Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mentor Monday (on a Wednesday) overcoming daily life

Under the heading of “wonders of modern technology,” I’m logging in this morning from the local McDonalds – because the power and the cable are out at my house, thanks to the big snowstorm, and there’s no telling when it will be back. So thank you, McDonalds, for the free wifi, and yes in gratitude I will eat some sort of delicious-but-bad-for-me thing that I normally would avoid. And thanks to Andy for covering for me on Monday!

This in turn is reminding me of an episode from much earlier in my writing career, which I will pass along as a word of encouragement for people starting out who, like me, were struggling to carve out the time/space/quiet to write: Go AWAY.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I got a very exciting telephone call – a call from and editor, telling me that he liked my proposal and wanting to discuss the details and make an assignment – as it happened, my very first assignment, although I didn’t want HIM to know that.

The most distinctive thing about this telephone call is that my husband handed me the phone and I conducted the call while completing the changing of a very nasty diaper (in defense of my husband, he had no way of knowing who was on the phone, and once I took the phone and he left the room, I had no way of getting him back to take over the baby without yelling for him, which seemed to my addled brain to be much too unprofessional at the time.

The next thing that happened, almost as soon as the euphoria of that first assignment faded, was panic. I had just agreed to write a four-part series. So, inevitably, all kinds of other things began to happen, things that interfered with or prevented my finding the uninterrupted quiet that I needed for this project. And so, a couple of weeks later, after I melted down one evening over the prospect of having to call the editor and say “I can’t do it,” that my husband said “go to the library, I’ll stay with the kids.” Which I did, only to discover that the library closed at 8 (how would I know, I had five kids who were on their way to bed before that time?).

So off I went in search of someplace that was still open after 8pm in a small town in New Hampshire. And fetched up, two towns over, at McDonalds. Open, in those days, until 11 pm!

It wasn’t exactly quiet, but none of the people who were talking were talking to ME. I parked myself in a corner booth and started writing (long-hand, of course). I had spent two weeks thinking about the articles, so I knew much of what I wanted to say. It probably took me a couple of hours to get a rough draft on paper – I don’t remember being asked to leave. Feeling much more sanguine, I took my rough draft home, knowing that editing and typing was something I could do while being interrupted.

The rest of the series got written in other locations, although I did return to McDonalds a few times over the next couple of years. Eventually, all those babies grew up and went to school, and my challenge became not the search for the quiet hour but the discipline to get to work when there were many quiet hours in the day. Funny how the perceived obstacles always seem to appear, procrastination and fear finding any number of “hooks” to trip us up with.

So thank you to McDonalds, for being a useful “office” when the home office doesn’t work! And a word to those just starting out: Don’t let fear or procrastination stop you from getting those words out of your head and on to the paper – or the screen – where they can be read by someone else!

1 comment:

Diane Mayr said...

Good advice, Sally! I used to write at any number of places--just because I couldn't discipline myself to start at home! It's amazing how the louder it is, the easier it becomes to block out the noise.