For some reason that even I don’t understand, I am the master of heroic failure. Right from those early days of trying to be cool at school, through career highs and lows, and the rocky road of parenthood, I keep tripping up on road signs that say ‘Stop it. Now. You are crap at acting / being a rock goddess / making World Book Day costumes / learning to swim. Give up’. Once the signs came at every bend in the road, but now they are few and far between. The last one marked my secret attempts to learn to swim out of my depth so that I could impress the kids. After six months watching me drowning in the murky waters of our local pool my instructor suggested yoga instead. The truth is, fear got the better of me. I am afraid of drowning.
So what I really don’t understand is why I haven’t just stopped pretending that somewhere around the next bend there’s the real me: someone who can write a whole book and say ‘I did that. Now shoot me’. And I do mean it, folks. I really don’t understand.
Take today. Take this MA. Creative writing for young adults. First submission due Monday. I am a Master of procrastination. I have spent most of today
pulling my fingernails out one by one and dropping them into the garden pond engaged in the sort of on-line activities that everyone seems to think is a useful way of passing time if you’re a would-be writer with an aversion to chlorine and floating plasters. I warmed up with a spot of on-line shopping (sorry, HN). I lurked on a live creative writing thread on Mumsnet with the sweetly encouraging Louise Doughty http://www.louisedoughty.com, where who should pop up but the uber-talented and multi tasking http://jongleuse.blogspot.co.uk/ from my Birkbeck course. She asked a question. I didn’t. 😦 With nothing else to do other than go back and concentrate on my own work, I read the reviews of endless new YA publications : most of these have prose that is apparently ‘spellbinding’, ‘limpid’ or worst of all ‘simply perfect’. I even found myself reading authors’ blogs, most of which make me feel insignificantly small. Quite a few YA authors, including Meg Rosoff www.megrosoff.co.uk/blog// and Tony McGowan (with The Knife That Killed Me) are currently rolling in the pleasures of film production, like my spaniel in sheep poo first thing this morning. I have to resist the urge to turn the hose on them 🙂 .
I don’t believe Roald Dahl wasted much time reading children’s books, actually. I think he probably hated most of what was out there. But then, he found his universe inside his shed.
I am 2789 words into yet another story that has flowered and died. Deadline is Monday, so I am going to have to dress the corpse, rub some rouge on its cheeks and shove it out there to ‘Another One Bites The Dust‘. It’ll still be dead. Hence the fingernails.
Dear God, why do I still do this to myself? Why can’t I just settle for the garden, the hens and hosing down the dogs? For a downhill path? Why – after all these years – can’t I just accept my limitations?
Honestly – I’m not waving, but drowning.