My Skills Are Deteriorating

I started the month of January in a furious burst of typing, after spending the previous two months in diligent research.  There’s an upcoming submission opportunity for plays, and what the company in question is looking for happens to dovetail with an idea that had been kicking around my head last summer.  I found out about the opportunity quite by chance, and only a few months ago.  As I initially believed that the deadline for submissions was this Tuesday, February 1st, I spent the opening days of the month pounding away at my keyboard, desperately trying to finish on time.

After a week or two, I learned that I’d been slightly misinformed.  The theater was going to start accepting submissions on February 1st, but they’d be accepting those submissions throughout the month.  The actual deadline wasn’t until February 28th.  I breathed a sigh of life; heck,

I practically danced for joy around my apartment.  I had a whole additional month to work with.  An additional month to get the manuscript finished, certainly, but more importantly, an additional month in which to perform the most vial activity of all.

An additional month to procrastinate.

There’s not a writer alive who doesn’t do it, Constant Reader, who doesn’t doomscroll Twitter or watch cat videos or YouTube or do anything else while writing besides actually write.  Some would argue it’s necessary, to give one’s brain a chance to recharge and come back to a project afterwards with renewed clarity.  Whether that’s true or not, it can be productive in its own right – since I live alone, avoiding the writing I should be doing affords a wonderful chance to do the dishes or clean my bathroom.  I was positively giddy at my newfound freedom, dreaming of all the random tasks and meaningless diversions to distract me from my rough draft.

But I kept on working on the rough draft, kept on typing, a little bit each day.  And last week, I reached the end.  I didn’t actually type out “End of Play,” because that’s a sacred moment for when you’ve got something that you’re ready to send out, and what I had was a rough draft, full of plot holes and errors and general sloppiness.  That’s what I assumed, anyway, but over this past snowy weekend and I went back and looked at the draft.  It’s…not bad?  Possibly even good?  It needs clean-up, to be sure, and there’s some parts that should be elaborated upon and embellished – but if I absolutely had to send it out on Tuesday, I could.

I made the deadline.  The original deadline.

Which has me sitting in my apartment on this winter’s day, scratching my head and wondering, when the hell did I forget how to procrastinate?!

I mean, scrambling to race a deadline is a vital part of my identity.  I’m at my most creative in the dread-inspiring darkness just after midnight, facing down calamity if I don’t turn in something the next morning.  A few years ago, I found myself having to write the entire second act of a full length play in a marathon fourteen-hour binge the weekend before a submission deadline.  It’s a key part of the writer’s cultural heritage, that pit-in-the-stomach sensation we share with all the frantic scribblers who came before us.

Plus there’s tons of things to distract us these days.

And somehow, despite all that, I’m ahead of schedule?  While also working full time and running an ongoing reading series and trying to stay alive in the middle of a plague?!  How is that even possible?

Most of us have complained that the pandemic, in one way or another, has disrupted all of our routines and habits, and caused us to lose all sense of time.  I’m not sure this is quite what most people have in mind when they say that, however.

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