It’s a still, frosty Sunday morning in November, and most of the world around me hasn’t woken up yet apart from the bright sunshine and my cat, who has found a patch of golden warmth to sunbathe in on the window sill. I don’t have any deadlines to chase; that kind of pressure won’t hit me until tomorrow. I don’t have anywhere to be until at least 1 o’clock, and that’s just a Sunday lunch that somebody else is very kindly cooking, so I don’t even have a menu to think about. I have, however, got a project to start: that chick lit novel that’s been bubbling away on a back burner in my overheated imagination needs writing, and it needs writing now. So why am I spending valuable time pottering around at the Animal Disco? I’ve either forgotten or haven’t had time for procrastination of late, but that old familiar foe is keen to remind me just what it feels like. But like all professional procrastinators, I have my excuses to fall back on.
Being paid to write is a luxury that I never take for granted. But as much as I am entirely grateful for being lucky enough to earn my keep (albeit a minimum wage that a 17 year old living at home probably couldn’t survive on) doing something that I really, really love, it’s sometimes easy to forget why I signed up for the freelance life in the first place. The plan was that earning money from selling words would buy me the time to write what I really want to write. I’m not saying that I don’t want to write about the restaurants, plays and shops that people apparently want to read about - I do, and I want to continue to do it for a long time yet, even when The Big Plan finally comes together. But doing such an activity on a freelance basis is a double-edged sword: I’m either madly busy meeting deadlines or so devoid of commissions that panic, self-doubt and paranoia about the future (and in this instance I mean real, tangible paranoia, such as the rent payment due in five days time) that I can barely eat, sleep or even talk coherently - as you’d expect, such a state is hardly conducive to confident inspiration.
Today, though, I can’t complain about being in either of those tricky situations. Forthcoming deadlines are manageable. Commissions are healthy. Heck, even the flat doesn’t particularly need tidying (although you might argue that point were you sitting in the middle of the detritus rubble-mountain that is my kitchen). So here’s the real reason that I’m allowing procrastination to set in: writing something that isn’t already commissioned, that hasn’t already been sanctioned by an editor, that is utterly, completely, totally currently existing only in my own head, is darn scary - terrifying, in fact. I’m about to embark on a project that’s likely to take up all of my free time for the foreseeable future, without any kind of safety net at all. I’m going to have to be very selective about social commitments, consider turning my phone off and learn how to say no to that fifth glass of wine at midnight on a Tuesday evening (the horror!). I’ll need to relearn the kind of blind confidence in my own ability that I must have had as a baby, when I took my first steps. And trust me when I tell you that even writing the phrase “confidence in my own ability” resulted in at least five minutes of frozen screen-staring, but I’m going to leave those five little words there anyway, because I’m pretty much also going to have to act as my own cheer leader; while I’m lucky that my friends and loved ones are wholly supportive of my, erm, creative ventures, they can’t write my best-selling novel for me - and it sure isn’t going to write itself.
If you’ve read this self-indulgent ramble so far, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. But really, the sole purpose of this post is to get myself into the swing of what I’m about to do: write something that isn’t just to pay the rent, that makes me (and, if I’m lucky, somebody else) think about what they really want to do, and rattle out those 700-odd words that most ‘real’ writers say is the bare minimum that ‘real’ writers should make themselves do every day.
A ‘real’ writer. Imagine that! Gotta dash now; there’s a Cheers rerun on TV - needless to say, I have to watch it.