Anxiety Pancakes: Life in the Middle of a Novel (Day Fourteen)


Photo by Tambako

I have a monkey on my back. The first time I noticed it I was in Grade 2. I remember my six-year-old self going round and round my house in a snow suit while a little voice inside said–you need to work harder. You shouldn’t just be swaggering about in the snow like this. Don’t play. Be serious. Get to work.

I still hear the chiding voice. When I was a reporter, it was even louder. The desk editor Don Grant used to shout at me–don’t think, Susan! Write! I did what he said: I wrote. In those days, there were five editions of a daily newspaper and when I was covering a fast-breaking story I’d have to update the story four times a day. Veteran reporters used to call in their stories, composing it into the phone while they glanced at their notes, and somebody in the office typed up what they said. The ability of these veterans amazed me; then I learned to do it too.

But writing a novel isn’t like phoning in a newspaper story. And the voice in my head isn’t helpful. Oh, it gets me to sit down at my desk every day. But once I’m in my chair, not only do I need to think, I need to play. In fact, a lot of novel writing is about taking your time instead of rushing; it’s about playing with ideas and letting yourself day dream.

So I have a new plan as I start the last section of my book. I am going to play all the way through to the end. I am not going to spend hours and hours revising as I go along, which is what I’ve been doing until now. I’m going to dictate my final chapters, (yes, I know, that’s a link to phoning in the story); get my chapters typed up, and then I’ll spend the rest of the day swimming and wool gathering and generally goofing off.

Until the monkey on my back ruins everything by shrieking, “You really should get back to work!”

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