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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

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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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)

Without a deadline my writing would never be finished. Ever.

My "process" seems to involve endlessly nitpicking about not just word choice, but also the amount of white space.

Like you, I find that every new task I add means something goes undone. Like laundry. Dishes. Grocery shopping. Fortunately not bathing, since I have a day job and must keep up appearances. Thank goodness for small favors, eh?
November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPractical Archivist
have you seen this?
November 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commentereliza
I am a writer, a paid writer for a major government agency. I love my job dearly and have worked there for nearly nine years and I still go through the following for every story I write:

1. Dread and procrastinate setting up the interview with the subject matter expert.2. Get very nervous before the interview.3. Conduct a perfectly good interview.4. Spent at least a week worrying about how long it will take me to write it and self-flagellating that I can't just sit down and write it like "real writers."5. Spend a day transcribing and reviewing my interview notes... in other words, stalling.6. Fret over my lede.7. Spend a day writing the first draft.8. Second-guess everything.9. Go sit outside or in an empty office with the door closed -- apparently I cannot write at my desk.10. Polish/rework the story until it's nice and clean.11. Send to editor and collapse into heap, wondering why other writers are not also in heaps.

I always like how my stories come out, but "my process" is far too showy and takes too long!
November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

It's detached from a coat. I use it in emergencies. (Like finals in college.) None of my current housemates know its true use or value.
November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
Dearest Alice,

You've missed me. Admit it.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheyjoe
My process is kind of the opposite. I barf out a bunch of words. If it's my blog, I say WTF? and hit "publish." If it's the novel I'm working on, I just print out the ten pages or whatever I just wrote, update the word count and stuff it into the pile. When I look back over what I've written, I think OMG THIS BETTER GET BETTER, then I smile because OF COURSE I WILL REWRITE. That's why I start so friggin' early on everything I have that's due. I need a lot of time for the revisions.

I always think to myself that I am as to writing as Madonna is to singing. I don't have a ton of talent, but I have a shitload of ambition. For those like me (and not like you), ambition can make up for a lack of talent. Half the battle is finding an audience for your words, at which you, my friend, have already succeeded. Yay for Alice! Go, Alice!
November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRita Arens
My process is just as crazy, but often involves tears and cursing if a deadline is involved. I have to have complete silence to write--and anyone who dares break the silence before I am done is in trouble. It isn't pretty. Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading the comments, too.
November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Process? It is a complex equation involving diapers, nursing, workplace BS, inspiration and content on Perez HIlton. It's ugly, really.
November 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramanda
I spend a lot, a lot of time trying to figure out a new process for my own writing, but so far mine looks much like yours. I've got a new deadline for my dissertation (I'm pregnant, so my due date sort of made itself into a deadline--hoorah!) and I've been trying to find something that works. The only thing so far is when I just sit down and make myself start typing.

Good luck! And I like your writing, so good job, process.

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
OK. That helps. To know that "you go through that too," helps loads.Thanks.
November 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersusiej
As the deadline for my weekly column looms I begin my 'process'. Swear a lot under my breath, while freaking out. Sit down in front of my computer in an effort to make myself write something. Slinking off in search of chocolate. Find another far more pressing project, like raking leaves or making gingerbread. Force myself back in the chair. Check facebook, email, Apartment therapy and a host of other sites. 2a.m. morning of the deadline- write column. Lather, rinse, repeat.
November 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjaleh
What I like about writing in my blog is that it is virtually effortless.

And that's why my blog sucks so bad.

If I want to write something that's even the slightest bit decent, then I just freak out. I have to be away from everyone and away from my life--I have to go to another place. That's my process. I can avoid the blanket thing if I can pretend I am not me and escape everyone who knows me. And turn off my phone and have no internet.

Then I get into a crazy fugue state but I can sort of write in that state.

Writing has to be painful. I don't think there is a painless way to write, unless you just blather and produce utter garbage (see my blog for examples).
November 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterozma
Clearly, you are in need of a snuggie. That will solve many of your problems including leaving your arms free for typing OR for shoving food into your mouth. Wait, what? I'm the only one who will find anything and everything to eat when faced with a writing assignment? Ok then.

I once ate a plate of clams and a slice of pizza while trying to get out a paragraph. Your process is so much healthier.
November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
Writing deadlines, I can't seem to master yet.

Photo deadlines? I listen to Billy Joel. It's the weirdest fricking thing.
November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAimee Greeblemonkey
Thank you! I am not alone, or crazy, or maybe just not alone. I do so much of what you and your commenters describe. Maybe now I won't feel like a fraud when I call myself a writer...
November 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermerlotmom
Alice (and everyone!),

THANK YOU for posting about your writing struggles, er, I mean process. This was super timely for me!

I'm studying to be an English teacher, and I'm working on a project right now about real writers' writing processes. My theory is basically that it's important for students to know how "real" writers write.

(I think students have a tendency to believe that one is either a "natural" writer or isn't, and of course they think that they aren't. Or they think there's something they "just don't get." So I think it's important to introduce students to different "real" writers processes (some write at night, some during the day; some wait for inspiration, some sit down and just start typing). Even "real" writers aren't necessarily even good writers on the first draft!)

So thank you again, all, and best of luck with your procrastinating!
November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Your process and what Anne Lamott describes in Bird by Bird (best book EVER about writing and not so bad about life, either)sound remarkably similar but she thinks more about orthodontia. I like to indulge in productive procrastination: clean every corner, decide that today I must find shelf paper for the cupboards (unpapered for roughly 8 years), match all the lone socks...only THEN can I get started. Usually just about in time to have to stop and go pick up kids from school.
November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdeborahlquinn
I know, "process" sounds like bullshit, right? Like something someone says to make you feel better about what is really procrastination and crazy self-deprecation. But it is a real thing. We tend not to give ourselves credit for anything other than (good) pages produced. Recognizing that there is a process, and that it too is work, is critical to taking yourself serious as a writer. I'm an academic, and it's been freeing to acknowledge the process as part of the work and not to fight it or judge it too much.
December 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaza

It really really have fun while reading your blog,, blog??? or a kind of confession well I like both , I know you can overcome your feeling and I thank you for sharing kind of nice blog and I'm inspire.. good luck!! and GOD BLESS>

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