A blank page must be every writer’s worst enemy. It just sits there, mocking you, daring you to write a word, sneering at your faltering attempts to come up with something intelligent to share. It’s as engaging as talking to a wall or striking up a conversation with a store mannequin. Or maybe it’s more like trying to come up with something clever and funny to say on a first date. Did I try too hard? Didn’t he get my joke? God, was the salad dressing on my shirt the big distraction? The pressure certainly matches, especially when a deadline looms large, as mine tend to. A lifetime of procrastination and I just never learn. Got a big concert in three weeks? Perfect time for a vacation! A meeting to prepare for? I’ll read up on the way! E-mails to respond to? Yawn.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be painting such a pathetic picture of myself. It’s not that I don’t get things done. It’s just that something about having to do something makes me want to tuck my tail in and hide under the bed. Surely the deadline wouldn’t still be waiting for me when I come out?
There’s a method to the madness. Every time there’s something that really needs to get done, I do something else! Now, if you have lots to do, things generally work themselves out in their own weird fashion.
If I have an important show to practise for, mysteriously, I’ll become extremely productive on the computer, replying to dozens of pending e-mails. A script to memorise? What a perfect time to do an early draft on a column!
In the end, I get nearly everything done, though I probably give myself more headaches along the way than necessary.
Maybe one of you is a mythical Mr or Ms Perfect. Mr Perfect wakes in the morning and puts on the clothes he laid out for himself the night before. He doesn’t need to iron because he irons everything that comes out of the laundry. Ms Perfect’s car always runs smoothly, thanks to monthly check-ups and a full tank. At work, she answers an e-mail as soon as it comes in. At lunch, Mr Perfect calls his wife and mother and asks after their day. Then he gives a flawless presentation without once looking at his notes. He leaves a tidy desk when he exits the office, and stops to buy groceries on the way home with a list he made that morning. Ms Perfect has a weekly manicure date, so she needn’t hide her hands at an unexpected formal dinner. In bed, both Mr and Ms Perfect sigh the sigh of irritatingly perfect people, safe in the knowledge that everything on their to-do list has been ticked off, and that tomorrow their timeliness and organisation will once again save the day.
How’s my day going in comparison? I started in the shower with four dresses hung around the shower curtain, planning to wear the one the steam made most presentable. There are six hundred messages in my inbox. My to-do list is two pages long. And I had a chat with a mannequin in a storefront window while I was supposed to be sending in this column.