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The Mad Scribbler




Learning Curve



”Education is learning what you didn’t
even know you didn’t know.”
— Daniel J. Boorstin

So I guess the whole ”Mayan” 2012 apocalypse thing was no more reliable than the Y2K scare of my halcyon youth. Unless I have completely misunderstood the situation, the world hasn’t ended—or even slowed down and started making a funny grinding noise—and here we are, safe and sound (in a manner of speaking) in 2013.

Which means it’s time for me to review my annual New Year’s resolution to start making my deadlines.

”How’s that going?” I hear you ask with bated breath, barely able to contain your burning curiosity about my ongoing quest.

Well... I’ll cut to the chase, avoid prevarication, and admit that it’s going badly. I was disastrously late on delivering my last book, only making my release date by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin, and I am already running well behind schedule on my current manuscript.

Nonetheless, I’m optimistic about 2013 being a better year for my long-held goal of achieving timely delivery of my work. In part, of course, this optimism represents the triumph of hope over experience (as Samuel Johnson famously described second marriages), as well as the widespread human tendency to see ourselves as we wish to be rather than as we actually are. However, in addition to being an eventful year for me, 2012 was also a very educational one, and so my learning curve on this matter has not been entirely flat.

For one thing, when expressing my apologetic guilt to several editors over the past year or two, as well as to people outside the profession who also had cause to be vexed with my unreliability, I was surprised to learn how often the reason I am forgiven is because of other factors which are reassuringly within my control, rather than being lucky accidents.

One reason cited, for example, is that when I finally do pull myself together and get something done, it’s actually done. In terms of my job, this means that I typically deliver writing that’s complete, clean, and essentially finished, rather than delivering half-baked, sloppy stuff that I know still has a lot of problems, thus ensuring that my editor will have to labor for long hours doing a lot of the work that I should have done before turning in the manuscript. Some editors really appreciate it, go figure, if you don’t make their jobs harder.

Another factor cited in response to my confessionals—and this one really surprised me (it will no doubt also surprise most of my friends and all of my enemies)—is that I am often forgiven because I am polite and mature.

Yeah—who knew?

I’ve been surprised by how often the chaos, anxiety, and frantic shuffling that my lateness has caused is dismissed, after the fact, because I did not: avoid phone calls; delete emails without answering them; disappear and cut off contact; giggle inanely when confronted and answer only with a shrug; respond to requests for an update (or for delivery) by diving into defensive rants and angry whines; commence verbal attacks against the person(s) I’m inconveniencing; insist that expecting me to do my job in a timely manner is unreasonable and unfair; blame others for my lateness; and so on.

According to my various sources (and, come to think of it, according to my own experience of working with others), there are people who pull crap like that, and it just makes a bad situation worse for anyone who deals with them.    

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