Writing against pressure: Larry the Cable Guy Meets Nike

One of my favorite funny men!
RULE #1: You never submit late to an editor. 

RULE #2: You aspire to never submit crap writing to an editor. 

CONCLUSION: Trying to follow Rule #1 and Rule #2 around the holiday season can make you nuts. 

Unless you try a new approach. 

New tricks—especially the ones you teach (let me rephrase that)—the ones you allow yourself to try—are delicious treats that the Great Unseen Entity rains down on you when you’re up against a deadline–and sweating it. 

Such was the case for me in December; that crazy Christmas Season that I live for and love–and do not like to compromise. 

It was December 20th . . . and my assignment was due in. 

The interviews, collected jumble of input, ideas and expertise of my resources lay before me—in 7 single-spaced transcribed pages, along with another 6 pages of printed out research findings. 

There was the traditional toffee to make for certain family members—and fudge, if I had time. Unwrapped gifts resided in organized stacks on the dining room table; additional shopping waited. Family would arrive in three days, Christmas groceries weren’t stocked in the cupboards yet, and a box of gifts required buttoning up and shipment for out-of-state relatives. 

And yet–I had an article due. 

Usually when I finish an interview—and almost always during transcription—one main idea pops into my head—and I know where I’m going to start the story, but for some reason it wasn’t working like that this time.(I’m glad to report—this is not customary and usual. Whew!) 

The candy-making and gift-wrapping specters hovering at the door of my office going: Haven’t you got that thing written yet? We need you downstairs. Now!–weren’t exactly helping matters. 

I wanted to write the article and go “play Christmas”. 

As I reread the transcribed pages it occurred to me to simply start shaping some of those loaded paragraphs into final form; as if they were going to all be used in the article. They weren’t, of course, but what the hey. Just do it I told myself, so you can get ‘er done

I picked the first paragraph in the notes that contained interesting information that I might be able to work into the story and cleaned it up, crossed all the t’s, dotted the I’s, used proper punctuation—ready to go. And then I left it.  

I went further into the notes and found another one. Did the same thing—and left it. 

After some time I had a healthy collection of clean–if not well-synchronized (yet) paragraphs. I copied them all, in the order I’d groomed them, and put them into a new document just for kicks and giggles. 

A story skeleton appeared. Thank you Divine Intervention. 

The cleanup work helped me get over my “what am I going to do?!” panic mode, place the fingers on the keyboard–and do some thing

As I read through those paragraphs, pieces started to fall in place—you really don’t need to say all that, but you might add that line from that other online source . . . . and so it went. 

I finished the article, but I have to tell you– I am big on RULE #2. I needed a couple extra days to feel sure about what I had, so I wrote the editor and told him I didn’t want to submit crap to him. (He’s tough. He can handle that word.) 

He wrote back—said he didn’t like to receive crap—and yes, take a little more time. 

I liked what I turned in. The story printed, and there weren’t a lot of changes to my original submission. 

Take your time, but when your focus sways and things aren’t falling into place, put your hands on the keyboard—or the pen and paper—and write one clean sentence—or in my case, one cleaned-up paragraph. 

Allow yourself to pretend it’s okay. 

It’ll take you out of your brain-driven, hand-wringing mode and give you a jumpstart.  

NOTE:  The fudge and toffee were finished, as was the wrapping and last-minute shopping. I cooked my way through a ton of groceries, enjoyed the visiting family to the max. Christmas came and went very nicely. Like it always does.

 
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