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Going for the Green by Tom King
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Monday, February 11, 2013
The Writer's Life: Dusting
My wife wants me to "dust" my desk. Okay, so I dust my desk. I pick everything up that's on it. Dust. Then put everything carefully back in place where it was - where I wanted it to be.
"This is not dusting," she complains. "Why don't you put everything away?"
"Because I want it on the desk?"
"Because I'm working on it."
"It's been there for days."
"No it hasn't."
"There's always a pile of papers and stuff on your desk. It never goes away."
"That's because when I get rid of stuff to do, more stuff comes along to take it's place. It's what Hemingway called "A Moveable Feast".
"So now you're Hemingway."
"I could be if I could quit all this dusting and get back to work."
"Well, why don't you start on that pile of papers?" Because I don't have time to do them."
"You could at least file them."
"If I do that, I'll forget about them and they'll never get done."
"Then maybe they didn't need to be done in the first place."
"Oh, they need to be done and if I don't do them, I'll just have more to do later."
"Then why don't you get them done NOW."
"I have deadlines."
"How long would it actually take to pick up a bill, look at it and then ignore it?"
"Ha, ha!" I lean back in my chair and make a feeble attempt to look wise. "You just don't understand about sequences."
"Yes. Sequences. First identified in Patrick McManus' pivotal book "The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw", the problem of sequences occurs because any task you do is interlinked with so many other tasks that accomplishing anything at all takes a great deal of time."
"At least you're quoting successful authors when you're being obtuse."
"No, hear me out. Let's say, I pick up this item from my desk." I reach down and select a random scrap of paper - in this case a book on panic disorder by Dr. Shahidul Islam. "I am using this book as a reference source for an article I'm writing on panic disorder. In order to put it away, I have to finish the article. It's got to be 25,000 words long, so it may take me a couple of days to complete.
"Okay, what about the book you wrote about golf?"
"What about it?"
"We all know you wrote a book about golf."
"Charity golf tournaments," I interrupted.
"I stand corrected," she plowed on. "You don't need to leave it out on the desk to remind us. So why do you need that on your desk?"
"I need to select memorable quotes from it for my author's webpage on Goodreads."
"You have memorable quotes?"
"I'm sure I can find some."
"And you have an author's page?"
"Because I haven't made it yet?"
"Well when are you going to make it?"
"As soon as I get the time."
"Why not now?" she demanded. "It's not like you're doing anything else."
"I have to look up all my biographical information."
"Can't you get it off that job resume' you were telling me you were sending out last summer?"
"It's out of date. I have to update some things."
"So update it."
"I can't. I'm working on my panic disorder ebook."
"Well then put the golf book away till you need it."
"If I did that, I'd forget to make my author's web page!"
"Then it must not be important if you'd forget about it."
"Of course it's important. It's how I promote my book?"
"How many copies did you sell last quarter?"
"And you made how much money?"
"$20.57 - that's why I need to be sure and get my author page done. I read yesterday that an author page is very important and effective as a marketing tool."
"So why don't you do that first so you can start selling books."
"Because I need to do my panic disorder book first."
"Because it pays when I finish it. The marketing stuff won't pay off for months. We need money now."
"Okay, I get that. So why the three pill bottles on top of your panic disorder 'reference' book?"
"I need to reorder your anti-anxiety medication first."
"I might not need anti-anxiety medication it if you'd finish your panic disorder book and clean your desk off?"
"Oh, you'd need it alright!" I shot back.
I don't remember much for several hours after that.* When I came to, the desk was cleaned off. Now I can't remember what I was doing. I have to remember not to get into these kinds of philosophical debates when my Sweet Baboo is holding a broom and standing behind me. I'll just put a note on top of my new "to do" pile.
Tom (at least I think that's my name. It's written on my underwear in any case.)
*No writers were actually harmed in the making of this (sort of) fictional piece, although I'm sure the temptation was there..
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain