Recently a busy friend of mine published a list of reasons she doesn’t always answer e-mail right away. Sometimes she doesn’t answer e-mail at all, which means she gets a ton of follow-up e-mail. She doesn’t answer that either.
She’s the editor of a national magazine. Her list of reasons for e-mail evasion includes everything from “I’m on deadline for a guest blog” to “I’m in a meeting” (she uses this second reason frequently).
During my own big jobs or writing projects, I might stay incommunicado like my friend. The largest endeavors are like carrying a child to term. In fact, when finishing books, I find nine months can come and go and then extend another four or more. The only way back into the world of normal living is to finish what we’ve started and send the baby out into the world.
If I don’t respond to e-mail, or if I don’t seem to manage anything-else and am generally missing, it’s because I am:
1. Revising page 54 of my book manuscript.
2. Letting G.P. the cat back inside after she’s slept on the porch for three hours.
3. Revising page 117 of my book manuscript.
4. Eliminating one of the book’s characters, which means revising the entire manuscript from page 1 to 312.
5. Looking at my cell phone when it buzzes, seeing a number I don’t recognize on caller I.D., and tossing the phone aside.
6. Typing like a madwoman to meet a deadline on another assignment I accepted long ago, assuming I’d be done with my book manuscript by now.
7. Revising page 6 of my book manuscript.
8. Realizing with despair that the climactic scene of the book is all wrong.
9. Gnashing my teeth (see #8, above).
10. Rewriting from page 218 (the climax) to the end of the book manuscript (see #8, above).
11. Canceling reservations for a weekend trip for the third time this year because I’m not done with my book manuscript.
12. Revising the last line of my book manuscript.
13. Going back to revise the first line (see #12, above).
14. Responding to a call from my 91-year-old father’s caregiver saying he’s (1) putting on his shoes to walk two miles to the Chevy dealer to order a new set of car keys, (2) getting another suspicious call asking him to turn on his computer so it can be “repaired remotely,” or (3) wondering what to do with the bank statements that just came by mail.
15. Calling my 91-year-old father to assure him I’ll be over later to help (1) find his car keys, (2) call in help from a reputable company to make sure nothing bad happened to his computer during the “remote repair,” and/or (3) pay his bills (see #14, above).
16. Revising page 82 of my book manuscript.
17. Feeling pretty good about the book manuscript.
18. Feeling pretty bad about the book manuscript (see #17, above).
19. Making sure the back-up function works on my computer.
20. Revising the last line of my book manuscript (see #12, above).
And so on.
With a nod to Mark Twain, if I’d known how much work writing a book or taking on another big project was going to be, I’d never have started in the first place. But the only way out is through–and for that I must stay missing.