Yesterday I delivered a manuscript a day early. I could have delivered it a week early but I didn’t, which set me wondering. Why didn’t I just buckle down and get the work done in the three days it could have taken and wowed my editor? She’s a new editor, so wowing her at this point could have made a great early impression, and give me wriggle-room later down the line (I am sneaky).
But I didn’t.
I played Sims. I did housework. I drank coffee with friends. I sold my house. I did everything I could NOT to work.
1) There was bigger, harder work stacked up behind this work that I didn’t want to get to.
2) It was sunny. I needed to make the most of the sunshine.
3) It rained. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s cold and wet out.
4) There was plenty of time before the deadline, why not take my time and do the work really well?
I could go on.
Then I heard Doris Lessing talking about winning the Booker Prize and how it’s totally taken over her life. She has so many other things to do now like signings and conferences and photo shoots and interviews that she couldn’t imagine finding the time and space to sit down and write a whole book.
I haven’t won a Booker Prize but I am a single mother, which is the equivalent. Not so many interviews and photo shoots, but every day is split up into tiny chunks involving school runs and supermarket visits and cooking and homework and DIY and answering questions about the location of socks that if I find a gap in my schedule it’s REALLY hard to say, “gosh, I have a space, I must fill it with work.”
And, because writing requires my brain to travel to an alternative reality and become part of that reality for long enough to integrate, I need large uninterrupted chunks of time in which to write. It’s like fishing for pearls. You have to dive deep to reach the good ones, and if you have to keep coming up to the surface to hang out the washing or explain what’s for tea, it takes a LOT longer to find any pearls.
Of course the true test of my theory will come when my son has grown and left home. If I start turning out manuscripts at a faster rate and meeting deadlines with pinpoint accuracy, then I shall feel vindicated. If not, then I’ll have to face the truth: given a choice between pearl-diving and not-pearl-diving, I prefer not-pearl-diving.
Doris did mention that sales of her books have soared since she won the BP and so much money’s rolling in she’s having to give it away. Perhaps pearl-divers find more pearls when their family is waiting on shore with empty bellies. My new terrifyingly large mortgage might give me all the motivation I need. Which is perhaps why I sold my house instead of working.