Responses to responsibility
May 31, 2009
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The thing that finally tipped me over into buying my own place was not some burning desire to get 'on the property ladder' or being seduced by Channel 4 home shows, but wanting to stop being at the mercy of landlords and to be able to take some responsibility for the place I live in. Which sounds good, except it does of course mean taking responsibility.
Last Saturday I woke up and thought I'd finally get round to painting the fence, something I've been meaning to do for about a year but have been putting off (more on procrastination later). I figured it'd only take a couple of hours; oh how wrong I was, as I found myself painting the final panels on Bank Holiday Monday morning following a second trip to Homebase for more wood stain. So while it is a good thing that I am in charge of the fence, and it is in my power to make it presentable and make vague attempts to stop it rotting away further, it is not so brilliant when such responsibilities knacker up your plans for the long weekend.
It was particularly galling since I'd earmarked the bank holiday to get back into writing the novel. Yes, I'm indulging in that most cliched of pursuits and it doesn't help that I keep catching repeats of Family Guy where Stewie rips the piss out of Brian for his continuing failure to complete his clearly terrible novel. I've wanted to be "a writer" since I was tiny – ever since I realised that books only came into existence after somebody created them, in fact – but the attempt still fills me with a certain embarrassed shame. I think I'm capable of producing 100,000 words of literary merit, do I? Hmm? Honest answer: I don't know, but I sure as hell won't know unless I try. And since I outed my attempts on Twitter last week I might as well make a clean breast of it.
I could probably do with the ritual humiliation of public confession since I am simply abysmal at self discipline. This wretched bundle of sentences has been on pause at the 10,000 word mark since I went back to work because I lack the hard willpower to force myself to sit down in the evenings, or at weekends, or even in the mornings before I get properly get up, to add a couple of hundred words here and there. It was slightly gratifying to read a bunch of writers in the Guardian a few months ago (and which I now can't find), talk about how hard they find writing, and I know it's not just a case of bashing out 300 words off the top of my head on a particular topic as I can do for Londonist every lunchtime. This requires deeper thought, an immersion, if you will. I also know that these are excuses, and that lapses in deep thought can be fixed in the editing and revision processes, and that all I'm doing is weaselling out of completing the first draft. Because, what if it's rubbish? What if it turns out I can't write something of that length after all? What if this exercise exposes my ambitions as pathetic and hopeless? I also know that on the Screenwipe writers' special last December, Russell T Davies said you're not a writer until you've written something. I felt personally chastised. And I know that all my prevarications and self doubts are all just variants on the theme of procrastination and that there is a masterpiece within. Bloated self confidence and self doubt; we are all of us a little bipolar, I think.
And then an entire three day period gets wiped out by fracking garden maintenance. Even my best laid plans get derailed by the delaying tactics of fences.