Monday, 13 October 2008

Whooshingly depressive deadlines

On my desk at work is a present I picked up in last year’s secret Santa at the Christmas bash - “30 Hilarious Desktop Signs” and it includes that old chestnut, amended and borrowed from the late Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I especially like the sound they make as they go whooshing by.”

It’s a good one, even though I’m actually quite fond of the little beasts. They focus the mind, stop procrastination in its tracks and offer a sense of achievement, not to mention allowing you to put one project to bed and move on to the next.

So, when the deadline for The Manx Giant went whooshing by recently, it was a real kick in the teeth. I’d been confident that it would be met without too many hitches, but sometimes life isn’t so facilitating. Recently, the months seem to have had fewer days in them, and the days fewer hours. And this erosion of my time isn’t showing any sign of easing up. I’m told babies do that to you.

The upshot is that the book will not be in shops before Christmas, with publication now likely by summer 2009 at the earliest. On the face of it, not a huge blow, just a delay. If only it were that simple. First, I won’t see any financial return from the book in the next twelve months, which isn’t ideal, even if we’re talking peanuts compared with what JK Rowling earns in a minute. (In fact, the anticipated income from the Manx Giant is probably somewhere around the amount JK spends each year on peanuts).

The biggest issue with missing the deadline is the knock-on effect this is having (and will continue to have) on my other projects and, indirectly, my sanity. When I heard the deadline’s whooshing sound, it took the wind right out of my sails and left me becalmed. I couldn’t focus on the Giant, or indeed anything else I tried to dabble with. Complete stand still.

A couple of weeks have passed, and I’m over the initial hit. But the ‘to do’ list continues to grow, and at a faster rate than I’m striking my pencil through items. The young adult novel I’d planned to have completed by the end of November is floating somewhere in the ether, stuck at the 50,000-word mark, as are the ideas for the short stories I was determined to knock out, not to mention a cracking new plot that floated into my subconscious a few weeks back and started the action bells a-ringing. The latter has been dumped unceremoniously on the burner that sits just behind the back burner, as have any plans to do next month’s NaNoWriMo.

It’s at times like these, in terms of writing, that a mild depression sets in. Having missed a deadline, I know I must double all efforts on completing that project. And yet my train of thought is already snaking off in different directions, eager to move on, to explore different plots, to create new characters. It’s bloody difficult to rein it in, and that is where the frustration arises – because I don’t want to rein it in, to have to wait while time ticks by and everything feels like it’s being dragged down into the quagmire.

Ho hum. There’s nowt for it but to get me head down and keep pressing on, in the knowledge that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you don’t know in which particular tunnel you’re wandering.

Accompanying John in the madhouse this week:

The Black Book of Secrets, F.E. Higgins

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