It was James Joyce who said the trick of writing a good novel is
simply applying the seat of one's pants to the seat of one's chair.
That's what I read when I googled "inspirational literary quotes"
rather than adding to the fifty eight thousand words which had
become something of a static tally
at the bottom of my screen.
I clicked back onto the document and stared at the stuborn
chapter which I couldn't seem to grab by the throat and finish. I
sighed, and wondered if another cup of strong coffee would help
me work into the night.
Within thirty seconds I was googling "caffeine addiction", and five
minutes after that I was in the kitchen creating a new sandwich as
an experiment to try to get into the psyche of my main
protagonist who, it turned out, had a rather peckish outlook on
I had tried self help books and time-management gurus. I flirted
with a life coach for a short while and tried rewarding myself with
chocolate each time I finished a chapter. None of it worked. I still
couldn't reach sixty thousand words without getting sidetracked
"Maybe I'm just not destined to finish this work," I thought as I
used the halfbakery as another avoidance tactic. "Maybe some
things are best left undone."
There was a knock at the door, which was strange as I wasn't
expecting anyone. I didn't recognise the girl waiting on the porch.
She told me she was Daphne, and looked taken aback when I
looked blankly at her.
"The procrastination doctor?"
I stared at her. In truth I'd forgotten about her. She was supposed
to have shown up a week last Tuesday.
"Last Tuesday?" she said, her eyes widening slightly. "Really? Boy,
where does the time go?"
I asked her if she had a business card I could keep hold of. She
told me that she did. At least, she had a design all made up and
ready for the printer. Well, an idea for a design, at least.
"I'll write my number down on a piece of paper for you in a while,"
she said. "No rush, eh?"
I told her about the problem with my manuscript. Explained how I
simply couldn't finish putting the words onto the page. She said
she could help, but before we went inside she noticed the stars.
Brightest she'd ever seen, she reckoned.
She wanted paying up front, or in a bit, once we had looked
through the writing. Or later. At some point though would be
good. I was lucky, she said, because she'd been meaning to put the
prices up for ages.
It was getting cold. I wanted to get inside.
"I love nights like this" she told me. "You know, when you can
see your breath in front of your face."
She put two fingers in front of her face and blew out, pretending
to smoke like we did when we were kids. Told me she knew a
great pub for weather like this. The windows looked like Christmas
cards, she said. She planned to open her own bar, one day.
"But I need to write," I told her. "Writers write."
It was a Steven King quote I had googled just before the James
Joyce one. I told her that if I went to the pub, I'd never get to
sixty thousand words, and I'd probably put the manuscript into a
bottom draw and never look at it again.
"Nonsense," she said. "You can edit it on a mobile phone these
days. I've got an app for that."
"Really?" I asked. "So we could go to the pub and edit my work?"
She fumbled about in her pocket and found her phone. She started
swishing through it and muttering to herself. Apparently she'd
meant to download it last week from the app-store but hadn't
quite gotten around to it. She really was truly bloody hopeless.
She was wasting my time.
"We'll be back by ten" she told me, although she hadn't quite
found time to pick up a timetable so she wasn't sure what time
the last train was.
That was the last straw. I told her I didn't need her help. I closed
the door on her, confident that I wasn't the most ineffectual
human being on the planet after all.
I missed a step as I passed the kitchen, wondering whether to pop
some corn to chew on while I typed, but I decided against it.
Instead I went back to the study, clicked my knuckles, and started