Remember that writing contest I entered two months ago? I had eight days to write a 2,500-word short story using an assigned genre (action/adventure), a subject (a boat race), and a character (a biographer)? How excited I was?
Well, here is an updated confessional on that whole experiment. I spent a week writing drafts, getting feedback, and then ripping everything apart. Not since 1975 when I penned an ambitious junior high version of "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" have I dabbled in fiction. It was hard!
The plot was there but I couldn't wrestle it into 2500 words. Also, the required boat race element was like a rotten egg -- I couldn't slip it into the story without it stinking up everything else.
On Friday, my husband and I went up north so I could finish the story in a quiet environment. The deadline was Saturday at the stroke of midnight.
(You know where I'm going, don't you. This is yet another chapter in the story of MIthra vs. the Pre-crastinator.)
I wrote all day Saturday while it snowed like crazy. Around 3:00, I felt close to finished. We met up with some friends for a snowy hike -- a perfect way to clear my head. Then we went to dinner.
After dinner, my friend Mindy suggested we go next door to listen to a live band. "How fun!" I said. My pre-crastinator shot me a look. "It's fiiiine," I said.
The band was late due to the snowstorm, so we played a quick game of Scrabble while waiting. They arrived and you know what? They weren't half bad. Around 9ish, we hit the road, and I was eager to get home. I had nearly three hours to finish my story.
And this is where procrastination will bite you in the ass every time. The drive back took ages. Roads weren't plowed and the wind chastised me every mile, lashing us with snow whipped up from the farm fields.
Then my pre-crastinator asked, "Is it due midnight our time or midnight eastern time?"
The last hour played out like this:
And at five minutes to eleven (i.e midnight eastern time) I began uploading the finished doc. Almost done...
"What in hell is my assigned heat number??" I screamed at the poor pre-crastinator. He grabbed my phone and searched the original email.
"A synopsis? I need a synopsis?" I screamed at the poor pre-crastinator.
He dictated this to me:
"A writer who spent an unheralded life chronicling the lives of others, is sent to prepare the obituary of the man who will become his final subject."
Oh man, it was finished with about 10 seconds to spare.
I knew the resulting story was not my best work. The end was sloppy and the structure more than a little wonky. But I've never had so much fun in my life.
I'll share this excerpt, which set the wheels of the story in motion:
I write obituaries for a living. A job I never expected to hold, much less enjoy. Nearly 1700 death notices published with my byline and I have come to realize this: we are, all of us, astronauts launched into space, our bodies fragile capsules, our trajectories beautiful, unpredictable. Until we splash into the sea. Everyone splashes into the sea.
Yesterday, I found out that miracle of miracles, my short story was good enough to advance me to the next round. Honestly, the pre-crastinator and I were shocked. And pleased of course! Thank you NYCMidnight!
This time I have three days to write 2000 words. And guess when it is due. April Fool's Day at midnight.
The implication of the due date is not lost on me. This time I'm ready. As E.L. Doctorow said about writing, "It's like driving a car at night. You can never see further than your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way."