This week, in an odd ten minutes when I went to my office to write, I began to tidy. Yes, it was a displacement activity, but to be fair, my desk had disappeared beneath an avalanche of papers and books.
The papers had been dumped on my desk when we were expecting visitors earlier in the week, and I needed to clear them off the kitchen table. What had started on Saturday as a couple of ideas about a lesson on the back of an envelope, had by Tuesday afternoon, multiplied into a phenomenal heap also containing grocery lists, outstanding jobs, appointment reminders, some junk-mail and a recipe book (so that was what I’d meant to do with those courgettes).
Because time was short, and there were other aspects of tidying to be done, I weeded the recyclable portion of this heap straight into the recycle-bin, and put the rest on the only surface available in my tiny office, the desk. In the next few days I added to that. A couple of writing magazines arrived, then Nancy gave me four paperbacks she’d finished with and thought I might like, and there were several reference books I might need again.
So you must, mustn’t you, agree that the desk clearance was a necessity? What’s not quite so certain is whether I can justify moving on to the collection of quotes pinned to the inside of my office door.
It’s true most of them are curling at the corners, but obviously that hasn’t bothered me…for years, judging by the way the paper had discoloured. I twitched the nearest one down but instead of screwing it up, gave it a quick glance, and…
‘…and nobody could write about Danny the way I might if only I had the courage to fail. Someone no doubt could write it all more perfectly, but no one can say what I have to say unless I say it myself. It’s the doing that counts…’
…the reason I’d kept those words in the first place caught me squarely in mid-procrastination. I’d stuck them at eye-level to my chair, and then looked above, below and to the side of them ever since.
I can’t remember who Ann Netzke is or was. I’ve tried an internet search but only found a series of ancestry sites. It doesn’t matter. One of these days, now that I’ve remembered where to look, I’ll stumble across her, and think, aah, of course.
But if I don’t, her words are back on my door and this time, I’m keeping them in sight.
And, since I’ve cleared the top of my desk, I’ll need a different set of excuses for further procrastination.
*Illustration, Still Life, by Edward Collier 1699.