Organizing: an essential activity for multi-billion dollar industries and for a superannuated geezer in California who’s trying to juggle six balls and not step on a cat. He’s extremely talented in the process of making lists and strategies, having done it all his life—less certain in the follow-thru.
The immediate problem is in writing. There’s no deadline, no opening-night for prose fiction. The world doesn’t really need another novel, novella, short story, or flash fiction. Your bowel alone sets the timing, and for me the digestive process goes pretty fast.
The challenge is the geography of rewrites. I write (a) on an iPad in my doggy reading chair and (b) on the iMac in the office. With the last novel, I was simultaneously working to finish the first draft of the ending, a first rewrite of what I’d done up to that point, and a rewrite of the rewrite. Going back and forth between two computers and making separate documents for each chapter, I had to develop a sure-fire labeling system to keep working on the most recent fragment.
(Of course I could have reverted to the 5,000-year-old strategy of writing by hand. This would have solved the problem, as my handwriting is totally illegible, somewhat resembling chickens doing a hat-dance. The world would have been deprived, but would take not the slightest notice.)
Yet every sure-fire system requires compliance. Which in this case requires only that I move my butt from one chair to another nearby. Yes, I could put wheels on my ass or even jet-powered skis, or I could just do it the old-fashioned way—that ancient method, walking.
My system is broken down. I have two versions of Chapter 14, plus two versions of Chapter 14 plugged into the second draft and third draft. I have a distinct memory of shifting a section of text to another spot, which I can’t find. And the added pain of feeling like a total fool.
Truth be known, I don’t really know myself. I think there’s an inner core, maybe a pretty nice guy, but I can’t say who that is. I know him only from external evidence—what he writes, if he weeds the garden, all that. So it occurred to me that perhaps I don’t really want to write Chapter 14 and this is a subconscious revolt. Perhaps in my deepest heart I just want to eat, and increased frustration will drive me to peanut butter.
But it doesn’t work. I just bull through it, and after Chapter 14 comes Chapter 15 and all that follows. I thought I was sufficiently skilled in procrastination—what about all those years in grad school?—but I just keep churning it out.