I don’t know about you – but with me it’s like this: the closer I get to finishing a project, the more I slow down.
Maybe for once I’m perfectly in time to meet my deadline? Then I begin to procrastinate, and go on like this until I’m late. I have no particular deadline, only a wish to see the end of something I’ve been working on for a long time? Then I stretch the last pages/chapters/scenes/whatnot to infinity…
Take for instance Book 2 of the Tom Walsingham Mysteries. It must be with the editor next Tuesday, and it’s very nearly finished. It was very nearly finished last week, too – when I thought I’d just make one last pass, to polish it, and catch the last tiny things, and hand in my manuscript breezily in time.
Then of course I began to do any and every thing except that last revision. No, that’s not entirely true, because I did work on it a little, in fits and starts – but after all, I had all the time in the world, didn’t I? And the school play is looming even closer than the deadline – so not only rehearsals, but prop, and check-lists, and costumes, and incidental music, and back projections required my attention, and let’s not forget the lights… And besides, a guided tour to give, and letters to answer, and a swarm of stray bees in the garden (no, really!), and the flowerbeds to water, and I did have all the time in the world…
Until I didn’t – and sudden panic, this most wonderful of motivators, had me sit down with the last revision in earnest. And guess what? As I went through Book 2 again, a doubt that had been nagging me for weeks exploded into the need need need for another scene. This was the day before yesterday, when I gave in to my story’s latest demand, opened a new scene file in my Scrivener manuscript, and stared at it for an unconscionably long while. Then I wrote the two first lines, then it struck me that adding this scene would mean changes in a few others, and – quite logically – went to make a few of these changes before writing the scene that would require them. With that done, I sketched the scene in longhand in my notebook, just to see what it looked like, and made a few changes to the original idea. Five pages of notes later, I was ready to begin the really write – and had to drop it to go to town for rehearsals (where I arrived late). Yesterday I wrote part of the cursed scene, and kept getting distracted by all sort of things, so much so that, by the time I had to drop everything and go to rehearsals, I wasn’t even half-way through.
And now it is today, and I’m not writing the scene, because I’m posting, and whining in writing about not writing the scene, and before rehearsals tonight I’ll have to manage and arrange a gazilion things, and… and… and…
And I was perfectly in time, remember? The deadline was waiting for me with a friendly smile… How did I manage to change it into a freight train running towards woefully unready me?
Or – rather: I know how I did it – I just wrote it down in detail, five-hundred and something words of it. The question is another: why did I do it? Why do I do it all the time?
You have no idea of the frustration… or perhaps you do, because you do the same? Do tell, o Readers: how do you deal with the approach to the finish line?