07 March 2012

Panic and the Slacker

I was talking with Two about personal motivation. We were having one of our numerous conversations about effort and commitment. It was actually a very constructive discussion--illuminating in many ways. I was explaining how it can be frustrating for his parents to watch him fritter away time like a slacker, because we're not wired like that.

I was lying. I am totally wired like that. The Captain is not.

The Captain is one of the most competitive people I know. The others are his sisters, who have been known to play Hungry Hungry Hippos to win. Against kindergartners. The Captain has always been goal oriented, literally and figuratively. He still plays hockey like it's Game Seven of the Stanley Cup, even though it's Men's League, and he wants to be better than everyone else in every other aspect of life. I've taken to telling him "Go win your conference call!" or "Go win your trip through security!" which, thank God, he laughs about, because he's not crazy--competition is just his motivational tool.

Panic is my motivational tool. I am not inspired to accomplish anything until it's almost too late. The year before I got married I worked in an attorney's office half the day, then I would drive an hour to attend college in the afternoon. I wrote all my term papers the night before they were due, and I would go to the office at 6:00 in the morning and type them before work. I was also planning a wedding. Miraculously, everything got done. I graduated with honors, and got married about a month later.

Nowadays, I call this type of insanity "prioritizing." Nothing gets done until it reaches the top of the list. Unfortunately, I have a long list, so some things really languish down there on the bottom line. Often, last minute additions, like dioramas or book reports, leapfrog over the long-suffering low-listers, until they almost vanish from view.

My writing had almost been smudged out of existence, so I forced myself to prioritize. I signed up for a conference and applied for an appointment with an agent.

This is typical of my approach to my career, which is generally ass-backward. Usually, when an aspiring author asks to meet with an agent or editor, it is presumed they have a completed manuscript in hand. Not literally, because no agent would ever ask for the whole shebang during the sit-down. But if one is lucky, one will be asked to submit the first three chapters after the meeting.

So here's how I justified taking the appointment: I am almost done with the novel. Really, I'm cranking out the pages. I will be done by conference time. The agent will have read my first ten pages before our meeting, and because I am an awesome writer, she will ask to see the first three chapters. Only after that will she request the full manuscript.

I am praying to be in such a predicament.

The odds are stacked mightily agin' me. I don't know if you know this, but it's incredibly difficult to get published. But if I don't imagine this scenario, I will not finish. I know me too well. I'm already planning how I'll relinquish the time slot to someone more worthy. See? Inducing panic...NOW.

25 comments:

  1. Repeat after Lani Diane Rich...I am a great writer!!! Take the meeting, you are Bettytastic and there is no one more worthy!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My motto through this whole process has been more along the line of "my novel doesn't suck any more than the other gal's" which is also effective. But "I am a great writer" has a nicer ring to it. Plus, fewer words. I am a great writer!

      Delete
  2. You rock! And many a genius has procrastinated so you'll just shine at the last minute.

    I have a motivation issue with about half my class this year. As a kid I was motivated by the terror of failure so it blows my mind that they aren't. Nor are they motivated by punishment, skittles, or gum. Or special art projects from Oriental Trading which cost their teacher a fortune. Eek.

    aaaanyway, back to you--you'll need that agent appointment and he/she will be grateful to get a shot at your ms before the bidding war begins!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our house is a microcosm of your class. Some of us cannot be negatively incented at all--in fact, it just breeds defiance. Most of us can be positively motivated, but sometimes it takes Jedi mind tricks to make it happen. Hang in there!

      Delete
  3. The agent will love the first 10 pages AND the first three chapters. Because they are fantastic! Keep at it. I can't wait to start planning the book signing. So far I am thinking about sweet and sour meatballs, mini quiches and brownies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See-you're a planner. It must be why you and the Captain are friends. The menu sounds yummy-we may have to plan a dry run, just to be certain the flavors mix.

      Delete
  4. It's like we're twins.

    Plus, I'm relatively certain you will rock the socks off that interview. Go win your interview!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Twins, or just mothers.

      I'd forgotten about winning the interview. Okay, adding "practice the pitch" to the list. Winning!

      Delete
    2. Uh, no. I did almost the exact same thing for the exact same reason. My deadline's Saturday. *faints*

      Delete
    3. Yikes! Good luck!

      Delete
  5. I'm hearing a continual chorus of "under pressure . ." and I can't even remember the song. Procrastination and ensuing panic tend to be my modus operandi as well. It's kind of unfortunate because it almost always works out well. If I'd gotten nailed for it a few times, maybe I would have reformed my ways, but no.

    Your book will rock. I will be at your signing sqeeeing like a fangirl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Queen!

      Yes, it's effective most of the time, and except for the grey hair and heart palpitations, pretty successful!

      I'll be at the signing eating brownies.

      Delete
  6. Good for you in getting out ahead of yourself and setting a goal that will give you the incentive to keep on writing. I do understand this concept. After my divorce, I wanted to learn to ski. But before I even took a lesson, I bought all the gear, and the clothing, and a condo in Park City. Ha ha.

    I love the voice I hear on your blog, so I'm certain your manuscript is fabulous. I might not make it to the book signing, but I'll buy the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I had known you then-I would have gladly supported your skiing quest! I want to buy a farm, and then figure out how to use it.

      If I am so lucky as to be published, I will ship each book with a brownie! It'll be just like you were with us.

      Delete
  7. Megan, you crack me up. Is it the NECRWA con again? I'll be you'll knock their socks off!

    I guarantee the Betties will all buy your book. Tell that to the agent...

    ReplyDelete
  8. It is NECRWA! Will you be there? I'm looking forward to it, despite the nausea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I couldn't justify the expense this year. Rats, I love that conference! Have fun. And don't worry, you'll do great!

      Delete
  9. Firstly, you planned an awesome wedding! I still speak of how you looked, to more than just me, like Grace Kelly... gawgeoius!!! Secondly, I can SOOO related to the waiting til the last minute. I am very much in that mode much of the time (without a family as back up reason). Third, no matter how you do it, or for what reason, keep the faith. You have built a blog and made friends and contacts thus far by being a fantastic writer without being published. ...the icing on the cake may well be before you , my cousin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do love the blog, and all the friends I've made through it. And in many ways, it's the reason I want to finish. I owe it to you all.

      (Plus, it's up there in the damn header.)

      Delete
  10. I'm really glad your writing was not smudged out of existence!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...by my forearm as it pressed against it to add yet another item to the top of the list! Right now, I'm revising the first chapter, and feeling good about the challenge. I'm working at my kitchen table which is covered in syrup droplets and old homework pages, so pretty much everything else has moved down the list.

      Delete
  11. ps jasm_n7 follower is me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! A new little photo in the row! Thank you!

      Delete
  12. So first -- yay for the novel!! You're doing great!!

    Second -- in case it's ever helpful for the kidlets etc., this is a really nice little book on procrastination. A quick read, easy to understand, genuinely useful tips. ;-) From a fellow Slackitude.

    http://www.amazon.com/Its-About-Time-Procrastination-Overcome/dp/0670858730/ref=cm_lmf_tit_6

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm going to order it. Any minute now.

      Delete

Thanks for reading! Unlike other Diaries, this one isn't private. Feel free to share your thoughts. Politely, of course.