by Michael Dymmoch
…to avoid writing a thesis. At the time—40 years ago—writing a thesis seemed like an impossible task. All that research. All that writing. All those pages to fill. (With no Wikipedia or spell-checker!) I’d never written anything longer than a college term paper, and that was a month late because I kept putting it off. Doing a bit more research. Taking a few more notes. Tweaking the prose. Fortunately for me, I had an understanding instructor who accepted the late paper, even gave me an A-. (When she handed it back—with numerous spelling errors marked in black, she asked if I ever proof-read anything. My response surprised her: “Yeah, but if I misspell it in the first place, how would I recognize the error when I proof it?” She subsequently gave me a sweatshirt with the legend: BAD SPELLERS OF THE WORLD UNTIE!)
That was lucky. She was the first teacher who ever gave me the idea that I might be able to write, that I might even be good! But it was also unfortunate. I’d gotten away with procrastinating. In fact, all through college I put off writing papers until the night before they were due. And I got away with it. But the result was that a tremendous dread would set in whenever I got an assignment. And I’d procrastinate even more.
For a few years, I had a job writing meeting reports for a boss who, apparently, liked writing even less than I. He demanded that my work be done on schedule, and after a few all-nighters which left me half dead the next day, I learned to get it over with before the dreaded deadline. That discipline, and the excitement of telling stories that just had to be told, the peak experience of writing itself, carried me through nine novels.
But now that I’m my own boss, I seem to be relapsing. Putting off writing. Doing a bit more research. Taking a few more notes. Tweaking the prose. Procrastinating.
Before you say, “Nine novels is more than most people write. Why not just call it enough?” I have to point out that I can’t. I’m a writer. I have to write. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. Or writing about it. Or feeling guilty that I’m not doing it. And I agree entirely with Rita Mae Brown: I believe that after exhausting all other alternatives, I’ll behave reasonably. Which, for me, is sitting down to write.
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