Writing a long and convoluted feature story is amazingly like taking an exam, I have discovered in the course of a long and illustrious career. There’s all the build-up, the talking to a million people, doing research that seems worthy of a Ph D thesis, getting different perspectives and wondering what angles to take… it’s all so much like the last-minute scramble for notes before an exam and the actual sitting down to do the mugging that I am a complete nervous wreck by the time it comes to actually writing the damn story.
It’s not quite surprising, considering I tie myself into knots about something as simple as getting clothes stitched by the tailor or having a haircut. Needless to say, exams used to turn me into a quivering mass of jelly-like substance, and I have never felt happier than on the day I answered the last exam of my life. Actually it was a bit flat, as such much anticipated moments are wont to be, but on hindsight it was quite the happiest day of my life, completely surpassing other momentous occasions such as topping a subject in the 10th boards or the day I got married (oh, by far. In fact, that had a rather exam-y feeling too).
I sit on the computer on a Sunday afternoon while the world frolics, goes out to lunch and plans a nice evening out with friends, digressing into writing a blog post in spite of the distinct fluttery feeling running up and down my middle that comes from the knowledge that sooner or later I will HAVE to turn to that MS Word document containing exactly 212 words of the story I started writing this morning. And finish it.
My research is complete and rather thorough, even if I say so myself, I have all the facts arranged quite neatly in my head, and I have even gone to the rather uncharacteristically methodical length of arranging all the quotes in a separate document for quick and efficient reference. Now all that’s left to do is put it all together.
Friends call and I lament about the situation, they tut-tut knowingly and suggest various remedies—go for a walk, take a nap, SIT DOWN AND FINISH IT OFF. Meanwhile, I slowly learn to live with the fluttery sensation, wonder how bad it would be if I wasn’t able to produce the story at all (I mean, they WOULD manage somehow, no?) and tell myself ‘this time tomorrow, it’ll be done’.
And instead of doing something to further this cause, I read another chapter of Down Under by B Bryson which manages to distract me for a bit but not as thoroughly as I would have wished, play endless games of Minesweeper, pounce upon the phone when it rings, glad for the legitimate distraction it provides. And sit down and write a post for a blog I blithely ignore most of the time.
No, no, no, this will just not do.