Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Hamster Cage

I’m usually pretty good at fooling myself into thinking I’m doing something constructive when I’m really just running madly around my own little version of a hamster cage. I’m especially good at it when there is something I really should be doing but want to put off. I’ll immediately come up with a thousand diversions: doing the dishes (which have been quietly and I can assume happily sitting in the sink minding their own business). I don’t really have to do them yet…I have an unused plate, two spoons, and a cup, which can double as a glass if I need it to. So there is no rush at all in actually doing the dishes. But I do them anyway.

Or I will go to the stack of magazines I’ve read and been meaning to leave in the laundry room for others to read. How the stack got 10 inches tall I have no idea…I just took a stack there no more than two or three months ago. Perhaps someone has been sneaking into my apartment when I’m not looking and adding to them. Anyway, I then spend an inordinate amount of time playing hide-and-seek with my black marking pen. Finally finding it (how it got there is a mystery). I then carefully cross out my name and address on the magazine covers (or, in the case of my New Yorkers, peel off the label), all of which takes up another good chunk of time. But now that I’ve got that done, I decide to hold off on actually going to the laundry room, and instead come in to check to see if I got any email while I was off doing whatever it was I was off doing. (By this time, I’ve usually forgotten.)

I then hastily respond to each email I have received, realizing as soon as I hit the “send” button that there was something more I wanted to say, or some question I did not answer, or any one of a number of goofs, gaffes, and errors I make with distressing regularity, and have to send a follow-up message apologizing for having sent the first message too soon. Or, as I have just done five minutes ago, respond to an email announcing an event which on cursory reading, did not include the location. I immediately fire off a witty note calling attention to the error, hit “send”, and instantly note that the address was indeed there and I’d just missed it. Which required an immediate follow up note of abject apology for being an idiot.

And so it goes.

One of the most effective ways I have found of not working more rapidly toward the end of my current book is to start reading it over to see if I’d made any mistakes or repetitions, or called a character by the wrong name, or had them do something on page 37 that they’d already done on page 32. Of course there are a galaxy of such glitches and errors and anachronisms, not to mention misspellings to be corrected, changing “but” to “and” in several places, and “and” to “but” in several others. Adding entire paragraphs here, taking others out there, or switching them from one page to another, so that when I am finally finished (for this time around) I will note that if I had reached Page 127 when I stopped moving the plot forward, I am still on Page 127 after spending several hours making the changes, additions, deletions, and corrections indicated above.

But I am always prepared to answer, when asked how my day went or how the book is going…or to volunteer should no one ask, that I spent all day writing.

Oh, and then there is always writing a blog when I should be writing the novel.

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