Saturday, September 15, 2007

perfect conditions

How many times has someone said to you “Some day I’m going to write a book …” Or, “When I quit work I’m going to dig out my easel and start painting.” Or maybe, “If I had the money to lock myself away in a mountain cabin, I’d get that screenplay finished.”

I’m guilty of saying similar things myself about a couple of my own pet projects yet to realize fruition. For me, it’s not always the number of paying projects I’m working on that stalls me, but the intensity and timeline of each project. For example, I’m currently working on 11 paid projects, which is down considerably from last month’s count, but the intensity is high and I’m working 7 days a week to maintain. Other months I have just one or two projects that require most of my time.

Last week, when I was interviewing bestselling true-crime author, Ann Rule, she inspired me to realize that—as much as I have to be organized—I often get in my own way.

For one, I like clean, clear and open space to work in, no clutter in sight. And most days I work in nothing less.

Yet, as I write this, at the end of a crazy week where I’ve juggled all day and everyday—as we all do—my desk is overflowing with books to review, publicity material to scan, a phone log with 13 calls to return, marketing collateral for my show, a network folder full of regional events I ‘should’ attend; guest material to research; and a folder full of resumes to sift through so that I have another pair of hands before I tear out what little hair I have left.

There’s a desktop LCD, two live-laptops ready to receive urgent client messages from different sources; a banker’s lamp on the far left corner and an artist’s magnifying light on the right. A bottle of coral nail polish, a vase of past-their-best roses, my old classic-sized DayTimer and my new full-size Covey planner. Then there’s a digital clock, salt rock to dispel negative electrons, three wireless mice, a wireless keyboard, and oops, another bottle of nail polish—this time pink. (Now you know what I do on global conference calls!)

There are two DVD roughs to sign-off on, as well as a list of production credits to proof and approve. Two staplers (don’t you hate when they run out and you’re in a hurry?) and a block of Post-it notes. A “No Whining” sign sits behind a framed plaque saying, “You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself”. (Must remind self of both sayings!) A cell phone, business phone, and an assortment of colored pens so I can color-code my new planner. (…anal?) And no less than two cups of cold coffee and a glass full of Perrier water.

This is ‘My Life’” … oh no, wait, that’s the Cover Girl commercial.

Back to Ann Rule.

She was a cop turned writer. A single mom who had to find a way to make money when she could no longer be a cop because of eyesight limitations. And she found that way by setting up a typewriter in her kitchen and writing fantasy stories for True Confessions magazine, in and amongst the chaos of raising five children.

We were so poor, for so long” she said, “but it teaches you, you can write through anything if you’re determined.”

She tells people who talk of seeking perfect conditions, like that cabin in the woods where everything is quiet (or the super clean desk), “It doesn’t work that way. If you want to write [act, paint, dance] you will find a way.”


And despite the huge disappointment of losing her career as a police officer, and her recollections of peeling fighting children off the top of her typewriter, Ann has now made the New York Times bestsellers’ list 26 times.

So, while I take a few minutes to clean and de-clutter my desk, tell me, what perfect conditions are you waiting for?


25 comments:

peteknowles said...

Bibi, this sounds like my desk when it's clean! What's your problem girl?

This was a hoot. I've heard of Ann Rule but haven't read her work. Must be good to have 26 NYT-ers!

Becca said...

I'm saving this post for any time I'm feeling sorry for myself because my life is too messy. I am a serious slacker in comparison.

Good story about Ann Rule - I never knew that. It's amazing how many writer's (musicians, artists, dancers, etc...) have overcome similar circumstances. As she says, if you really want it bad enough...

BTW, thanks for the inspirational advice on my post - that saying is my new mantra!

dinahmow said...

"Perfect conditions" are, I think, a myth which feeds the non-doers.Those who want to, will.
Sometimes, all that's required is a self-administered kick in the pants!

kj said...

alas and thankfully, i think the trick is to push ahead and through while not being attached to a certain result....

:)

Ian Lidster said...

How I envy you with your Ann Rule interview. I'm a huge fan and ever since 'Stranger Beside Me' I've devoured virtually every word she has written. Her prodigeous output, and always finely crafted, just staggers me. Actually, when I was driving through Seattle about 5 days ago, I thought of you, and of Ann. I enjoyed this offering very much.

Bibi said...

Pete, different strokes for different folks my friend! I know lots of people who functional exceptionally well in clutter ... it's part of who they are. Maybe I'm just not as evolved as you are. ;-D

Becca, Yes, if you want it bad enough you make it happen. I always love to hear stories of people who've overcome great odds. Wish I could hear your SP musical!

Dinahmow, well said ... very succinct and spot on!

KJ, I've explored that theory with numerous people I've interviewed and have come to the same conclusion. Takes the negative tension out of the situation ... very Buddhist.

Ian, she was a delight. I've seen her around town at various events but it was great to talk with her one on one and learn more about the woman behind the author's name. Next time you and your wife pass through town ... let me know and maybe we can meet up for coffee!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think you've been reading into my mind! I'm waiting on the kids being at college. But I know that's wishing my life away and theirs. --

Suzy said...

The "perfect conditon" is when the words finally come.

Thanks for the interesting post.

Ces said...

Bibi, a photograph series of you to illustrate your post woud be perfect for Iluustration Friday's theme "Juggle". Oh how we juggle a lot of things. I somehow like imagining all the things surrounding you, very interesting. Good luck on your projects. As for me, I simply am not inspired and it's very painful to paint when one is not inspired.

Bibi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cazzie!!! said...

I am not waiting for anything. I am here now and I am living what life I have. I am loving, I am loved. That is all there is. We have shelter, clothes, food and good jobs.
But I know what you are saying, some people just spend their life waiting..and tomorrow may never come.

Bibi said...

Anon, I have been reading your mind ... and that's difficult to do when I don't know who you are, lol!

Suzy, YES ... that makes any condition perfect.

Ces, good idea ... now if I could only find my camera under all this mess (actually, I'm cleaning it up now, but am taking a break ;-) Hope inspiration comes to you soon ... you're so prolific that I'm always amazed by what you produce.

Bibi said...

Cazzie, beautiful answer ...

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I can't really get my head around the idea of having the right space to write in.

If something needs to be written it gets written - regardless of the surroundings.

Although, saying that, nearly everything i write gets written here at my desk as an escape from what I should be doing.

Talk about a massively contradictory comment....

Jenny said...

I like your blog. That Irvine quote at the top is great too.

Ant said...

Death.

The perfect condition that I am waiting for is the sweet embrace of the eternal hereafter.

I hope it's quiet.

:-)

Bibi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bibi said...

Ultra toast ... well one way or another, at least it gets written!

Jenny, thank you ... I love that quote.

Ant, oh ... I think/hope you speak 'tongue-in-cheek'! ;-Q

Pamela said...

enjoyed reading the answers.
I don't have one.

benjibopper said...

James Harriet worked as a full-time vet for most of his life. At the end of each day he'd write for 15 minutes. He was also a perreniel bestseller.

Me, I had my cabin in the woods and it did help. Now I have to focus enough on the book to perfect it, get it published.

Bibi said...

Pamela ... maybe you don't need one. ;-)

Benjihopper, wow, that's interesting. James Herriot was very prolific in his fifteen mins per day!

MissMeliss said...

Just skimmed this, brought here in response to your comment in MY blog...and wow....I know those feelings.

I'm a professional writer - I write web copy and articles and stuff for a living - but I'm just now getting serious about my first novel...I'm really scared of querying agents...and really scared not to.

Will be back to re-read it more carefully.

Lovely to "meet" you.

Keshi said...

I used to be like that...wait for perfect conditions to do certain things...not anymore. Cos I hv realised TODAY is all i've got so I better not put things off for tomorrow.

Keshi.

deirdre said...

This forces me to really think about how I get in my own way and don't write/create as often as I'd like. There's a kind of inertia I get locked into, a perfectionistic tendency that keeps me from just doing it. I wait for inspiration when, really, I should just sit my butt in the chair and see what happens from there.

Bibi said...

Missmeliss, back at you. Good luck with searching for an agent ... I'm sure you'll do fine!

Keshi, you are so, so right. This, right now, is all we have ...

Diedre, that perfectionist gene is something I've battled a lot ... and still do sometimes. It's hard to get over.