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The Struggles of “Catching Up”

Perhaps you recall the famous lines about “the best laid plans of mice and men.” Often, the flow of “normal” life events tends to discombobulate those plans, and “catching up” afterward often takes longer than we anticipate or hope.

Such has been the case with much of my summer this year. Summer is always busy with the added chores of increased yard work, especially if it’s a bit rainier than normal, but this year seemed abnormally busy. It began with our two-week trek to the Great American West, continued with long-term visits from various children and grandchildren, and wound down with another two-week trip to Southwest Florida, during all of which the e-mails piled up, alleviated only by several quick, minimal forays to respond to only the most urgent messages. Eventually, however, I had to deal with all of them.

My favorite key on my keyboard became the DELETE key! I found myself spending about two milliseconds deciding whether to keep or not to keep scads of e-mails. I found myself asking why I had ever subscribed to so many e-newsletters and blogs. Do I really need them? I reached the point of deleting without reading myriad essays on writing/editing and Southern history and from even one of my favorite bloggers, Sean of the South. Other e-mails I was able to hide in numerous e-mail files. (“Out of sight, out of mind!”) At least they no longer appear in my list of e-mails. Yesterday, I finally succeeded in clearing my in box.

What other responsibilities so demanded my attention that I had to resort to such drastic measures? The first was the arrival of the edited draft of my book manuscript. Since my editor was on a deadline, I had to put my review on a deadline. That review took top priority. I had to get it back to her so she could do the final read-through and keep the publication process on schedule.

Then there was the arrival of a book for which I had agreed to read and write a review. In all of the activities, I had forgotten that it was coming, but it was among the accumulated held mail when I returned from a trip and was already late. (I’m still trying to get that read between other tasks. One of these days I’ll actually get the review written.)

Then there were the in-service training sessions that were looming and fast approaching. (What?! Time for school again already?!) I had to create PowerPoint presentations for each of those sessions, and I’m not the greatest when it comes to PowerPoint, at least not in making the slides perform all the bells-and-whistles tricks people have come to expect. And I had to identify and obtain the prizes for the drawings I conduct during each session.

Then there was my publisher’s request to see the manuscript for my next book. It had been so long since I wrote the manuscript that I couldn’t remember if I had actually finished writing it all, so I had to go back and do a quick reading of it. Then I had to get it to the Acquisitions Department in a timely manner.

There’s more to writing than first meets the eye. And emergencies. And unplanned visitors. Or even planned ones! There is grass to mow and trim. Cars to maintain. Bills to pay. Things to do. Places to go. People to see. There’s life. And the noise, noise, noise, noise, noise!

This is not unique to me. Every writer faces these problems and interruptions and distractions. Maybe more than I face. And yet, the professionals, the true writers who must write regardless, always seem to get it done. It’s what they do. It’s who they are.

If you sometimes find yourself in the same boat, wondering how you’ll ever catch up and return to a “normal” state in which you can write, don’t despair. It just takes time. And setting realistic priorities. And “biting the bullet” to delete all those e-mails you’re so tempted to open and read.

Now that I’m caught up on the e-mail, I can settle down and do some serious writing.

What’s that my wife is saying? We have visitors coming for a long weekend?

Here we go again! It’s the “new normal.” Besides, it’s a couple of cute granddaughters who are visiting, so how bad can it be? I think I’ll take a break from my writing. I can always catch up later.

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