Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Broody Hens
Originally uploaded by Alberta Fifty.

Like those very contented looking "broody hens," I find sitting on my eggs to be a highly satisfying and supremely distracting activity. Without half trying, it can consume half my day, and even more of my consciousness.

And no, I'm not pregnant. Thank God for that, at least! Don't get me wrong; pregnancy is wonderful and miraculous and all that, but blessedly, I'm done with that variety of egg sitting.

No, for me, sitting on my eggs is a writerly activity. It involves worrying about work that's already done instead of focussing on work that is supposed to be in progress. So now you get it, right? It's much more fun to fantasize about book deals or even "blog fame," whatever that might be, than it is to sit down at the computer and face the ignominious blank screen.

Whether it's the novel that my agent has recently sent to editors, or just a blog post, sitting on my eggs means constantly looking backward. As you can imagine, it's not the best way to make progress.

In the blog, it involves, checking the comments or the site meter with narcisssistic frequency, and then experiencing henlike brooding if the number remains static.

And when it comes to a manuscript that's just been put into circulation, there's no end of distracting busywork a broody hen can find to do. I can google the same editors I googled yesterday to find out what they bought, and then go to Amazon to see if the books are similar to mine. I can check the recent deals on Publisher's Marketplace to see if they've bought anything recently which may or may not mean? Well, I don't know. Yesterday, I imagined it meant one thing, but today I think it might be the exact opposite.

And of course, I can check my phone, searching for that magical 212 area code. And don't forget the hourly email check! I can reread my agent's last five emails, hunting for hidden subtext. Take that third phrase in the last email. Did that mean she's secretly negotiating a deal, but she doesn't want me to know until it's definite? On Monday, I'm wild with elation. By Tuesday,I'm castigating myself for being such a whack job. The words mean what they mean. Period.

Then, when I've exhausted that form of sitting on my eggs, there's always the occasional short story or bundle of poems I've submitted. Better go over my records (right now, of course!) and see how long they've been out. Ooh, months! Does that mean they've made the final cut, or just that they're sitting on the bottom of some anonymous pile for eternity or were accidentally returned in someone else's SASE?

Hmmm...better make some tea and ruminate on that one.

And so an industrious chicken spends her day.

The only thing, is that unlike the chicken, I've produced nothing. Not a single speckled egg.

So here's my vow: Once the work is out of my hands, it's out of my mind, too.

No more broody hens allowed in these parts.

Words written for nano: 2,431.


Roger Stevens said...

Hi - guess what? Your comments just went up by one.

I promised myself I'd get on with my grown-up novel today - but ended up doing other stuff, all important (very little egg sitting actually) - but it's funny how the actual writing itself gets pushed to the back of the queue.

Anonymous said...

You should see the pile of eggs in my little writing corner. Brooded over for so long, they will never hatch...

And yes, the Internet has replaced vacuuming as the main distraction from getting on with new work!

I have a short film treatment to write by Thursday (for a class I am taking), and here I am blog-hopping instead of getting my characters to move on to the next twist in the plot....

Patry Francis said...

Roger: Thanks for the comment. If the broody hen were still in residence, she'd be very happy indeed. Glad you accomplished some important stuff today--and hope you have time for your grown-up novel tomorrow.

Maria: You made me laugh out loud when you said that the internet has replaced vaccuuming as the distraction of choice. At least, when I used to go on cleaning rampages to avoid my writing, I had a sparkling house at the end of the day. Now, on some days, I've just got that pile eggs.

Will be looking to hear more about your film treatment.

Vickie said...

Guess we need that 20-minute test. Remember? Write for 20 minutes and if you really can't do it, you're free to give up without guilt. If nothing else, you've got that 20 minutes of writing accomplished.

Remember, a blank page is only blank until we type the first word. Once that first word is typed, others often follow suit.

rdl said...

You and your eggs are so funny.

Anonymous said...

Omigod, Patry, synchronicity again. You have just put into eloquent words precisely what I've been ruminating about for the last....oh, never mind how long. In fact I thought about a character to draw which embodies that distraction thing and then decided against it because that would have been yet another excuse to escape getting on with getting on with the work crying out to be done *right now*.

Patry Francis said...

Vickie: I almost forgot the 20 minute test! Thanks for reminding me. It really does help.

natalie: Oh, please draw the distracted character! Or better yet, maybe you could interview god and ask what we should do about this problem--but only after you finish your current priority project, of course.

MB said...

Patry, thank you. You made me laugh.

I agree -- Natalie, when you have time (HA!), would you please ask the Ultimate Creator about this problem we wee creators are having? These little eggs are so distracting!

leslee said...

Hey Patry! Just getting caught up here. I've been reading the backlog of your posts on Bloglines - you may be sitting on your eggs, but you hatch plenty of them too, unless you don't consider your blog posts to be *real* writing! Enjoyed the posts. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Anonymous said...

I have distractions to keep me from my distractions. Nothing gets done, and no eggs ever seem to hatch, eh, well. I guess I'll just go brood some-more.

Best of luck with Nanowritmo

Wyrfu said...

Surely the point in writing is to be endlessly inventive in inventing excuses as to why it's not quite right to begin writing yet? Now that we have the internet, there are so many excuses that, with a bit of creativity, we should never have to write anything at all. :D

Anonymous said...

Oh, goodness.
I read your words and they almost hurt with their truth... ouch.
Alas, I'm the same.

M. Damian McNicholl said...

Your egg sitting is also shared by this male hen (rooster, I guess) and let me assure you it intensifies once you've been published. After my book came out, I found myself utterly incapable of writing any new material because I wanted to see how the first book would do and felt compelled to spend my energies checking Amazon, etc. Then when the paperback came out, the whole process started again

Only now after a year-and-a-half am I returning to creativity (luckily, I had another novel finished and it was tweaked during the period so it's now out on submission.)

However, I'm feeling a renewed energy to get back to do some new forms of work and have turned my attention to play writing to see how it goes.

Good luck with finding a home for the novel

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Ugh do I ever relate! It's the downside of being a writer , a side-effect, if you will.


Patry Francis said...

leslee: good point; blogging is definitely real writing, and sometimes the most satisfying kind, because of the instant feedback, but someday I'd like to toss my waitresss shoes in the air and get paid.

Easy: Looks like you get alot done to me!

gone away: nice to see you here and you've named the problem exactly!

Melly: Identifying the problem is the first step, right? At least, that's what I tell myself.

Damian: I've seen published friends dealing with that Amazon thing, and it seems to be the ultimate in egg sitting. Even when they say the ranking is inaccurate and doesn't mean much, the compulsive checking continues. Of course, in my position, thats a form of obsession I'd like to try.

Loved your novel, btw.

jordan: somehow I knew you would relate after seeing your last post.

finnegan: how did you know I was a sucker for sale prices?

Scot: I so agree. Letting it flow is the best policy--even if you break a few eggs in the process. Thanks for coming by.

Anonymous said...

Google really is a hen word, isn't it. Now I can google and cluck at the same time.