WCYR NaNoWriMo – “Ace”

June 4, 2017

I’ve had a headache now that’s about nine days old. It has peaks and valleys through the week. My daughter is careful to monitor the pain scale – with a 0 being gone and a 10 being paralyzing pain, I was about a 6.5 most of yesterday and about a 9 around 3:00AM this morning.

I went to bed simply out of exhaustion around 10:00PM or so last night, waking up at 1:00AM to go downstairs and waking up at 3:00AM on the couch because of a blast of pain, falling back asleep somewhere near 4:00AM. My wife came down to check on me and apparently from my sleeping position I looked quite comical and she tried to take a picture (she ultimately deleted it). That was actually good news, because in my sleep I remembered seeing a flash and worrying that was the first signs of my brain cells zapping out of existence or a bad storm outside.

My wife went to work and my kids took care of their own breakfast. I was entirely willing to make whatever they wanted but at the same time, I was relieved I could just sit and read and enjoy my coffee. Not only that, but as I did an internal diagnostic, I realized my headache was down to a 1, approaching 0. My elation grew. I started to get a burst of energy. I wanted to build a bookcase or something. With the weather being wet and overcast, I knew the kids wouldn’t want to do much of anything and I wasn’t going to argue with that. I had not much ahead of me – the clothes were all washed and the dishes were mostly clean and dinner tonight would be pasta with two different sauces (alfredo for my wife and son, tomato for me and my daughter).

I felt almost guilty having this much energy and sitting down to write. Like it wouldn’t be work to write. Like it would be a waste of time. Then it dawned on me.

Fuck it.

Writing is work. Otherwise, quite frankly, I wouldn’t avoid it. But it’s good work. And it’s satisfying. But that’s my cross to bear. In the meantime, here’s 1003 words. Actually, it was 996 words. I added a sentence at the end because, well, I have a touch OCD when it comes to round numbers.



Ten minutes, four houses, and seventy eight more dollars later, Teddy knocked on his final door. Wally asked him if he was sure.

“Did the girls say exactly when they would come by?”

“No. Only said a couple hours.”

They want for us to wait for them.


The homeowner had opened the door as Teddy and Wally debated time management.

And he called Teddy “Junior”.


“What the hell are you doing here? Did your mother tell you to look for me?”


“Teddy, you okay?”

“If anyone coulda found me, it would’ve been you.” Ace stopped a moment and looked at Teddy. “Aw, fuck, boy. Get inside.”

“Y-y-yes, sir.”

“Is the big one with you?”

Teddy stopped on the threshold and looked at Ace. “W-w-who?”

“The one that looks like a big girl.”

“Hey, fuck you, old man. Teddy, where you going?”

The man Teddy called Ace gripped Teddy by the bicep and threw him inside.

“If you want to fuck over everything your buddy pulled off,” he said through his teeth. “Then keep it up. Otherwise, get inside.”

Teddy, Wally and Ace sat around a small circular table in a kitchen nook that looked out into the front yard through a gauzy, yellow veil of a curtain. On the table next to a fruit bowl containing apples, oranges and bananas, was a large, Ziploc baggie of what looked like rubbed oregano.

Wally’s eyes were wide, almost popping out of his head as he looked from Wally to Ace and back again. It seemed that Teddy had regained something of his composure. He’d never heard Teddy stutter before.

Ace spoke first. Actually, he yelled.

“Jessie! Come get us something to drink.”

The TV room was right next to the kitchen. From the low light allowed through the parting of heavy brown curtains there was a thing cloud of smoke that billowed through the entranceway into the kitchen. So far, all Wally could smell was stale cigarettes and sweat. Out of the gloom of the TV room came a call, thin girl with straight, dirty blond hair, wearing pink short shorts and a translucent, dirty white tank top. Wally looked away he realized he could see the areole of her apple sized breasts through her overwashed shirt.

She opened the fridge door. “Yeah?”

Teddy shrugged when Ace looked at him questioningly.

“Uh, Coke,” Wally said.

“And a pair of Canada Dry. You still like ginger ale, don’t you boy?”

Wally didn’t answer. Jessie brought the cans to the table, giving Wally’s last, smiling at him just a little. Ace’s can cracked open loudly. Wally put his thumb over the opening of his to contain the spray.

“I’m going to guess that you didn’t dress up for me, eh? How much have you got so far?”

“Enough,” Teddy answered.

“How much were you counting on?”

“I wanted to go out with my friends. I needed some money.”

Ace looked Teddy up and down.

“And where are you and your mom living these days? Around here?”


Ace smiled. “That’s good. You don’t pull this stunt too close to home. Too much risk of being caught. What about you, Handsome? Where do you live?”

“He’s the muscle,” Teddy blurted. “He didn’t talk to nobody.”

Wally looked to his friend. ‘Didn’t talk to nobody?’’

“Muscle, eh? Isn’t that a bit dramatic? I get the idea, though. Not bad. Didn’t have much choice, though, eh?”

Teddy shook his head.

“Show me what you got.”

The bills were folded neatly in Teddy’s front, right pocket.

“Small bills on top. You were listening.”

Ace flitted through the bills.

“Almost a hundred and thirty bucks. You know, they are cancelling those, eh? The one dollar bill. Going to be a coin or some such. Bad enough that our money looks like fucking Monopoly money.”

Ace took about half of the cash and stuffed it in his front, right pocket.

“Hey!” Wally shouted.

“You got a problem with that, boy?” Ace looked at Teddy.


Ace continued to look hard at Teddy.

“No, sir.”

“What the fuck is going on?” Wally said.

“I’m taking my cut. Just in case anyone comes around asking about….” Ace left the sentence unfinished for Teddy.

“Cub Scout trip to Ottawa.”

“That’s awesome,” Ace said. He reached far across the table and clapped Teddy on the shoulder. “Well done, boy.”

Ace sipped his ginger ale and took the bills out of his pocket after a moment’s thought. He began to check them in the light.

“What the fuck is going on?” Wally said.

“Checking for counterfeit,” Ace said.

“That’s not what I was talking about.”

“You didn’t have time to check for it, did you, boy? That’s why you took the chance to do one extra house, right?”

“That’s why?” Wally asked, forgetting that he hadn’t got the answer to his real question.

“Does anyone know you are back in Ontario?” Teddy asked. He didn’t look Ace in the eye.

Ace finished the last of his ginger ale. Satisfied that the bills were all genuine, he stuffed them back into the front right pocket of his jeans. He looked from the bag of ‘rubbed oregano’ to Teddy, then Wally, then back to Teddy.

“Jessie!” Ace yelled “Where’s my cigarette machine?”

Jessie stomped to her feet when she got up from whatever she was sitting on in the TV room, snatched the step stool from beside the fridge, opened the dark, brown cupboard door and brought down the red, rectangular machine from overtop. It had a winder on the face of it, making it look like a kid’s toy. She put it, a can of ‘Players’ tobacco, and a box of white paper cigarette tubes on the kitchen table near Ace.

The faux-brass handle of the door had a greasy film that transferred to her hand when she touched it. She wiped her dirty hands clean on the seat of her pink short shorts, taking care to catch Wally’s eye. She smiled and Wally looked away.


WCYR NaNoWriMo – Cub Scouts

June 3, 2017

1170 words. Not bad. Kinda shocked a little. Don’t want to come to strong out of the gate only to have a poor finish.

I thought maybe I could bank words, but that’s not the premise I’m going to work on this month. 500 words is the minimum. The maximum will be 2000 words – only because I fear after 2000 words that I would actually away inspiration for the following day.

And for the rest of my WCYR NaNoWriMoers (if that even is a word), thank you again for keeping me going.

Today is a continuation of yesterday. The characters have really come alive for me in the last seventy two hours. I find myself thinking about them in idle moments. They were running wild when I meditated this morning. Trying to think of a way to maybe incorporate ‘the killer’ I wrote about on Day One.

Oh, man. Is this ever going to be fun.


Cub Scout

                Wally had a poster of Samantha Fox on the back of his bedroom door. She wore blue torn blue jeans, a ratty jean jacket, and was topless underneath.

                “They’ll never see it,” he explained to Teddy. “They speak to me standing at the door. They never come in.”

                The poster faced Wally’s bed. That didn’t concern Teddy right now.

                “Do you still fit in the suit you wore for your confirmation?”

                “You haven’t even looked in my closet yet. How do you know it is even there?”

                “Because that was the last time I saw you dressed up and I know you left your school clothes in your locker.”

                Wally went over to the tape deck in his room, looking for something to put on. The whole setup was an expensive hand-me-down after his father upgraded his own system at Christmas.

                “You’re no better,” Wally said. “Why do I have to get dressed up anyway?”

                “You’re not getting dressed up,” Teddy said before exploring Wally’s walk-in closet. “I am.”

                “And why is that?”

                “I told you, we need money.”

                “I don’t need money.”

                He put on Master Of Puppets, side 2. Disposable Hero. Then he sat at the head of his bed, his back against the wall.

                “Oh, perfect,” Teddy said as he came out of the closet.

                “Those’re my school clothes.”

                “It’s what I hoped for. They look like they haven’t even been worn, though.”

                “That’s right. I wear the same uniform all week. I bring it home from school on Fridays to get washed.”

                “Today is Friday.”

                Wally shrugged.

                “I can’t wear the tie, though.” The argyle tie had the school crest for Blessed Kateri Tekawitha secondary school. “We don’t want to get anyone in trouble.”

                “No, we certainly don’t. What are you doing?”

                “Getting changed.”

                “You’re certainly in a rush,” Wally said. “

                “I want to be sure to be here when your friends come and pick us up. I don’t want them to leave without us.”

                “Wow. I never thought I would see the day.”

                “What now?” Teddy stood in front of the full length, free standing mirror next to the door for the walk-in closet. He cinched in the belt tight and rolled up the cuffs underneath, careful to press it tight and debated on stapling it. He tucked in the billowing dress shirt as much as he could without it looking sloppy and looking puffy where it extended almost to his thighs under the pants.

                What he needed now was footwear. Cowboy boots wouldn’t do. Surely Wally had another pair of Reeboks, but they would likely be far too big. Cowboy boots would ruin everything. Maybe not. He had to be sure before he went out of the house. Everything is in the details.

                “Theodore ‘Teddy’ Duffy is in love,” Wally declared.

                “I am not anything. I want to make an impression.”

                “And you want to do it by dressing for school when we go out to the movies with my friends. Not me, man. I got changed before leaving school and I ain’t changing back until Monday.”

                Teddy made eye contact with him using the mirror. “No. This is how we are getting money to go to the movies.”

                “You,” Wally corrected, pointing to the mirror. “I got money.”

                “Yeah, well, not all of us have an allowance.”

                Then, after taking another look in the mirror, he said, “Fuck it. This’ll have to do.”

                He turned to look directly at Wally. “You can stay here. I’ll be back in exactly forty minutes. No. Wait. Fifty minutes.” Twenty minutes out, ten minutes work, twenty minutes back.

                Wally got off the bed. “No way. I’m coming with you. I want to see what you are going to do next.”

                Teddy smiled.

                “Then come on. You won’t even need to get changed. I think that might actually work.”

                Twenty minutes later they stopped walking. Teddy went to knock on the door of a house on the other side of the street after telling Wally to stay put.

                A woman just shy of middle age came to the door. Short hair, high waisted jeans, a simple peach coloured blouse, and a tea towel held in place on her left hip. She held open the door with her right hand.

                “Excuse me, ma’am. We are collecting donations for Cub Scouts. We’re trying to fund our trip to Ottawa so we can see the Parliament Buildings and stuff.”

                “Who’s we?”

                “Well, me and my friend, actually.” He nodded his head in the direction of Wally, who was on the other side of the street with his long, brown hair, jean vest, jeans, Reeboks and Metallica Ride The Lightning tee shirt on. He stood about six one to Wally’s five ten.

“He’s not a scout or anything. I just wanted someone to help out if I had any trouble.”

                “Trouble?” She closed the door just a little. No, don’t.

                “Uh, yeah. When the other kids found out how much money I collected before, they kinda jumped me on the way home.”

                “Jumped you?” She put her hand that held the tea towel to her mouth. It was a sincere gesture but it looked comical. Don’t laugh. The door opened more than it was when she first greeted him. Good.

                “It was my fault, really. I bought Docs for school. They rolled me for them and took my money. I had to borrow a school uniform from my friend and wear my dad’s workboots.” He looked down at his cowboy boots. “After the trip to Ottawa I’m going to work at an industrial unit with my dad, collecting garbage and stuff. But this time, he’s going to pay me. When I do it now before school, it’s more to help out and stuff.”

                “I’ve seen on the news about rolling kids for Docs. This is terrible. What do Docs look like?”

                She looked behind her at the assortment of scattered shoes, like she was looking for a snake in a garden.

                “Just black leather shoes with thick soles. They say ‘Doc Marten’ on the heel, too. I mean, on the sole. And inside the shoe, too. Kids wear them instead of dress shoes at the Catholic school I go to.”

                She continued to use her eyes to find Docs.

                “But you’re really busy. You have a good day, ma’am.”

                “Nono,” she said. “Wait here.”

                She came back, handing him twenty dollars from her purse.

                “Gee, thanks.”

                She handed him another twenty dollars. “Promise me. No Docs.”

                Teddy smiled his most honest smile and gave her a salute. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am.”

                Wally crossed the street and met Teddy at the curb.

                “What the hell was that?” He copied Teddy’s salute.

                “Cub Scout salute.”

                “The hell it was.”

                Teddy shrugged. “She thought so.” He held up a pair of twenty dollar bills. “A few more houses like that and we are going out tonight in style.”

                Before Wally could ask anymore questions, Teddy was on his way to the next house.

WCYR NaNoWriMo July – “1989”

June 2, 2017

Another 500 words. 610 to be correct. And it feels good, like 610 words should.

It took inspiration from a familiar stranger to make this second installment work.

What was said to me amounted to “Let’s see if you can keep this up”. So, here goes. This one is called ‘1989’. I think my 3rd installment will build on this. Please, don’t hold me to that.


Fifteen minutes into the rehearsal, Teddy fell in love. Wally only snuck him in to give an opinion about his performance. He told Teddy he took the role just to get out of class.

“Who is she?” he asked.

“She’s the lead in the play,” Wally answered.

Teddy watched him tap down the tobacco in his cigarette, light it from the lick of his Zippo’s flame, clacking its lid shut. He exhaled quickly, getting the taste of lighter fluid out of his mouth. They both smoked, waiting for the bus after rehearsal.

Bye, Bye, Birdie isn’t much,” he went on. “But you have to admit, she looks a bit like Ann Margaret.”


“Well, her hair reminds me of Ann Margaret anyway.”

“Was she in the play?”

After some back and forth, Wally managed to clear some things up.

No, Ann Margaret was not in the school play and she did not go to his school.

Yes, Teddy needed to expand his interest in movies beyond that of those made by Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas.

“It’s a classic,” Wally said. “I can’t believe you haven’t seen it.”

Teddy nodded, inhaled on his smoke long and hard, taking it almost down to the filter then ground it out under the heel of his cowboy boot.

“When is your next rehearsal?” He asked. “I want to go.”

Wally finished his cigarette the same way, only he wore Reeboks, not cowboy boots.

“Bus’s coming,” he said.

They were the only two at the stop when the drive brought to bus doors skillfully to a halt right before them. They got on, paid their fare with tickets, and proceeded to the back of the bus, propelled by its quick acceleration. An hour later they were sitting on the picnic table in Wally’s backyard, smoking cigarettes, drinking Coke, and listening to Metallica on a boombox.

Wally went in through the patio doors to answer the phone when it rang.

“Hey,” he called out to Teddy. “Hey.”

Teddy poked his head through the door, careful to keep the smoke from his cigarette as far away as he could.

“Wanna go see a movie?” Wally asked. “The new Indiana Jones is playing.”

“The Last Crusade?”

“With James Bond himself.”

“I thought Sean Connery was in it?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Roger Moore is James Bond.”

“You have got to watch more movies,” Wally said and then went back to the phone. He hung up a few minute later.

Wally lit a cigarette using his Zippo then said, “They will be here in a couple hours.”

One started to play from the boombox and Wally nodded his head along with the beat.

“Who will?”

“The twins. Along with their friend, Liz.”

Wally hung around with identical twin girls he knew enough to tell apart, no matter how hard they tried to fool him.

“Who’s Liz?”

“Do you remember anything I say?”

Teddy shrugged. “Only if it’s important. If it’s not, I know you’ll remind me.”

Wally went back to smoking his smoke and drinking his coke. “You’ll figure it out.”

A few heartbeats later, Teddy did. “Are you serious?”

“Ya. They’ve been best friends for years. For, like, forever.”



“I’m broke,” Teddy confessed.

“I can spot you a few bucks.”

“No. That won’t work.” Teddy wanted to impress Liz and he wouldn’t do it borrowing his friend’s money every time he wanted to buy something.

He stomped out his cigarette on the patio.

“Hey. I gotta clean that up.”

“C’mon. We don’t have time for that. We need to go upstairs and raid your closet.”


“To make some money.”

WCYR NaNoWriMo and my first post in 2 years

June 1, 2017

Frankly, I needed an excuse. And The Writer’s Community of Your Region gave it to me. Thanks for that.

This isn’t officially NaNoWriMo. That’s a form of insanity. This is an inspiration.

With that having been said, I hereby promise to post at least 500 words before the end of each day for the entirety of June 2017. So help me God. And , by that same token, may God have mercy on my soul.

This also represents my first post in about two years. And, in the spirit of fair play, these don’t count towards my 500 words. However, that doesn’t stop me using notes I wrote almost seven months ago to kick start what I want to write about.


The killer awoke before dawn. He could smell coffee brewing. He threw back the sheets, got out of bed, walked downstairs, following the scent.

He poured himself a fresh cup of coffee and debated if he shouldn’t add cream and sugar

“No,” he thought. “You haven’t earned your reward. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He sipped his coffee, turned to face the window and looked for a distraction.

A summer of punishing heat turned his lawn into a miniature, well trimmed, hay field. He wondered if he couldn’t have hired a goat or two from a local farmer. Goats shit little, spherical turds. He never had smelled goat shit before and wondered if it did smell at all. Did it act as a good fertilizer? He made a mental note to check it out the next time he needed a distraction.

Goats might be a good idea but an original one. He could solve the problem by installing an in ground sprinkler system that operated on a timer. He could feel the silent judgement of neighbours when he watered the lawn during daylight hours.

But today would be a good day. This fall season had been rainy and today was no exception. In his mind’s eye, he saw a yard of lush green grass. He could imagine how it would feel to walk barefoot across it. He closed his eyes and smiled.

“Distraction complete,” he thought and sipped his coffee in triumph.

His yard faced a two story basement walk out. Its kitchen opened to a deck that had a tasteful expertise. Through the window, the killer could see his neighbour preparing something at the counter.

The killer made eye contact, raised his mug in salute. His neighbour looked away quickly after raising his hand in acknowledgement.

Had something gone wrong? Had he slipped? Let something get away? Contingency plans came to mind – the thought of executing them exciting him a little – but he didn’t want to follow through.

He could be happy here so long as he remained careful. Had he not been careful?

“You’re a fool,” he thought. “An over reacting fool that has no faith in himself. Get it together, man.”

He stepped away from the window and into something hot and wet.

“Goddamnit,” he said and looked down to see he stepped in a puddle of coffee. And then he laughed.

He was naked. The neighbour, seeing his semi tumescent cock standing at morning attention, as if waiting for drill instructions, had looked away out of embarrassment.

The killer wanted to catch the neighbour’s eyes again, pantomime some kind of apology, but he was gone. The need to explain himself welled up inside. He added to his list of mental notes to speak to his neighbour before the end of the week. That calmed him down a little.

He closed the blinds and cleaned up his mess.

“Enough bullshit,” he thought. “We’ve got work to do.”

That was true. Rainy fall days were great for hunting. He wanted to bag at least one kid before the sun went down.

53 year old man about to be evicted…

November 9, 2015

I totally stole this from Reddit. Link is here –> http://i.imgur.com/xoT1Zdg.jpg


And here is the context, taken from the comments section.

Not if you live in Spain. This picture was taken by Andrés González Manzano, a partially disabled 53-year-old man who was about to be evicted after the rent-controlled flat he was living it was bought from the local government by an investment group and he couldn’t find a job to keep paying rent.

The reason why the police was in riot gear is because this man was supported by one the groups that opposes the huge amount of evictions that have happened since the crisis wiped out millions of jobs and stopped people from paying rent or their mortgages, so they expected resistance. Nothing serious, mind you; at worst, some people were barricading themselves inside their homes and refusing to leave. But the powers-that-be do not like any kind of protest, so riot units (which in this country full of politicans scared of their own citizens had already become a common presence in demonstrations) were increasingly sent whenever they smelled even a little bit of trouble.

The amount of evictions have been so large, and the attitude of the people responsible for them (banks, politicians, police) so ruthless, that this was a very big debate in Spain for a while. Sure, if you don’t pay you shouldn’t be entitled to keep your house, but when thousands of people lose their homes because they can’t find a job due to a crisis that was by and large caused by the banks that are evicting them, then something is definitely wrong. Things are changing, though. The leader of one of these anti-eviction groups is now the Mayor of Barcelona, and the new Mayor of Madrid has also taken measures to avoid any more evictions.

Lookin’ Out My Back Door

July 20, 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”


Three words compounded into one. I wrote it how I say it. Roll it off my tongue. Reminds me of the way Dad would say it when things didn’t go his way. He didn’t plan much. He went by the seat of his pants. He never really committed to anything because he is one of those people that is good at pretty much anything. But, when real life didn’t look like the picture he had in his mind, he would shake his head and say that word that is really three words.

It’s not God’s fault. I don’t imagine my yard is part of His Divine Plan. And it’s not like I even believe in God. Even if I did believe in God, if my yard was part of His plan, if a prayer from me would make it look like I want it to in my head, He would certainly lose all his credibility. That being said, I still like the word. Even if I don’t believe in God, the word has great meaning for me. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it.

I spent summers working for Dad when he owned a landscaping company. I can remember two particular events very clearly.

One, was having to take a gas mower and a red jerry can of gas, to a townhouse complex he won the contract for. These were houses that had a patch of grass that measured three feet wide by maybe eight feet deep. Barely enough for two passes with the lawnmower. Dad came by after the first hour.

“Goddamnit,” he said. “Look at that.”

I had finished maybe a dozen houses, pushing my mower, up, shifting it over, and pulling it back, turning off the mower, taking the mower across the pebbled asphalt – I can still see that grey pavement fleck with tiny stones – I don’t think I ever saw black pavement until I was in my late teens, until after we moved out of the city. I once thought to save time by keeping the mower running between houses, but after I tried to drag the running mower over the curb and the horrifying scraping and chipping noise that came when the mower blade bit into the curb that went around that small patch of grass, I shut my mower off after each lawn.

“You did them all wrong,” he said.

Because I had done only two passes and did not overlap the mower, there was a rooster comb in between them. He made me go back and do them.

The second event involved a fifty foot coil of thick rope and a Flymo. The yellow rope had turned grungy yellow with age and I couldn’t touch it with my bare hands. The Flymo was a wheel-less lawnmower. I also had a red jerry can of gas for this event. The job involved cutting a half bowl of grass, thirty feet high and about hundred feet around. It served as a football field for some team. I had to stand at the top of this bowl, with the rope tied to the handle of the Flymo, and lower the mower down this 75 degree slope to cut the grass, and then drag it up again.

After the first hour, he came by in his truck. “Goddamnit,” he said. “What’s taking so long?”

I took three times as long to finish it as any of his other employees normally took but I think I was twelve or thirteen at the time. I finished it. And I never cut the bowl again.

What do I see when I look outside my back door?

I see green grass that my wife cuts religiously. I’m rarely home early enough from work to get to it and I almost never want to do it on the weekends.

I see grass that I hope is green from intermittent springs and falls of dumping a couple of yards of top soil down at a time but I’m sure has more to do with luck.

I see a simple patio, made of basic stones, the spaces between the stones filthy with weeds I’ve attacked with everything from expensive chemicals to potions made from recipes downloaded from he internet. We have lawn furniture – a donation from my wife’s parents, my in-laws. We don’t eat outside much in the summer because it’s way too hot these days. In the fall mostly. I like how the sun sets and the colour it makes the sky. I’ve always wanted to plan a tree right in the middle of the yard, watch it grow year by year.

I see have a barbecue that I find any reason to cook on. I like the look on my wife’s face when she really enjoys what I make. I work between trying something new and sticking with what I know she likes.

“Goddamnit,” I think to myself. “I’m lucky. And I’ve got a lot of goddamned work left to do.”

The Heat Is On

July 18, 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Heat is On.”

I’m always focused on deadlines when I am at work. Some of them are very specific. Others are implied. When it comes to writing, though, I need to create my own deadlines. And those don’t always work for me.

When I’m at work and part of a project team, if my deadlines aren’t met, no one can move forward and all timelines have to be recalculated and extra people may be recruited to get things back on time, and that takes money and no one likes to spend money at work. It’s all about doing only what you have to, seeing how much you can get away with not doing, and paying as little as possible for what you have to do.

For those projects, I make myself finish in half the time, and spend the other half tearing at it like I hate it and want to see it destroyed. That way, when it is presented to the team, I have prepared myself for all of the objections and questions that everyone will inevitably have. In most cases, the objections are constructive, coming from people who want to see the project succeed. In the loudest cases, the objections are merely because ‘haters are gonna hate’. That took me a long time to accept, that adults do things like that, but they do and it’s best to be prepared for them.

The implied deadlines are those ominous emails, coming from corporate head office, or from the vice president, or worse yet, from the corporate head office of your customer or the vice president of your customer. They don’t say exactly when they want an answer, and the emails are never more than four sentences. They begin with the phrase ‘Can you tell me’ or ‘What do you know about’. They follow with an event that needs describing or data that needs to be analyzed from a specific period of time. They end with something about getting back as soon as you have data. Usually, they are sent just to you and copy only your direct boss. Those are emails that need to be answered before you go home, needs ninety or more megabytes of spreadsheet analysis, and cannot be an answer that is more than three or four sentences long. They take all day to wall day to write and once it’s sent, you re-read it and wonder what you’ve done all day.

I have tried very, very hard to make writing the same thing. But marking a day on the calendar that reads “I will write 90 000 words by the end of the month” or creating a daily reminder that “I will write 3 000 words today” isn’t creating a deadline. It is a window dressing at best. It makes it look like you are doing all that you can to finish what you start.

Colour coded sticky notes and the bleeps and bloops of digital calendars aren’t deadlines. Deadlines have to posses meaning.

If I don’t finish that project at work, it will cost time and money to get it back and track. If I don’t get back to that vice president, I am telling them they are not important and I have better things to do. If I don’t finish that story…. Meh. No biggie. I’ll get back to it tomorrow. Finishing that story needs to mean something for the deadline to be important.

I’m great out of the gate. I can make plans and outlines and landmarks to be on the lookout for on the path to success. I’m great at that. And for the first few weeks, it looks great. And then I miss the one gate. And I replant and move forward. And I miss another. And then another. And then suddenly, I see all the work it will take to get back on schedule and I shut it down. A week later, I’ve got another idea and the cycle starts again.

To make deadlines work, I need to enlist the aid of people that are dependent on those deadlines. Like, starting a story for my daughter and having her read it and fall in love with it and bug me over and over again to finish it. Or, writing an outline for a novel and writing a few thousand words of it at a time and giving it to a friend and having them email me over and over again to finish it or, better yet, give me suggestions on how to move forward. Those are two things that give my deadlines meaning and help me to get the work done.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m behind schedule on both of the examples I’ve given and thank God those people don’t let me forget it. Sure, for some people it might look like I’m treating it like work, and yeah, they’d be right. But for me, the work of it is half the fun.