by Tracy Barrett
Like most writers, I’m an expert at finding things that just must get done before I settle down to work. I thought that this would get better when my kids were no longer at home (since I blamed a lot of my busy-work on childcare), but somehow that didn’t happen. Then I thought that for sure when I quit my day job I’d get the essentials and even the non-essentials done and have plenty of time to write, but again—nope.
About a year ago, we moved to a quiet neighborhood on a dead-end street, shaded by big trees and hills that leave the road in a valley. And when March came roaring in like the proverbial lion, dumping snow and sleet and ice all over much of the eastern third of the United States, we knew we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The few snowplows and salt-spreaders in our Southeastern city were busy on the major roads and ignored a dead-end street with just a few dozen houses on it. Even the mailman failed to make it through.
|Front yard, with my car at the foot of the driveway|
So we were stuck, despite having had the forethought to park my car at the bottom of the driveway, which becomes impossible to use with even a little ice.
It didn’t take me long to run out of busy-work. Since we recently moved, there were no closets to clean out, no attic full of stuff that had to be gotten rid of, no kids’ toys to donate. There are just two of us now and neither of us is particularly picky about how the house looks, so laundry and housework are minimal, and even if I’d wanted to cook elaborate meals, there were no ingredients for anything exotic in the pantry and no way to get them. I had no excuses left.
So I wrote. I wrote a review of a book I wasn’t crazy about but wanted to be fair to (it’s a debut, and the author obviously has talent and worked hard); I wrote some blog posts; and I finally opened the 25-page single-spaced edit letter that my agent had sent weeks earlier.
I winced as I read through it. As always, my brilliant agent is right about the problems with the manuscript—and there are a lot of them. So I hunkered down and rethought the main character, the pacing, the conflict between the main character and the no. 2 character. I thought about what made the bad guy behave the way he does.
And then I started writing.
|Morning from my study window|
Most mornings during that iced-in period, when I woke up I’d mentally run through all the things that had stacked up for when the weather got better, and then it would turn out that the road was still iced over and maybe a new layer had been added overnight and I knew that I wouldn’t get to those errands for at least another day. As it turned out, I didn’t leave the house for more than a week.
And you know what? It didn’t matter that I didn’t do all the things that I normally would have done. Everything stayed pretty much normal around here (although the freezer is empty and there's no firewood left).
I hope I’ll remember that most of the things that absolutely must get done today aren’t as important as they appear. They’re certainly not as important as getting my work done. I just hope that if I forget, it doesn’t take another ice storm to remind me.