Starting at the Last Minute

I just finished and sent in my script, and regardless of how good it may or may not be, I am so freaking pumped right now. I know it’s a horrible habit, and I sincerely do want to wean myself onto something more sustainable and less stressful, but I remember now why I left all of those university assignments until the last possible moment.

I mean okay, a not-insignificant part of the reason was because I just couldn’t be bothered making the effort to start earlier, and also because I knew I was good enough to get a pretty decent mark with a first draft finished ten minutes before the deadline. And I was right. So I was ‘rewarded’ for my slacker habits in that sense, because, well, I had the goods to compensate, or at least the English and Sociology departments thought so. Sure, I did hand in some pretty fail essays, but most of them were in the B-range of grades, and one or two were in the A-range, including my only A+ essay for Sociology, which was written in six hours on the day it was due.

The thing is, when that last minute rolls around, and I know I’m on the wire, I know this is do-or-die time, everything just comes to the surface, all the things I’d deliberate over and worry about the merits of I just do, if they’re the things that I really want to try, the things I’m scared to put down on paper in the ‘safe zone’ of all minutes that come before that adrenalin-pumping Last minute.

‘Write what you’re scared to write about.’ That was a piece of advice I picked up at the second and final part of the script-writing workshop I attended, and it really clicked with me. It’s the same principle behind getting started at the last minute; like Batman, I start following my fear and letting it give me its own unique brand of strength, born of tension and apprehension and panic, tempered by tunnel-vision, disbelief suspended by not being able to see more than two feet in front of my nose, and being caught up in believing that nothing more than two feet in front of me is worth a damn noticing anyway.

It’s a tradeoff, of course. Trading steady nerves for frantic, creative tension. But man does it feel good to turn something in and to know that I wrote it while breaking the sound barrier. It feels so good; it brings a kind of galvanising catharsis, and it makes me want to keep going.

I feel that I’m learning as well. I’ve sent this thing off and now I’ve let it go; I’m not worrying about how I could have done X or Y better – I’m just enjoying the fact that I finished it, and that I outran my limits, even if only for the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things.

Is it worth it?

It’s what I’ve got. And it’s good for what it is. Judge for yourself.

I’d say I still want to get used to making an early start on important assignments, to train myself to cultivate a work ethic that involves as little stress as possible. To be happy to turn something in before the last minute. Because that is part of the high for me, knowing that I’ve done everything that I can within the limits of the deadline, that this external barrier has cut me off, has taken that particular responsibility out of my hands. The privilege of riding that wave of glorious panic, and the sense of release at knowing that this is it, that there is no ‘what if’ that can avail me. Because the thing is that if I hand in something before it’s due, then all of those ‘what if’s start to sound more rational, because I could have waited. I could have given myself the opportunity to wait it out and see if inspiration struck.

I could just aim to ‘finish’ before the deadline and then only send it in right before, just in case something does come to me, but I don’t think my brain is quite ready to handle something so high-concept. I live for the hormones, it seems. Perhaps I’m just hard-wired to work this way, if there is such a thing as being predisposed genetically or neurologically or whatever to work to deadlines in a certain way.

But I at least want to try the alternative. And again, I’m feeling more and more comfortable with just letting things go all the time, just letting them be finished, and that is definitely where I want to be heading with my life, far beyond simply writing novels and turning in assignments. To make my own determination of what ‘good enough’ is, and commit to it.

And, if need be, to change it afterwards. My two golden rules.

I am so glad I wrote this thing, and gave it a shot, no matter how it turns out. I feel like I’ve gained something just by sticking to it.

Learning by doing, y’all. That’s the way I like it.

And with that said – I have no more excuses. After rehearsal tomorrow, Tallulah: Draft 2 begins.

Hope to see you all there.


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