As the inimitable Eddie Izzard once said “The best laid plans of mice often go wrong.”
Yes she was making fun of Burns when she said that, and yes I’ve been waiting literal decades to use that quote in a serious sentence*, but her point, and Burns’ remains valid: small, squeaky, furry mammal or not, our best laid plans do all too aft gang very aglee indeed. Besides, this is probably going to be a very long and serious blog-post, so I wanted to start with a funny bit, even if I had to steal it.
In my case, you see, what ganged was my plan to write a blog post every week.
It was a good idea at the start: write something simple, something short, something that will keep you writing, and will let people see what you’re getting up to in the endless gulf between one book and the next.
What I failed to take into account were the facts that even the simplest ideas turn convoluted in my hands, that I am constitutionally incapable of ever shutting up, and that I hate letting a thing go before I think I’ve got it right. And also that what I was supposed to be getting up to was writing the next damn book.
Instead of dashing off something short and mildly amusing once a week then getting on with my life, I was spending hours every week fretting over long chaotic rambles that ultimately went nowhere, posting them, then fretting more because I didn’t think they were good enough. And that meant that I was focusing on my blog when I could have been focusing on my book.
The plan wasn’t working. It was all ganging horribly wrong. So I ditched it. It sounds so easy when I put it like that.
What actually happened was that I spent weeks fretting, struggling to write something good enough, just about getting a blog post posted by the end of Tuesday, and swearing to myself that I would write the thing in advance next week, so I wouldn’t have to go through all that again.
Except that by then I had lost so much writing time working on this wretched blog that I had to rush to catch up with writing my actual book, so all too soon Tuesday would roll around again and I’d be in the exact same position as before, scrabbling to produce something that I could post.
Something had to give. What finally gave was me.
It was a particularly hellish week, and a particularly awkward blog: I spent most of the day trying and failing to write something that sounded right, and every time I started to feel I was getting somewhere I was interrupted. They were tiny interruptions, and not unreasonable: could I help with this maths question? Could they borrow a ruler? Did I want a cup of tea? Could we talk about that thing I’d wanted to talk about last night? None of them were pointless, or distracted me for long, but every one pulled me away from my work just long enough to make me lose the thread. Four hours in, with barely anything, as it felt, worth reading, every word was like an iron nail in my head.
If I kept going like that I was going to snap. In fact I suspect that I had snapped, about three hours in, but had been so stressed and so intensely focused on the work that was going nowhere, that I hadn’t even noticed.
So I stopped. I closed the document, I posted an apologetic note on Twitter, saying that this week’s post had been postponed, I walked away from my laptop and I got on with my day.
The next day, during the time I usually put aside to do a little more work on my book, I finished the post. It wasn’t even hard.
I finished the post. I posted the post. And I sat there, with no time left for writing, and I knew what I had to do.
I didn’t want to do it: the original plan had been the suggestion of a beloved friend and pseudo-sister, and just thinking of changing it felt like I was letting her down. Besides, there’s something about changing plans, about giving something up in particular, that feels like failure. It feels like Not Meeting Expectations, like letting the side down, like failing a test.
But life isn’t a test, and when something isn’t working there’s nothing wrong with changing your plans.
I’ve changed plans before, when I had to: I’ve wittered here before about having an Official Writing Day, but when I had to drop my writing day to fit in a dance class I did it. I shuffled things around, I tried something else, and I kept going. And in fact I still managed to write something on my Official Writing Day after all. What mattered was that I didn’t have to do it.
So I’m changing this one too. Writing a post every week wasn’t working: it was interfering with my ability to write absolutely anything else every week, so I have to stop.
I’m not going to stop altogether: I’ll try to post something every other week, which will give me a little time to breathe, perhaps to write a few things in advance, perhaps to just use that time to get more proper** writing done. If I don’t manage to post anything at all on a day that I’m “supposed” to then perhaps I’ll post it the next day instead. Or perhaps I won’t. It all depends.
Maybe taking the pressure off will make the blog easier to write. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the whole idea is a bad one, no matter what I do.
It doesn’t matter. It’s just my plan, for now, and plans can always change. *Also yes, the line “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee” does make a lot more sense in context than Izzard let on in her routine, given that it comes from Burns’ poem To A Mouse and is about getting your carefully built nest unexpectedly dug up by a plough.
The men were the afterthought in that sentence, not the meeces. **I am informed that writing blogs is not proper writing. I hadn’t realised that what I was putting down here was so terribly improper, but now that I have been told I must apologise for any offence I may have caused.
Or I would, if my informant weren’t a bloody idiot.
Blogging is definitely proper writing: words go on the page or the screen and other people read them. That’s how writing works.
If you are “just” a blogger, you are a writer, and you needn’t let any git tell you otherwise.