Some folks say it’s writers block – I call it procrastination. It walks in, shuts down my laptop, follows my every thought and step, and won’t go. Like a guest overstays a welcome.
It’s a question of strategy. You need to set boundaries, concentrate, and then write, say the professionals. Take heart. Just a few words a day, a line or two. Don’t give up…
In other words, stop being downright lazy.
I’m not lazy. I’m simply stuck trying to compile what I consider to be a thrilling novel. Easy, except that my principal character is a nuisance. He’s fallen in love with the glamorous woman he wanted to strangle, and she, instead of screaming blue murder, has started to giggle. I can’t think how to cope with either of them. That’s a good enough excuse to go outside and feed my four donkeys, or pick flowers, or reply to Tweets, or… make a cup of tea.
The truth is that the novel is getting me down because I can’t make the bad guy bad enough. He’s supposed to be an authentic serial killer and should have added the glam creature to his list several days ago in chapter five. But the murderer is also a dashing womanizer and somehow the new girlfriend, a news reporter, finds out that he’s a rotter and does a bunk from his cruel grip by giggling – a technique to throw him off balance.
I expected blood curdling strangle noises, not a giggle – and now my thriller has become romantic fiction. Silly pair. How tiresome, and nothing is more time wasting than unruly characters.
It’s all the fault of the unwelcome visitor.
A lost week later I decided to take action and crush procrastination for once and all. My grandmother used to say, D.I.N. That meant Do It Now. And Grandma, who was married to a stern police officer, knew her ropes.
With D.I.N in mind I reduced 4:00 pm tea and chocolate biscuits, and geared my flagging brain to compose one sentence at a time. The first afternoon went well, and on the second day several new paragraphs appeared by magic on the computer screen – followed by an eventful night while I tossed and turned as I planned the most fantastic pitch ever, including attention gripping front and back covers.
Not to mention the contents: 300 fast moving pages – an absorbing read written feverishly in my electrified mind – the best whodunit of all time to enthrall worldwide readers, and crash hit international book competitions. What an exhilarating experience! At long last I was in control. I had set myself new boundaries and was actually concentrating. “Well done!” said Grandma from above the clouds.
But nighttime authors require nourishment; so well before dawn I got up and stumbled downstairs to the kitchen. It was pretty chilly, and my head ached with literary brio, but I felt newly hatched, warmed and protected by a kind of invisible glowing heat lamp – the sort of apparatus used by farmers to help chicks survive.
As I switched on the kettle, and hunted for something to nibble, I decided that my long-awaited novel would not only hit the world top ten, it would also be devoured by screenwriters and translated into thousands of languages. From feebleness to fame – I couldn’t wait to spread my wings – a revelation to myself and to world literature.
There was just one hitch: such sudden international renown might involve a technical problem. To brave extensive promotional tours and book signings, my one and only indelible pen – the one for beautiful autographs – would not be sufficient. It might run out of ink or, worse, release a clogged blob. How mortifying to produce a messy dedication after so much work.
I made a mental note to buy another, or rather several. Red, blue, or purple pens of all shapes and sizes, with different nibs and inks. Readers waiting in long queues could then choose their own colour, so by increasing the book’s value for collectors.
Strangely, as I reviewed my new life, the chicks’ heat lamp lost its comforting warmth, and seated in the darkened kitchen I felt tired and shivery with the strain of my overnight success. But at least the unwelcome visitor had gone. I had swiped the smirk off procrastination’s lecherous face. At least I thought so. Cold, but content, I crept back to bed.
My husband rolled over, enveloping his strong protective arms around my exhausted, newly hatched self.
“You smell of melted milk chocolate,” he murmured, “must be that book on your mind…”
“I’ve been writing all night.”
“Really? Didn’t hear you get up. That’s great. So you’re no longer, what d’you call it? Pro… something?”
I disengaged his embrace and giggled –which reminded me that I had to sort out the half strangled news reporter: “Procrastinating? Nope, no more! I’ve a new purpose in life but no one is yet aware of my new novel – a thriller – the sort of fantastic murder story that scares the daylights out of you and makes you look under the bed before going to sleep. But first I must slim down, just a wee bit. Stop guzzling choc in readiness to look like heaven at the World’s Best Book Awards.”
“Best what?” my husband yawned, “darling, if you’re really decided about your return to writing…” He paused, carefully choosing his words, “I’ll have to repair the computer. It’s been out of order for days, but as you said you had no time to think, let alone write, I didn’t bother.”
The day went easy and I felt proud to have reached a new goal. Over night I had surmounted procrastination and kicked it out of the door. My very self was a hive of new activity. At long last I’d found style, chosen voices, set the scene. Even my main characters were following step-by-step instructions.
Readers would be over-bowled, glued to every page – but just as my fingers hit the mended keyboard I’m reminded by background noises that there were one or two trivial things to do. Nothing of importance, of course. Only little trifles. Once done, I’d be free to write…
First I must feed the hungry cat, that’s found a way to scratch the TV screen while my nine-year old granddaughter, Rose, who wants to be a vet, is watching a rather unpleasant animal program about chickens fed to lions; must share my husband’s joyous excitement at the sight of ducklings on our pond; must supply supportive words for a frantic daughter phoning from Montreal who can’t stand one snowflake more of Canadian winter; must make a dental appointment; must write a birthday card; must sew a button; must post a bill; must remember to move the clocks forward; must …
Slow down. It’s 4:00 p.m., I’ll make tea for us all, and perhaps share a chocolate biscuit with Rose. No, I’m not procrastinating. Just fluttering my wings ready for take off. Plenty of time, no hurry, no anguishing deadline. Writing is so easy when you know how.
Damn the doorbell, it sounds insistent.
“Granny?” yells Rose, “can you come? There’s a visitor.”
Rosemary Rudland was born and educated in England. She also studied French at the University of Grenoble and later settled in the south east of France, where she became an investigating journalist writing in both French and English for international newspapers and magazines.
She was co-founder of several newspaper publications in the Rhône-Alpes region, and received a national award for a best social case study.
Rosemary lives in Normandy with her husband Yvan Barbieri, a former photojournalist, surrounded by a motley crew of four-footed companions.
The couple are authors of three non-fiction books, and are investigators for two national animal welfare organisations
Find out more about her on her website http://rudland14.wix.com/rosemary-rudland
Buy Rosemary’s novel That Summer in Normandy HERE