My editor rang yesterday and I cringed when I saw her number appear on my iPhone.
It wasn’t because Kristy is a horrible person – she is in fact, completely awesome. But I knew she’d ask about my editing and I would have to tell the truth…that I had barely started.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve been working on a memoir for a few years now. I’m currently in the home stretch – I just need to finish editing and then publish it. All the words are there. They just need (as Kristy puts it) ‘a little tweaking’.
But I’ve been stuck for a couple of months.
I could give you a few reasonably valid reasons for my inertia during this time. For example, there’s my recovery from a break-up and another writing project I started just before New Years that now sits at 43,000 words and counting. I could tell you that my spiritual work has been increasing every day. Or I could say that a myriad of other ‘life’ things and work commitments have just got in the way and kept me busy.
All of these things would be true. But they don’t touch on the three real reasons on why I haven’t finished my first book.
I’ve been hiding from the editing because, being a memoir, some of the content is still a little sensitive and I have to be brave and look at myself honestly when I revisit it. I have to be willing to truly face and accept my demons when I re-read my words.
Secondly, I worry that my words will never be good enough and it will be criticised as self-indulgent claptrap. I know this fear is not unique to me, every author has it at some point. Nevertheless, it sits between me and the finish line.
Thirdly (and this is the big one), I’m not great at self-accountability. I can meet deadlines brilliantly for other people but my personal ones often go swishing past with no actual delivery. Is it about putting other people first? Partly. Is it about not having enough faith in myself to actually finish? Most definitely.
Sometimes I’m just brilliant at getting in my own way.
Yesterday I decided to try a different approach and get some support to get things done!
As Kristy, by her own confession, suffers from similar personal roadblocks, we decided to make an Accountability Pact. We each decided on two goals we were going to reach this month and committed to achieving them. We will meet at the end of March, in person, and if we haven’t achieved our goals we’ll have to explain why. I’ve even suggested that if this doesn’t work, we could implement consequences for failing to deliver in future months.
It’s only day two but so far we’re both off to a great start and have been sharing our achievements. And, if all goes well, I will have my book edited by the end of the month.
The Accountability Pact isn’t only about achieving goals. It’s about having someone out there who will cheer you on and help you celebrate when you reach a milestone. Even more importantly, it’s about someone helping you to get out of your own way.
A couple of months ago my friend Deanna* suggested I try a dating website her friends were using.
As most of you know, my previous online dating adventures haven’t ended well (see http://wp.me/pirqj-1m for the time I fled out the back door of a restaurant to escape my date). So I understandably reticent.
But Deanna* said her friends were actually scoring some good quality dates so I thought, “What the heck!”
I registered, drafted a few sentences for my profile, answered some questions and uploaded my photo.
The deed was done and I sat back to await contact from men who were ‘good quality dating material’.
The site automatically matches you with suitable partners. Well, that’s what they claim. I can’t say that I saw much evidence of it.
Within a day I’d received messages from a few men saying, “Hello!”
Well, sort of.
The messages were not so much “hello” as bad corny pick up lines and some really inappropriate comments.
Some of the highlights (and I use that term very loosely) were, “Hi queen, i think my eyes are stuck..cos i just can’t get em off you…” and “howdy there ma’am…how is thou doin?”
The lowlight was the man calling himself Tofu… who greeted me with “omg can I totally suck ur toes please…”
There were also approaches from men looking for polyamorous relationships. I have no idea what part of my profile indicated that I’d like to join their private harems.
And the things other men said they’d like to do on public transport were quite obscene.
There were messages from some men who appeared to be relatively normal. Donny* mentioned he needed a ‘sleep fan’ to sleep at night. But when I asked, “Wouldn’t that just give you a head cold all year round?” he didn’t respond.
I’m guessing I blew my chances by being a little cheeky (my sincere apologies to all the sleep fan devotees out there).
After a few weeks it seemed that Donny was the best of the lot.
There were other men who sent messages but it was clear from their profiles that we had little in common so I didn’t respond.
One of these guys, Mickey*, was only 24 years old. I didn’t respond because I’d made it clear that my preferred age group was 34+. I figured, why waste time for both of us and he clearly didn’t read my profile.
Anyway, evidently he got sick of waiting for a response or somehow knew that I’d deleted his message because, two days later Mickey sent me a one-word email. It just said, “bitc!h”.
I guess we know why he’s single.
I deactivated my profile the next day.
My score for quality dates was zero. But the site did provide me with some amusement, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
My search for love continues…and no, you cannot suck my toes.
One of the most difficult things about writing a memoir is rediscovering the things you have tried hard to forget.
And when your memoir is focused on your love life, well, let’s just say some of the moments you uncover definitely make you uncomfortable.
I wouldn’t say I regret some of the things I’ve done. But I do look back and think, ‘Oh my God, did I really do that?’
Did I really have a fling with a guy who later turned up to work with a mo-hawk? Did I really make a pass at my boss? Did I really obsess about that guy for more than a year and think about putting notes on the windscreen of his car?
And did I really tolerate truly appalling behaviour from men who clearly did not deserve my consideration in any way?
The answer to all these questions and many more, is a resounding yes. Oh my, the physical cringing I feel as I write this. It makes me shudder.
But, there is one thought that comforts me. That is the knowledge that most people have similar cringe-worthy skeletons in their closets. If you have lived life then you have definitely had experiences (let’s not call them mistakes) and they have made you what you are. You just wouldn’t want them plastered on the front page of The Courier-Mail.
We do usually learn from our ‘experiences’ and evolve accordingly. But, sometimes you only realise how much you’ve grown when you look back at your past.
Today I had coffee with a colleague I knew years ago. I can still remember us both sitting there at our desks, slightly tearful as we navigated the trauma of recent breakups. We were not in the best emotional shape. Actually, I was a basket-case and she was little better.
But today we are in very different places. She’s happily married to a wonderful man she met on-line and I am the happiest I can ever remember being. I guess we’ve both learned a thing or two.
So, although I sit here cataloguing my experiences and cringing at the embarrassing activities of my past I know there has been a reason for it all.