Sunday, April 09, 2006

Writing a long and convoluted feature story is amazingly like taking an exam, I have discovered in the course of a long and illustrious career. There’s all the build-up, the talking to a million people, doing research that seems worthy of a Ph D thesis, getting different perspectives and wondering what angles to take… it’s all so much like the last-minute scramble for notes before an exam and the actual sitting down to do the mugging that I am a complete nervous wreck by the time it comes to actually writing the damn story.

It’s not quite surprising, considering I tie myself into knots about something as simple as getting clothes stitched by the tailor or having a haircut. Needless to say, exams used to turn me into a quivering mass of jelly-like substance, and I have never felt happier than on the day I answered the last exam of my life. Actually it was a bit flat, as such much anticipated moments are wont to be, but on hindsight it was quite the happiest day of my life, completely surpassing other momentous occasions such as topping a subject in the 10th boards or the day I got married (oh, by far. In fact, that had a rather exam-y feeling too).

I sit on the computer on a Sunday afternoon while the world frolics, goes out to lunch and plans a nice evening out with friends, digressing into writing a blog post in spite of the distinct fluttery feeling running up and down my middle that comes from the knowledge that sooner or later I will HAVE to turn to that MS Word document containing exactly 212 words of the story I started writing this morning. And finish it.

My research is complete and rather thorough, even if I say so myself, I have all the facts arranged quite neatly in my head, and I have even gone to the rather uncharacteristically methodical length of arranging all the quotes in a separate document for quick and efficient reference. Now all that’s left to do is put it all together.

Friends call and I lament about the situation, they tut-tut knowingly and suggest various remedies—go for a walk, take a nap, SIT DOWN AND FINISH IT OFF. Meanwhile, I slowly learn to live with the fluttery sensation, wonder how bad it would be if I wasn’t able to produce the story at all (I mean, they WOULD manage somehow, no?) and tell myself ‘this time tomorrow, it’ll be done’.

And instead of doing something to further this cause, I read another chapter of Down Under by B Bryson which manages to distract me for a bit but not as thoroughly as I would have wished, play endless games of Minesweeper, pounce upon the phone when it rings, glad for the legitimate distraction it provides. And sit down and write a post for a blog I blithely ignore most of the time.

No, no, no, this will just not do.


At April 09, 2006 5:55 PM, Blogger Jabberwock said...

Heck, I can relate to almost everything here. That exhortation to "SIT DOWN AND FINISH IT OFF" never works - I'm always thinking and thinking and thinking about what I'm going to write instead of actually just writing it.

When the deadline is really close and I have to get pro-active, I often just blindly transcribe every single note I've taken, from every interview - just one random, meaningless, unstructured mess of quotes - and then sit down to make sense of it at the last possible minute.

And all this sometimes applies to long blog posts as well. You're lucky you can at least write those painlessly.

At April 10, 2006 2:39 AM, Blogger Draconian Devil said...

Very well said. The most amusing thing when this happens is that you solemnly swear to yourself that this is NOT going to happen again. That, next time the deadline is going to be met with prompt alacrity and you'll save yourself from this drudgery. Alas, there you are again- slogging away to glory the next time and each time after that.

And most people can relate to what you just went through.( I hope the story is over by now).This tendency to procrastinate is universal, I guess. Unless you are one of those terribly irritating ones who have that disgraceful penchant of having everything in readiness light years beforehand, and breathing down your necks, reminding you of your ineptitude.

At April 10, 2006 9:42 AM, Blogger Priya said...

Sweety, are you sure, your spirit wasn't in my body, in some vague previous life of mine? Too many tings in common. I can identify with every nano feeling, only that I don't end up blogging.
And, TODAY, I'm again being forced(these godawful training programmes) to sit for an exam where the pass mark is 70%. You can't imagine the knots, crosses and butterflies running amok inside my tummy. I HATE exams and I HATE being forced.

At April 10, 2006 12:47 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

O goody...

I was loving that read, till it gave me a feeling that I have something pending too. Don't tell me you've finished yours

At April 10, 2006 1:43 PM, Blogger Ron said...

So did you finish the article finally?

At April 12, 2006 1:55 AM, Blogger Nirvana said...

Alright. So it's not just me. I have been pondering about writing a book. I think endlessly. I even told myself, via my blog of course, that I need to stop thinking and start doing. All the material is in my head. First I need to stop believing that there is order in chaos.

At April 12, 2006 9:07 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Jabberwock: That is very good advice, about blindly transcribing every word of copious notes. At least one would feel one is doing something other than hyperventilating. Next time.

D Devil: That's very true, what you say about the Super Efficient. A race i avoid like the plague.

Priya: I am beginning to think so too :D

PP, Ron: Finished and duly mauled.

Nirvana: With a name like that, you worry about such trivial stuff? Tch tch.

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