Writers Talk About Writing
Are You a Drip Who Leaves Writing to the Last Minute?
It was a Friday night and I was sitting at my computer studying Google maps. I had to give a speech to more than 200 people the next morning and — given my notoriously bad sense of direction — wanted to be sure I was heading for the right place.
Suddenly, my husband yelled from the basement four words no homeowner wants to hear: "We have a leak."
I raced downstairs to see water pouring from the basement ceiling. Then, our fire alarm went off. As the alarm shrieked (interspersed with the "helpful" audio message "there is a fire," in two languages) I tried to phone our security company. I reached a recording with an after-hours number — but the alarm was so loud I couldn't hear it. I shut myself in the bathroom and tried again.
Finally, I contacted the security guy on call and he had me run a bunch of tests (yes, while the wretched alarm was still shrieking) but we came up with nothing. "It's not the security system," he said. "You'd better call your builder."
My husband and I spent the last year rebuilding our house — including a brand new finished basement. We moved back in only a few months ago and hadn't expected a crisis like this for, say, at least 10 years, and, preferably, well, preferably never. As the shrieking continued, we called the builder who suggested my husband put on rubber gloves and sever the alarm with wire cutters.
Blessed semi-relief. We still had water pouring through our ceiling but at least we could contemplate it in quiet! We turned off the water to the house, but it continued to drip from the ceiling. Our builder lived too far away to drive in at 11:30 pm but he contacted a local plumber who showed up before midnight.
Diagnosis? It was likely a problem with our in-floor heat. The plumber turned the main water back on (Yeah! I could shower before my speech) and shut off the valve supplying water to the heating. Water continued to drip aggressively through the ceiling but it was residual, the plumber said.
Our builder called back to say another plumber would arrive early next morning. And at 1 a.m. my husband and I emptied all the buckets and went to bed. At 3 a.m. I awoke and start heading downstairs to empty them again, but my husband told me he'd already done it. He did it again at 5 a.m. and I emptied them at 7.
Despite the horror of this event, there was one little speck of good news. I'd written my speech earlier in the week. Thus, despite an unbelievably stressful night, and a distinct sleep deficit, I was able to deliver my speech without difficulty or hesitation. Twenty years ago, back when I was a blocked writer, for sure I would have been working on the speech the night before. In fact, I might not even have started until the night before!
Do you leave your writing to the very last minute? I don't need to tell you that's a bad idea. But perhaps I can help you break the habit.
I think many of us procrastinate about writing because we fear what we produce won't be any good. But here's a news flash. You can't make it good until you get it on the page.
Stop beating yourself up about what a crummy writer you are and, instead, concentrate on taking one tiny, baby step at a time. Use the same trick runners employ: promise yourself to write for only 15 minutes, set a timer and do it. If you feel like writing more after that, well fine, but you aren't obliged.
Better yet, write as fast as you can during those 15 minutes. Use Dr. Wicked to help if necessary. But get as many words on the page as you can. Don't judge. Don't worry. And most of all, don't edit. Just get the words out. You can do all the judging, worrying and editing you want, later.
As you open up your document the next time, your heart will leap with joy as you discover it already contains many words. No more blank page. Congratulations!
Now, let me tell you how our water saga finally ended. Turns out, the first plumber was wrong and the floor heating wasn't at fault. Instead, one of our brand new sprinkler heads had blown a gasket. Who'd have thought?
Fortunately, insurance will cover it. Despite the large hole in our ceiling, let's call it a story with a happy ending.