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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« Once again, here's more rambling about stuff I'm doing that's not here | Main | Ladies and gentlemen: we have a book deal. »
Tuesday
Nov102009

Processing

So it turns out that I can write a book and also do other things, but writing a book plus anything else equals total disaster for the rest of my life. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on the new column for Redbook (the first one will appear in the January 2010 issue), so I neglected some other matters. Like remembering to eat, or talking to people. Also writing in this here blog.

And. And I just stared into space for about fifteen minutes while I tried to think of something else to write. Listen. I know you didn’t need to know that. I realize you are not reading this as I write. I thought I’d take you along for a minute on my mind journey. If it’s going to go blank for a bit, why shouldn’t you know? Don't you want to join me in my fugue state?

When I say I spent the last couple of weeks writing my Redbook column, what I mean is that I spent one week hiding under the duvet insisting that I have nothing worthwhile to say to anyone, and another week hiding under the duvet, emerging to tap out a few words, running around screaming that I’m a worthless hack, and then diving headfirst back under the duvet. You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? I can see it on your face. All right, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, shut up.

I don’t know if writing is this way for anyone else, but when I’m faced with a deadline, the few days beforehand are torture. (And yet I could never get anything done without a deadline. And meeting a deadline is an unparalleled relief.) The only way I can get anything done is the following: I must 1) wear a hooded robe or sweater, hood up, and 2) put a blanket over my head, so as to create another hood over the hood, and if that’s not enough I 3) close my eyes while writing. Is that not utterly pathetic? I have to squirrel myself away in a cocoon of emotional comfort so that I can (sometimes tearfully) bang out the last few words I require to get the job done. But for whatever reason, this works for me.

I mentioned some of my bizarre habits to my Redbook editor (on whom I may have a burgeoning girl-crush—but I won’t admit to anything, except secretly when I whisper it in my pillow), and she seemed unfazed. She said brightly, “Well, that’s your process!”

So I am not insane. I have figured out my process. And you? Do you have one? Come on, admit it.

Reader Comments (94)

I need to get physical. Stand up, sit down, shuffle things around, dance a bit, roll the chair away from the desk, scoot it forward again back to the desk, play with the dogs, etc, etc until I get exhausted enough to focus on the task at hand.

And then I nap.

THEN when I wake I'm usually ready.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Blog and Kiss
Step 1. Ignore that I have anything I must write.Step 2. Allow what I need to write to simmer and congeal in head.Step 3. Worry about having to write something by a deadlineStep 4. Continue to do nothing about writing anythingStep 5. Wring hands about how I really should be working on writing projectStep 6. Be really crabby for 24-48 hours before project is due.Step 7. Within last 24 hours, write out project with many fits and starts, lots of snacking, and perhaps a nap in between sections.

If research is involved, I have to add 4 steps in there about collecting scads of research and not reading it and then collecting more.

I'm doing a grad program now because I like misery.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
My process: scrub bathtub, which hasn't been cleaned since last deadline. Eat chocolate. Hyperventilate. Use bag chocolate came in to stop hyperventilating. Decide to cook dinner (I don't cook). Start moaning about how it would just be easier if someone would kindly take a chainsaw and cut the @#$% paper/writing assingment out of me. Eat more chocolate. Continue cycle until 5 minutes past the point of any hope of meeting deadline. Write with the abandon of one who can not be corrected, because THERE IS NO MORE TIME. Live with imperfect product because who can be expected to produce anything great in that amount of time?

Another great procrastination process for writing a blog is to spend nine months on your template, without producing a real entry that whole time. Yep, nine months.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLee
Oh my word, everyone who commented on here is EXACTLY LIKE ME. I feel like I have 27 personalities who all wrote about their barely-different processes under 27 pen names. Very therapeutic to learn that I am not alone, even though you may very well all be in my head. Thank you/me.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Oh my god, I love that you're saying this! Everyone around me thinks I'm insane because of my writing process, it's good to know that I'm in good company. I'm a student (getting a master's in education) and a dancer and my writing process and my choreography process are oddly similar. Here's mine:

1) Receive assignment/project. Get really excited about it and think of lots of ideas.2) Forget about aforementioned assignment/project because there's a new episode of Glee on Hulu/new blogs to be read/shredded cheese to be eaten out of the bag.3) Try to hunker down and do project 3 or 4 days before it is due, fail miserably because once again the internet is full of too many distractions and there is too much delicious food in my fridge.4) Panic because deadline is looming, call best friend in a panic and take an Adderall.5) Make large pot of coffee, drink several Monster Low-Carb energy drinks.6) Work through the night, feel like I'm developing the most awesome ideas ever developed by any human ever while at the same time becoming acutely aware that my life isn't what it should be and my friends all probably hate me. Pace throughout the apartment intermittently.7) Eventually finish project, submit it/present it.8) Realize I haven't eaten in 24 hours and slowly reintroduce food into my system.9) Fly off the handle at the next person who calls or talks to me and cry because I hate having ADD and because I've inadvertently starved myself.10) Have a bourbon on the rocks and sleep for 16 hours.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
dear lord it's good to know that I think I suck at writing as much as you all do. except that didn't come out right. I think I suck at writing like you all think you suck at writing. whew. but the catch is that you all don't suck at writing and it's just me, right?!Why am I applying to grad school again?And yes, there is much wringing of the hands and fretting and deleting and walking away and oh! look! chocolate! mmmm. Hey! Etsy!And then the husband comes in and ruins all the fun by saying something like "aren't you supposed to be doing something?"ehem. well. since you asked: yes I am.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Pat
My process is sitting in the EXACT same position on my bed every time. And complete silence, which I never get.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley Gillen
Yes. Several. Here is one of them.

First, I write something completely unrelated and stupid that makes no sense.

Next, I read it and decide it is brilliant, and can I use it elsewhere? This brilliance has to be immortalized, surely the world should not be deprived!

Then I make a sandwich while thinking about how brilliant I am, and how marvellous it was that it took only ten minutes to write that.

Once my sandwich is done I read it again. I decide I'm a moron, it's total crap, no one will ever see it because it is mortifying and mind-bogglingly awful, and am a worthless human being who will never write another word worth reading or ever have good sex again. Am doomed. Doomed to bad sex forever.

Then I have a drink, and gulp it down, take a deep breath, and eat the sandwich in a very hurried, very unattractive manner, chewing emphatically. Then I am suddenly juiced to try again but while making sure that thing I wrote is away from view.

Then I start all over again.

Results vary.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTherese
Waaaaait...me jacking around and wasting time is a 'process'? SWEET! How come no one told me this when I was up until 10:30 on a school night finishing some stupid mythology project in junior high? Or, really, how come no one told my parents?
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhoe
I just clean my entire house several times and then look at my bank account and see how I have no retirement savings and $300 in my child's college account, and then I sit down and I will the words. And then I rewrite them 50 times (somehow the rewriting is much easier).
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlittlejelee
Of course she said "it's your process". What, you think you'll confess to her that you outfit yourself like a monk and sit with your eyes closed and she's going to mock you? And risk your wrath? "Process" never hurt anyone.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarinka
I have a blog. (I know, so rare.) In my desperation to come up with topics to post about, anything is fair game. If you infer from this that my life is somewhat boring, I would not try to correct you. So when one of my commenters noted--and quite rightly--that I had been procrastinating about writing my next post, this gave me the inspiration for my next idea. Before I read her comment I had not realized I was doing this. I thought I was just waiting for the next idea for a topic to come and gobsmack me like it usually does. But I do know this about myself: once the issue of procrastination is raised with regard to a task I should be performing, NOTHING CAN HAPPEN until a task I like even less rears its head, and it’s right then that I get the most interesting idea for a post and I sit down and write it straightaway, because I DON'T want to do that other thing. Does that make sense? It’s pretty much how I operate.I wish I could say that my motivation to write has nothing to do with how filthy my house is right now. But it has EVERYTHING to do with that.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlori cortiglia
I'm a computer programmer, there is similar stress of trying to create something out of thin air under a deadline. I wear ginormous headphones, with no music playing. In public. That hood and blanket set-up sounds really nice...
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace
Process. Heehee. Yeah I have one of those...

I wait until the very last minute to get stuff written (I'm in a Master's program right now so this happens a lot) because if I try to write way before my deadline, I tend to panic and think that I'll never, ever, ever get any of it done. Ever. (Ever.)However, once the deadline is nigh, I pretty much immediately cease panicking, realize that I'll get it done like I've gotten everything else done, and then I just do it. It's like magic. And then little angels sing my praises in my brain for getting stuff done on time.

Also, if I reeeeeally can't get something done, I bribe myself. The last time this happened I told myself that I'd buy myself a hat from Yokoo on Etsy if I got enough done. Now I have a beautiful hat. It works.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlly
Hmm. I tell people that I have, instead of a "thinking cap," a "thinking hoodie."

Is there something about covering one's head while thinking that works, maybe?



November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
That sure sounds like all the writers I know, and I know many, because I write for a living. And it sounds like me.Also, I want your writing career. Like, can we talk? Not about you getting me jobs, but we writers have to stick together. Any advice you have for me greatly appreciated, even if it is about your thinking hoodie.Also, here's a teeny bit about my "process":http://willikat.blogspot.com/2009/10/only-true-currency-in-this-bankrupt.html
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwillikat
You know what? First step? Get over yourself. Seriously. And then? Write. And then? Edit. And then edit, and edit, and edit some more. I love process, honestly, and I do process every day. Write.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertjdemauro@yahoo.com
I open a word document and then go do dishes. And then I make fresh coffee. And then I make the beds. And then I get really pissed off that I have lost hours, hello!! And what is wrong with me? Somehow, that anger propells me to write a little.

And then I get up and eat a little something, and then I start carmelizing onions because lord knows they take forever, and then I throw some laundry in the machine. And then I look at the clock and I have to go get the kids in an hour and I feel like the world is setting me up to fail! Why won't anyone let me write? And the self-pity, plus the sense of my time winding down, leads to low-grade panic, and that usually propels me to pound out another 300 words.

It's actually miserable and I enjoy it like a particularly well-fitting hairshirt, if the hairshirt maybe had pockets for really good chocolate.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
My process? Chocolate, and lots of it. Chocolate chip waffles for brekkie, then a quick lunch because then it's chocolate time again for dessert, and then an after-dinner quickie (chocolate, of course!!) and then a late night indulgence.

And writing? Sure, I do that, too, in between it all, around and through the bits of chocolate melting on my white shirt while I type, unawares, and into the cracks of the keyboard.

And my 4 young kids? They share some chocolate once in awhile. When they behave.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTerresa Wellborn
My process is reading blogs instead of working.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I'm a reporter, and having to write for a daily deadline has beaten any process out of me.In fact, now I feel like I'm incapable of writing anything unless I have less than an hour to do it.But if I ever wrote a book or anything longer, I'd probably do the same as you.Writers make the best procrastinators.
November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNadia
I can relate to such a process... but just wanted to say hip hip hoorary for the Redbook column. That is brilliant :)
November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShauna
love your writing - quality, always, and often a new word, for me, tucked into the bit. Today I had to look up 'fugue' which I knew was a music term, but that didn't fit the context, and I wanted to assume meant something like 'futile' but that didn't seem to fit you OR the context. So, FUGUE. Yes, I know that condition, and now I know there is a word for it!

Comforting, you are not the only AUTHOR dealing with writing drafts: http://www.joshilynjackson.com/mt/archives/001103.html

Cheering you on!
November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
Not a writer... exactly, but my process is1. think about it.2. work on it a little.3. ignore it for a long time.4. start to panic that it has to be done.5. work on it for a full day.6. scrap EVERYTHING I just did.7. do it and finish just barely in time.
November 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate
I'm pretty sure that "figured our your process" is euphemism for "crazy writer". Kind of like how rich people are "eccentric".



November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCat

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