Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Eleventh Hour

I don't know why, but to be successful, I must procrastinate.

Now before you call shenanigans, hear me out. When I was in school, I was a chronic procrastinator. Instead of tackling that big school project looming in the distance, I'd work on the little assignments first--the five-problem math homework, the 200-word essay for history...etc. All the while, ignoring the big 10-page paper.

Until the night before. The eleventh hour.

Then I'd write like mad, stay up until it was finished, until my hands hurt from typing and my eyes hurt from the research. I'd get myself all worked up, adrenaline pumping, then tackle that assignment with wild (but grammatical) fury.

And I'd get an A.

Once, in high school, I tried to change my ways. The night we were assigned a huge English paper, I went right home and got started. I found my sources, read the research, drew up an outline... I worked on that paper for two weeks, on and off. I wrote it, then edited it a few times. I had my mom read it over, then I made more changes.

I got a B.

This, to someone who has spent her entire life putting out academic fires, was disconcerting. Did I need to be all but inebriated with adrenaline to perform? Was torturing myself part of my creative process?

When I wrote a novel on a 30-day deadline for National Novel Writing Month, I finished it in THREE WEEKS. Yes, that's right. 60,000 words. Three weeks. When I started editing (and editing and editing...then let my mom read it...then edited it some more), I got rejected by every agent I sent it to. I'm starting to think that I might need to operate under the same rules in all aspects of my writing.

And of course, my freelance career is grounded in the mantra "I can't right now, I'm on deadline." And yes, that life-on-a-deadline might have resulted in bladder spasms a month or so ago. It might be fueling this raging case of tendonitis in my fingers. And it might explain my caffeine problem. Might.

But I can't help it. In the eleventh hour, I'm a genius. I'm prolific. I'm procifient. And I'm gramatically correct.

It makes me money. Can it be so bad? Where do I draw the line?

I guess I'll just keep trying to reset my internal system. Maybe I can make my body THINK it's on deadline two days in advance? Maybe I can impose some sort of control over my adrenal gland? I don't have the answers. I just know what I have to do to get the job done.

But man, am I tired!

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