Thursday, August 12, 2010


On any given day you tend to awaken with a primary goal of securing coffee in some drinkable form.  Then down the list to that wide variant so familiar to the life of the freelance writer.  Shall it be a class to teach, an appointment with an editorial client, perhaps a meeting with a group of fellows or girls or fellows and girls?  Perhaps even some chore or other, some element that must be reckoned with, prepared for, driven or walked to.

Sometimes such logistics have played merry hell with your day book and your more formal list of things to do on your Google home page, making you aware, painfully aware, of the length of time you will need to get through, yes, endure, before there is a space of blank, a symbol and metaphor for the freedom to address a grander list of things under priority that have little or nothing to do with the earlier list (although this freedom may draw on the things you encounter when performing the activities on your earlier list).

This list is your true agenda.  Although this agenda may vary from day to day, for reasons which vary, it is a recognition of a muscle memory acquired over the years since your early teens, its roots going even farther back.  This muscle memory and agenda habit are so engrained that even a day of procrastinating instead of writing is a day better spent than doing something else of the earlier list and wishing you were writing.  You do, of course, procrastinate, either by reading, doing online crossword puzzles, drinking more coffee, re-watching The Wire, checking political activity on political blogs, and "researching," a euphemism for looking up arcana on Google as though a serious contestant in some intellectual Jeopardy rerun.   Sometimes your procrastination calls forth speculations of how your day would go if you were able to spend more time on your agenda rather than time away from it doing such things as you have already listed.

Your agenda for today was (1) working on a short story to be called Uncle Charlie and (2) doing more reading and research on a book you wish to write to be called Obsidian:  The Cutting Edge, a work of nonfiction completely out of your normal range of interest except that for the past few months you have begun to think about the enormous effect it has had throughout the ages, what a useful tool it is, what a gorgeous mineral, and how it feels to heft.  It does not hurt that a world-class archaeologist has offered to write an introduction for it, suggest sources for you, and read your early drafts.

This would have been, along with normal procrastination, a wonderfully normal day in August with only one time out for coffee with a client.  The order of agenda was dealt a serious blow, however, upon receipt of notes from your literary agent on one of the chapters in a novel that enthuses the breath in normal cadence from you and turns it into something more resembling a pant achieved at having negotiated a steep hill in the midst of a run.  The things the agent liked, suggested, and questioned yanked you back into the novel to the point where it began talking to you, specifically slipping a note from a long silent character who now wants to reappear, which fact gives you a surge of adrenaline because any number of characters in this venture have already established agendas and they are clamoring to be heard.

It is comforting to be through with the early agendas and alert to the messages these muscle-memory projects slip metaphorically under your door, eager to be acted upon.  


Storm Dweller said...

What parallel planes we seem to be travelling, as I like the white rabbit constantly fretting over being late to my next engagement try to take a step back and look at my life's agendas in the midst of the day's agendas. But the days agendas never go as planned and many days i find myself panting from swimming upstream, and having to ignore the notes slipped to me by my characters, which gives me cause to fret that they might one day give up on me and seek someone else to voice their agendas.

Sarah said...

The muscle memory developed by writing is definitely one of the advantages of having been around awhile. That, and knowing that the agenda will always be there, so we might as well do what we want.