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  • jdettmann

Panic Stations


Like sorting Lego into colours, listing your worries makes you feel like you’re making progress. In both cases this is an illusion.

I’m supposed to be revising my manuscript. I’m supposed to be making the characters appear at the right times and the jokes be funny and the poignant parts be more plentiful and the scenes that don’t carry the plot forward be gone. But I can’t because I have too much panicking to do.

When I get like this, my first instinct is to panic at other people. Those in prime position to cop the panic are H and my Mum. I’ve panicked quite hard at them over the past few days and they’ve, in one voice, said ‘make a list of all the problems’ and ‘take the list to your counseller and stop banging on to us’. Obviously they said this in a nicer way.

What they probably really meant was ‘make a list and publish it on the internet, so there is a permanent record of your lunacy’, so that’s what I’ll be doing this morning.

Here, in no particular order, are all the world-ending crises currently affecting me.

1. Book 1: See above. I’m at the point where I’ve got a superb set of editorial notes from my publisher and agent. The purpose of these is for me to see how the book looks to fresh readers’ eyes, and very smart ones at that. Now, for many years I’ve been the one doling out the editorial notes, and that’s a lot of fun. I never really understood why upon receipt of such notes authors tended to go into a decline and take to their fainting couches and put the back of their right hand to their forehead and moan. Now I do.

‘I can’t to these revisions,’ I categorically told my friend this morning, as we walked home from dropping our kids at school.

‘You said that last year,’ she replied. ‘But you said you couldn’t even write the book in the first place.’

‘Oh yeah. Well this time I mean it.’

She went back into her house.

My panicked brain is saying I can’t under any circumstances to the work that needs doing. But if I dig a little deeper I realise it’s not that I can’t, but that I don’t want to. I want to have written a perfect book, first try. But I haven’t, because no one does. Especially not a first time novelist. There’s work to be done. The only way to do the work is to do the work. There’s really no way around it. That’s such a bugger. There’s nothing I like more than getting around things.

2. Book 2: I have to write another book. I can’t possibly do this. Who can write more than one book? No one, that’s who. It’s never been done. I’m unlikely to be the first.

3. May Blossom knows about the Internet. If that’s not enough to induce full-scale panic, I don’t know what is (apart from points 1 and 2 on this list.) She’s in year 2 and last week she had to sign a contract covering her use of the internet at school. We made her read it aloud to us. She read it beautifully. When she finished, she paused, then said ‘I have no idea what any of that meant.’

So we had to start explaining uploading photos and downloading images and cyberbullying and websites and it was all quite confronting. I used the example of my blog, when explaining how people white things and publish them on the internet. I explained how she has a pseudonym and there are no pictures of her face. She seemed highly sceptical of the whole arrangement and now I’m scared she’ll take legal action.

Oh yeah, and the Year 2s are learning javelin. Javelin and the Internet. Jesus. No one’s going to come out of this unscathed, are they?

4. Garnet has another ear infection. I assume this is because I am a bad mother who is preoccupied with her book.

5. Guns in America. It just makes me cry every time I think about children in American school and their parents sending them off every day, knowing that what should be unheard of is becoming commonplace. Seven of the children in America going off to schools and colleges in danger every day are my cousins and this makes me panic. I worry about my kids too, but not on the same level because we don’t have the same number of weapons as they do. I’m not saying javelins don’t kill people, but the javelin lobby here doesn’t have anywhere near the power of the gun lobby in the US.

6. Some of my friends are going through hard times and I find this outrageous and extremely unfair. I can’t fix their hard times, because I do accept there are a few problems in the world that I haven’t caused, but I’m not sure I’m doing enough to help them.

So there are my top six worries at the moment. Have you got any solutions for me? Because now I’ve written them down they’re not looking any less problematic. I suppose the answers are simply: just sit down and do it, just sit down and do it, throw all the computers and spears in the sea, antibiotics, peaceful protest, and send flowers/make lasagne for them. And take some deep breaths. As if I’m going to do any of that.

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