Posted in Writing

The Baseball Novelist

I am probably the least disciplined person I know, which is why the idea of blogging on a regular basis struck terror into my heart. The idea of doing anything on a regular basis just sinks me. I know before I even begin that I am destined to fail. And please don’t prate to me about self-fulfilling prophecies; some things are immutable laws of nature, and you defy them at your peril. Like gravity. Don’t mess with gravity. If somebody tells you, “Hey, if you toss that rotting jack o’lantern off the balcony, it’s going to make an awful mess on the sidewalk” — don’t smile wisely, shake your head, and say, “That’s only true because you believe it to be true.” No, honey, that’s gravity. It’s a law of nature.

I am constitutionally incapable of conforming to a routine. This is one of the laws of MY nature, and when forced by cruel circumstance to respond like one of Pavlov’s dogs to a ringing bell (yes, alarm clock, I’m talking to you), I don’t do very well. I loathed boarding school. Blasting bells got you up in the morning, called you to breakfast, marked out your day in dreary little regimented snippets of classes and mealtimes and study hours and breaks and, finally and most cruelly, bedtime. Braaaaawt! Braaaaawt! Ten minutes to lights out! Braaaaaaaaaaaaaawt! Lights out! If you got sleepy too early, the lights-out bells would irrevocably wake you. If you weren’t sleepy yet, too bad. You had to lie staring into the dark, mind whirling, nerves jangling, hoping for sleep to catch you before the next #$@#!! bell rang at 6:00 a.m.

I am not sure what to do about this deeply ingrained flaw in my character. For one thing, I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a flaw. I’m certain it has something to do with my creativity, so — unwelcome as the trait may be in what passes for Real Life — I am reluctant to stamp it out. Not that I haven’t tried. Because it really IS inconvenient to be so resistant to discipline, even self-discipline, and to find it so impossible to keep to a schedule.

I’m not talking about missing a plane, mind you, or being late for every appointment. I can handle those things — probably because they occur irregularly. (I suppose if I had to catch the same plane every day, I’d manage to miss it.) No, it’s goals that depress me. Deadlines make my palms sweat. I am completely dependent on the alarm clock I loathe, because I never fall asleep at the same time or wake at the same time, like many people do. I don’t even have a “morning routine” or a “bedtime routine,” because I rarely do anything the same way twice or in the same order.

It is nearly impossible to get through life like this. Maybe if I lived at Club Med, where they force you to relinquish your watch and phone as you come in the door … perhaps, there, I could pass for normal. But not here, where one is expected, for example, to get up at a certain time on certain days and go to work. (Or blog once a week. The pressure is ghastly.)

The worst thing about this quirk of mine is, I have never been able to successfully impose a writing schedule on myself. Even when I was writing full-time, it was hard. My fellow writers were full of tips. Most of them had to do with finding out what hours were your “true” writing hours, and then protecting that time. Other tips had to do with playing little tricks on yourself to get yourself to write (ha! I never fell for the little tricks). Really, the only thing that worked was The Dreaded Deadline. I hated having a deadline, but as the saying goes, there’s nothing like a deadline for focusing the mind.

I have no deadline at the moment. No editor clamoring for the next manuscript. No agent breathing down my neck. And I am too undisciplined to write without those much-despised but oh-so-effective prods.

So a couple of days ago, I came up with a New Rule: When baseball is on the TV, Diane writes. This rule (if I actually follow it) is rather brilliant, if I do say so myself. Because it will give me three to four hours a night, most nights of the week, of writing time. Time that I don’t need to feel guilty about, because my husband will be (a) entertained, (b) content, and (c) not doing chores while I sit and “play” on the computer.

I am pleased to report that as a direct result of my Baseball Rule (and of the Giants playing an interminable 15-inning game the other day), I am now 10,000 words into a sequel for WICKED COOL.

But do I have the discipline to keep it up?? The suspense is killing me.


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