Recently, after thinking it over seriously for oh, thirty seconds (we had just laid down dust mite-unfriendly wooden floors and needed the cash), I took a paying writing job. It was a one-off, a single feature for a kindly and desperate editor.
I had seven weeks to do the job, and the Man and I sat down and planned how we'd handle this. I broke the project into stages, set timetables for each stage and set to work. I even built in a little extra wiggle time, for the inevitable procrastination. I was sensible, moderately realistic, and completely bulldozed by what followed.
Here's what I learned:
* the Man does not really enjoy being left to manage the kids for dinner, bath and bed on night after night while I work, and making an especially yummy dinner doesn't seem to help. (Note: as the one working in a cafe, nursing a cup of coffee, it would certainly have helped ME, but hey.)
* panic is not useful
* panic is inevitable
* trying to read absolutely everything on the subject in question is not likely to happen.
* trying to acquire a sufficient quantity of articles, books and various bits of paper to make me a mini-expert is not likely to happen, but it is startlingly easy to acquire more than I can read. It is also amazingly easy to acquire enough to make me panic at the sight of the piles of printout/library books/tagged e-journals. See above re: panic.
* I will not become a statistical wizard overnight, able to analyze the significance of a researcher's findings in a single bound, la!
* the Man, having failed for years to explain math to me, might - but only might - be able to work through the data for an article for a medical journal. But I wouldn't recommend trying for two articles' data. We're so close to our twelfth anniversary, why balls it up now?
* it helps to do a brain dump and write down all of the things I want to do when this project is finished. It's fun to organize these things into three columns. It's annoying to realize how long that list is. Ergh.
* seven weeks is a really long time to disappear from my friends ('tell me when you exist again, okay?' I will. I promise.)
* I miss having dinner with my kids
* I miss their father - and shudder at the size of the relationship debt that I'm racking up. Unequal as it may be (he doesn't have to make it up to me for going to work each day), I'm going to have to make a seriously hefty deposit in the relationship bank after this. It's still worth it, but I think something special is needed here, possibly involving edible undies.
* the deadline is unlikely to change because of a migraine, bleed, new diagnosis, school stuff, home stuff, broken glasses or anaphylaxis. Although this seems slightly unfair - it's all about me, right? Oh.
* pulling an all-nighter is unlikely to improve the quality of the writing that I get done. Although somehow I was under the impression that this worked for me in college. Hmm.
* doesn't matter how much I have to work, quality writing doesn't happen when steam is coming out of my ears. Down, girl. Steady now, steady..
* whining to the editor is unlikely to improve their opinion of me.
* being late is a reality I can almost accept, since it happens every day when taking the Eldest to school. But I'm throwing fits, should that reality extend to this project. (Note: it certainly does NOT extend to all projects, saith the mama defensively.)
* having the Man say I told you so is an absolutely reliable outcome. See above about upcoming anniversaries and the desire to reach them.
* writer's block is the brain's last ditch effort to weasel out of doing something that it really, really doesn't want to do. Not helpful. Also, to be filed under 'not helpful,' along with calling my mother in a panic over said writer's block ('just imagine that you are in an exam room, and there's only five minutes to go - now, get to work!'), or calling the Man at work ('are we done with the empathy part yet? I'm ready for the problem solving part of this conversation').
* it is entirely likely that the Man experiences this sort of haste and worry over projects on a much more regular basis. Although I'm fairly certain that he rarely types in between Curious George stories.
* being done is the best thing in the world. Now, if only I could get there...
This turned up in my inbox: It's a little heavy on the sugar, but lots of fun. My favorite bit? the very, very average looking singers.
Then there's this, sadder note...and this more hopeful one. A fine cocktail for a harried writer longing for the finish line!