“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams, in The Salmon of Doubt
Procrastination isn’t quite the same thing as inertia, but close enough, right? Objects in motion or at rest have inertia, the tendency to keep on exactly as they are unless something interferes. People (and for all I know, animals and plants) can be physically inert, and they can also be mentally and/or emotionally inert, but toss a deadline or some other time-related factor that should ideally interfere with inertia into the equation, and we get procrastination. That resistance to getting moving or changing direction in order to get something done on time is thus a natural desire to remain inert.
Okay, my attempt to equate inertia and procrastination is pretty weak. We can procrastinate in one area and merrily charge ahead or from side to side in several others at the same time. Procrastination is selective inertia, the reluctance to move forward in some areas rather than others, even when what we’re avoiding is more important than what we’re doing instead. We can even want very much to accomplish a thing, or at least to have accomplished it, and still get bogged down in trivia. Determinedly, even obsessively, bogged down.
Yes, I admit it. When I say “we” procrastinate, I mean “I” procrastinate. I’m not even talking about procrastination with regard to things I don’t want to do, like housework or difficult phone calls, but about what all of us here do want to do, which is to write. I know I’m not the only one, but I may be among the worst. If it weren’t e-mail and Facebook and endless “research,” it would be something else. No deadline looms with enough threat to get me focused on dealing with it until it’s very nearly too late, and sometimes it really is too late. As an editor, I haven’t yet failed to meet a contracted deadline for turning in an anthology manuscript, but neither have I managed it much before midnight on the final day. As a writer, I often miss deadlines, although I sometimes make good start when it’s too late, and if, as sometimes happens, a deadline is extended (I don’t ask for extensions myself) I can come through at the last minute. If not, well, I have a good start, and may manage to finish the next time a suitable market comes along. This is not, I know, how a professional writer behaves, and I feel guilty about it, but guilt isn’t enough to counter my inertia.
On the plus side (clutching at straws here,) as an editor I’m sympathetic to writers who ask for extensions, and in fact I figure time for that into my schedule (but don’t tell anybody or they may count on it.) Sometimes the stories I get that way are among the very best. There’s a good chance that someone who asks for an extension has finally got well underway with an idea worth pursuing, and inertia is no longer a factor. Most submissions arrive in the last couple of weeks before my deadline, which makes me a bit nervous as the time approaches, but I regard it as good planning. I’m absolutely in awe of those few who send me really fine work within the first couple of weeks, clearly written specifically for my theme (unlike the flurry of quick submissions just as clearly written unsuccessfully for some other anthology, although some of those turn out to be quite good.)
I hoped that by the time I got this far tonight (why yes, I procrastinated until Sunday night for my Monday post) I’d have come up with a graceful segue into mention of my two current Calls for Submission, but I’m coming up empty (as I so richly deserve) so I’ll get right to it. Let’s just think of this as a substitute for a story excerpt, since I can’t think of a story about inertia. It’s hard to make characters subject to inertia interesting to read about. In any case, here are links to my two sets of guidelines. No, wait, I’ll include one here in its entirety, and link to the other. Yes, procrastination can rattle the mind.
Here’s the one of most potential interest to erotica writers:
Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire: Lesbian Historical Military Erotica (Working Title)
Edited by Sacchi Green
Published by Lethe Press
More than six hundred women—most likely many more—passed as men to fight in the American Civil War, and that’s not counting the nurses and spies. In WWI women served as nurses and ambulance drivers, and in Russia Maria Boskareva’s Women’s Battalion of Death was not the only group of female fighters. By WWII women were ferrying fighter planes in the US and the UK, and in Russia the “Night Witches” flew bombers. For the nurses and WACs in the Korean and Vietnam Wars the front lines were everywhere, and the “long-haired army” on the Viet Cong side fought al least as fiercely as any men.
Give me stories about passionate women finding each other amidst the storm of war, coming together for comfort, driven by adrenaline and hormones, hurling their pleasure into the teeth of mortality. From the nurses with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea to those with MASH units in Korea and Vietnam, from female soldiers taking shelter behind stone walls at Chancellorsville to French Resistance operatives trysting behind haystacks in Normandy, from any military conflict anywhere between 1850 and the 1970s, find a period you can be passionate about, research it until you know it more intimately than you remember yesterday, and write characters and a plot and fiery sex that can sweep readers right along with them. Diversity of characters is more than welcome.
I’ll only be taking a few stories from each time period, sometimes even just one, so feel free to tell me what you’re working on so I can tell you whether too many others are doing something similar. Inquiries are advisable, but not mandatory. Historical accuracy counts, and so do originality and intensity and all those elements we need to see in the best erotic fiction. Give me brief encounters or lifetime commitments even when life is in the balance; desperate embraces or dark humor; whatever your characters need to get them through the night, and through the war. Know your history as well as your characters, and write a story as intriguing as it is steamy.
The preferred story length is between 3000 and 6000 words. Payment will be from $50 to $150, depending on length, and two copies of the paperback. The deadline is April 30, 2015. Queries are welcome; contact me at email@example.com
Here’s where to find the other one, which is romance, not erotica, but still with historical elements:
Now I have to overcome inertia and get myself off to bed. I have a couple of difficult phone calls to make early in the morning, and procrastination is not an option.
This is not, I know, how a professional writer behavesReplyDelete
If you take a survey, you might find that it is! (:v>
I guess this is as good or as bad a place as any to link to my old song lyrics about inertia. (Yes, I was the Ogden Nash of twee-pop music.)
Oh, I forgot the recording is also online:Delete
Love it! If only I'd known in time I could have filled my own post by quoting you! (And paying you royalties, of course.)Delete
I love it. Not everyone can rhyme "wiser" and "incisor"!Delete
Thanks, Lisabet! Believe it or not, before we recorded the song I actually phoned the Ogden Nash expert in the Little, Brown editorial offices to verify that I hadn't unintentionally plagiarized the "wiser"/"long in the incisor" rhyme from the master. (This was 1995, when you could still actually get a big-house editor on the phone.)Delete
I was blown away by the "wiser" "incisor" rhyme, too. Brilliant! Good thing Ogden Nash can't steal it from you, now. Well, not a good thing that he's not around, but you know what I mean.Delete
Hmmm... You say-ReplyDelete
It’s hard to make characters subject to inertia interesting to read about.
Inertia goes both ways. A character running out of control is also dealing with inertia.
You're quite right, Daddy X. I should have said that it's hard for me write such characters, which would only mean that I don't recall having done it yet, so I didn't have an excerpt in mind to share, whether my owner from someone else.Delete
And then, of course, while I was trying to get to sleep, I suddenly thought, "Hamlet!"
Jeremy seems to be suggesting that you may be too hard on yourself, and I agree. I think all writers deal with procrastination—and other things in the constellation. While I definitely have experiences of straight-out procrastination, one thing that's helped me is to acknowledge that part of it is my writing process. If you've ever read a book called "If You Want to Write," Brenda Ueland calls it moodling. I think of it as giving my brain time to run processes. I think it's only in our hearts that we can know the difference between procrastinating and letting the mental gears perform necessary motions. But when I'm in the "moodling" phase, what I try to do is sit in it and fully embrace it. What screws me up is when I start filling the time with busy work or taking on other engaging, distracting things. I think some amount of sitting and staring out the window or taking walks or whatever is part of producing thoughtful work.ReplyDelete
Anyway, whenever you talk about your thoughts and feelings as an editor, I'm humbled by the care you take with your writers and approach to the whole process.
I must say, Sacchi, that when it comes to the results of your anthologies, or your stories, the procrastination doesn't show.ReplyDelete
You touch on the strange unwillingness we feel about just sitting down and writing. I definitely suffer from that emotion, and to be honest I don't fully understand it. I love writing, or at least I love reading what I've written...;^) Yet sometimes it takes a heroic effort to just get started.
Maybe it's the anticipation of the work involve. I'm really not sure. But you are certainly not alone in these sentiments.
Argh. Work "involved".Delete