact that I keep reminding myself that the sooner it's done the sooner I can get back to knitting and berry-picking, well... that's just how that is.

I hope all of my American readers out there have a very Happy Fourth of July! 

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."