And here we go — Day 1 of Megan Macedo’s annual writing challenge which I am this year joining for the fifth time.
As ever, a group of writers from across the world gets together to turn the prompts Megan gives us every day into something coherent enough to put out there. We all of us seem to forget from year to year how incredibly onerous this enterprise actually is, but somehow end up delivering the goods anyway, even if it does involve a fair bit of midnight oil burning.
You won’t see Megan’s prompts, just what I make of them within my theme which this year is 21 Days of The Crossing of Wires nested under the wider topic of ‘letters’.
And here comes my first sortie…
A bit over 18 months ago, I was asked to write a testimonial for a website.
Nothing remotely complex, challenging, controversial or otherwise out of the ordinary about this modest everyday email request: it was for someone I really like, someone whose work I respect and admire, and I already knew what I was going to say.
So why did it take me from June 2020 to February 2022 to actually do it?
Other than taking this business owner’s invitation to come back to her ‘whenever you are ready’ way, way, way too literally, I really don’t know though I’m now going to have a go at unpicking it because, of course, this was not the first time I’ve witnessed my own extreme slippage.
What I do know is that Megan’s writing challenge prompt for the day lurched me into action. I knew in an instant that this was what I was going to write about and I also knew I had to write the testimonial first.
So I did. Job done. Took me 15 minutes. Well, 18 months and 15 minutes.
Between first getting the business owner’s request and now, I had responded a couple of times. The first time I apologised for not getting back to her sooner; the second time I apologised somewhat more profusely along similar lines. And then, well, the task attached itself to my digital to-do list and just got shunted from day to day, then week to week, then month to month, and then — shamefully — year to year.
I have done the same in other contexts, personal as well as professional. For example, I regularly put off responding to a family member in Australia who doesn’t use the internet, using the excuse that I ‘don’t have time right now’ to print out a letter, put it in an envelope, and take it to the post office. The ratio of his letter input to my letter output must be at least 15:1, but while that leaves me with an undertow of guilt and obligation I frequently still allow the ‘reply to Oz cousin’ item on my list to shuffle off into the future.
My writing challenge theme this year is The Crossing of Wires, and looked at in this context it feels like the wires in question all reside inside my own head. They are located at the not particularly sweet spot where intent meets resistance meets procrastination meets justification — and I genuinely don’t know if this is an affliction unique to me or whether everyone experiences it in one form or another.
It probably does however explain why external deadlines work so well for me, why I am drawn to them in a slightly unnerving and pavlovian way, and why you generally only see anything appear in this blog when I’m frantically responding to one!
Image: My actual Todoist to-do list today before I had the colossal satisfaction of crossing that item off the list…