Waterworth Writes: Getting Back on Track

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know I generally publish on Tuesday, which, by all accounts, was yesterday.  I know this because I own a calendar.  My phone is backing the calendar up, so I’m inclined to accept this as fact.  It is, indeed, Wednesday.  And I am late.

I used to have a very anally retentive, stick-up-the-ass attitude about this: I am late, therefore I am a walking disaster.  

But, I learned a lot of things in 2020.  I learned that life is unpredictable, events are sometimes unexpected, and you can really only ever do your best.  Do I still want to make these deadlines?  Of course.  Do I punch myself in the eye when I don’t?  Nah, just a bit in the arm, where no one can see.

I am still learning to give myself grace and to accept it from others.  

I’m not perfect.  In fact, I’m excessively imperfect.  But I’m trying, and I think that’s really all there is.  If you fail a lot, well, no one is going to count on you for anything, but if you fail here and there, I think that’s just part of being alive.  Or that’s what living through a global health crisis has taught me, anyway.

Getting Back on Track: The How To Edition

Writers like me, formerly anal and now a little less so, have a serious skill to master in order to achieve proper ascendency.  That would be just how to put the wheels back on the car without making an ass of yourself.  I know you’re there.  I’m you, remember?

It does you no good to waste time sniveling, begging for forgiveness, or otherwise lowering yourself for a job that hates you and would replace you in an instant if it weren’t so damn expensive and unpredictable to hire new writers.  All you can do is grow some self-esteem and move forward.

I’m gonna walk you through this like you’re a child.  Please take notes.

  1. Assess Your Surroundings.  So, you’ve woken up in a plague-riddled snow-bound Hellscape?  The first thing you’ve got to do is get your bearings.  Is your client located in an affected area?  If so, they’re far more likely to understand your predicament.  If not, you need to gather supplies and form a strategy to get your feet back underneath you sooner rather than later.
  2. Send an Email.  You can do this from your phone, so there’s zero excuse to not be in contact if you’re about to fuck up, or have already fucked up and are trying to get your life back on track.  Shoot your client an email.  Explain the situation without being a soft-jawed, simpering cretain.  Just the facts.  Look, there are 100 inches of snow, frozen zombies have shut my power off, and I have to deal with this.  I’ll be back in touch ASAP.
  3. Redefine Expectations.  Depending on how that email went, it’s a good idea to redefine their expectations.  They thought you’d be delivering on Thursday by 4?  HAHAHAHAHAHA.  No, really, though, that’s hilarious.  Instead, tell them there’s no way that’s happening, given the zombie situation and how winter is actually here, rather than just coming, and although things are twitchy today, you anticipate that delivery by the following Thursday may be possible.  Do not commit wholly if reality is slippery, and if you must, give yourself ample time to really fuck up, because it’s bound to get worse.
  4. Take Care of Life Stuff.  Life Stuff is in the way right now.  It’s plugging up your writing pores.  You can’t think around it, let alone attempt to describe all the greatest features of a certain vehicle manufacturer’s latest line of subcompact cars.  You need room in your head.  You can get this by dropping the writing stuff and taking care of the shit that’s immediately in the way.  Go shotgun those ice zombies.  Call an electrician to repair the damage they left behind.
  5. When the Dust Settles, Find Your Calm.  Calm is the key to writing.  No one can create effective words if their brains are mad with chaos.  I know, because my brain is often full of bees.  The trick is to let the bees relax a bit after you’ve done all the running about, then write as hard as you can go.  You can catch up, you can find that vibe, but you have to start with some peace.  When the bees are sweetly purring, rather than angrily buzzing, you’re good to go.
  6. Make Them Words, Bitch.  This is the last and most important step.  Falling asleep at your desk, near a keyboard, is not the same as actually working.  Write the words.  Write with abandon.  Write glamorous things about those subcompact cars, make them the best little bitty teeny cars in the world.  Dance across the keys.  And for fuck’s sake, don’t stop until you’re ready to drop because that peace can be hard to find.

Life is a Series of Constant Derailments and Setbacks

Look, I don’t want to sound like an asshole here, but the truth is that life is just a series of derailments and setbacks.  There’s other stuff, but there’s a lot of these.  Anyone who hasn’t experienced either hasn’t really lived, so you might want to check them for a pulse.  Real life, where people exist, is just a pile of challenges and experiences you’re not really sure you want to have, but you get to have them anyway.  Life doesn’t so much march forward as it thrusts you into the unknown on a conveyor belt.

And sometimes, work gets caught up in that shit.  And it sucks.  It really does.  You only have two real options when you get off track: you can give up or you can straighten your shit and show back up.  You can do your best and hope people recognize it.  And if they don’t, poke around until you find someone who does.  Most people are assholes who don’t know the good stuff when they see it anyway.

In the immortal words of Chumbawamba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You are never gonna keep me down.”  However, they were also exceptionally intoxicated in the lyrics of that song, so your mileage may vary.

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