HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Monday, 17 May 2010

Procrastination.

My new computer keyboard has turned up already. I'm using it to type at this very moment.

I'm a bit cross, actually. They said five working days, and it's been less than eighteen hours and here it is: willy nilly arriving at my flat when I have no other excuses to procrastinate with. I blame Apple Mac. You'd never catch a Windows company delivering your goods before you expected them to, on a Sunday morning to boot. Frankly, it's just bad manners.

I have no other excuses now. I'm all run out. The keyboard is perfect, beautiful and a technological phenomenon - smooth, easy to write on, not sticky or hard work in the slightest - my computer screen is big and the right height, my chair has been adjusted appropriately and my butt is totally cushioned. My frantic interior designing has come, reluctantly, to an end because I can't fit anything else in my house, and I have cleaned every inch of the flat to within an inch of its life (because you can't write a bestselling novel in a dirty house: everyone knows that). I have nothing else to fight myself with. I have to write the book.

My agent will be both thrilled and surprised, I'd imagine. She agreed to look after me while I was still in England, and - as since leaving England I haven't written a single word - I haven't really lived up to my side of the bargain. I've been an agent's worse nightmare, frankly: the flakiest, most emotional writer you could hope to work with. To start with I lied: I told her when I initially submitted the manuscript for consideration that it was finished, when it was actually only six chapters in. Then, when she told me she was still interested, I told her I knew what was going to happen in the rest of the novel. Then, when we had a two hour, incredibly detailed meeting and I confessed that I didn't have a clue what happened in the rest of the novel, she told me that she still loved it and "believed in the characters" and wanted to represent it, and would help me finish it: unheard of for any agent, let alone one who represents Booker Prize winning authors. To which I said thankyou, that I would finish it in Japan, and then promptly ran away and didn't do a single bloody thing because I was too busy getting my heart broken by a pretty boy, thankyou very much.

I have always told myself - from the age of three, when I decided that all I really wanted to do was write - that if I was ever lucky enough to get a good agent, I would make sure that the relationship was sophisticated and creative and rather profound: that we both wore black as often as possible and discussed works of great authors - past, present and future - over coffee, and I referred to them in the 'thanks' page of all my books in terms that totally transgressed the boundaries of author and agent ("to my darling Kate... to my friend and agent, Kate, without whom this would not be possible").

She is amazing, of course - still at the other end of email, still waiting, still positive, still patient (considering that she is representing a writer who has nothing to represent) - but I'm not nearly as sophisticated and professional as I should be, and I procrastinate more than any other writer in the history of procrastinating writers (which is most of them).
"I've got wrrriiitttterrrs blloooooccck," I whined after one month in Japan.
"Just relax, have some tea, and let the juices flow," she said sympathetically.
"I'm tooo tiiiirred after work," I moaned after two months in Japan.
"Of course you are: it must be such hard work. Just get lots of sleep and do it a little at a time."
"I'm confuussed about the ploootttttt," I exhaled at her after three months in Japan.
"Let's work on it together, then."
"I'm so upset, my boyfriend is cheating on me and I'm trying to forgive him and it's really hard and I'm so miserable and I'm just crying all the time and I want to ddiiiiie," I moaned after four, five, six and seven months in Japan (at weekly intervals).
"You poor thing, take a break and all the time you need."
"Now I don't know what I'm doing with my liiifffe," I admitted after nine.
"You're going to be a great writer, you just have to have faith."
"I don't have faith," I confessed eventually.
"Yes, I can see that."

At no stage has this amazing, high profile, successful agent said: "Holly. I took a chance on you because I thought you had something sellable. My time and advice is precious and I am giving it to you for free. In the year since I last met with you, you have so far proven me wrong. Get off your arse and write the goddamn book before somebody writes something similar but better and we no longer have anything to sell, ok? And please stop treating me like your agony aunt, because - frankly - I'm trained to represent your book, not to put your messy and chaotic life back together again."

Which, if I was an agent, is exactly what I would have said. About nine months ago, actually.

So: no more excuses. I gave up my life in PR to write; I have no other career options. Everything I have done has been to allow me to write; teaching, living by the sea, moving away from England. I have already done the hard bit; all I have to do now is sit down and finish it. I have a main character I love, an agent who has stuck by me, a family who has stood by me, and the time and weather and house and seaside activities to keep me happy in the process. I have everything I need to sit down and bang out the novel. I now even have the perfect keyboard.

Procrastination can be fun, sometimes, and sometimes it is necessary. The last year of procrastination - when I put my book down and failed to pick it up again - helped me to really use my heart for the first time and have it broken for the first time and heal and grow up properly because of it (I'm not the person I was when I left England: the last year has changed me more than the ten years before that put together). It changed me for the better, though - it made me a little wiser, and a little less childish, and a little less blindly optimistic - and I think the person I am now will write a better book than the person I was then ever could have. A book with more thought, and more heart, and the knowledge needed to be truly innocent. So it was procrastination that will become - in one way or another - a part of the book it was there to delay.

It has been long enough, now. My agent deserves the rest of the novel. And so - much more importantly - do I.

The time for procrastination has finally come to an end. And the time for writing has finally started.