Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Caught by Surprise By Morgan Mandel

It’s winter here in Illinois, which means snow and ice. The other morning, because the sidewalks looked treacherous, I decided to take the street to work. As I trudged along, I noticed a car about three blocks ahead. I focused on it, wondering if it would turn or continue on towards me.

Then the unexpected happened. Before I could do anything, I pitched forward, landing on my knees. The case with my laptop computer inside it hit the street beside me. The culprit was a pot hole, which I would have noticed if I’d not concentrated on looking ahead instead of where I was.

I scrambled up and glanced around to make sure I wouldn’t get hit. The car I’d concentrated on had turned. None others were in sight.

I took stock of my condition. Fortunately, I appeared to have suffered only scrapes and bruises on my knees and one elbow. My jeans were still intact. No one could even tell I’d fallen. Glad I’d got off so lightly, I continued on to the train station. Once seated on the train, I turned on my computer and found it also had been spared.

The incident taught me a valuable lesson which I’m applying to writing. Focus on the here and now. Do one thing at a time and get it done right. Ignore all those exciting ideas milling about my brain, keeping me from completing my goal. I’ve got a manuscript over half-finished. I need to get it done.

But what about those bright, shiny ideas calling for my attention? I’m so tempted to play with them instead of buckling down. I won’t. I’ve told them they’ll get their chance. To make sure I don’t forget any of them, I’ve made up a to-do list.

April 23, the first day of my RWA chapter’s Spring Fling Conference, will be here before I know it. I don’t want to be caught by surprise with nothing to pitch.

What about you? Do you find it hard to focus on one project? Have you ever regretted not finishing a manuscript because you started a new one instead?

By the way, there’s still room at Spring Fling where you, too, can pitch to an editor or agent.

Morgan Mandel


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  1. I think it's always good to have at least two projects to work on. If I'm stuck on one project, I can always get something done on the other (or vice versa). My experience is from doing science research, and writing science papers. But I guess it would be kind of the same for fiction writers?

  2. I do have another project I can work on, but now that time is of the essence, I'm going to buckle down and work on this one and get it done. What I have decided to do is, if I get stuck, I'll go ahead and do a chapter that seems easier to finish and come back to the part that's bothering me later. Maybe I'll have figured it out in the meantime.
    Morgan Mandel

  3. I always have several projects going at once. I started my writing career as a journalist and freelance writer, doing more than one story at a time, and I guess the habit stuck. I find it easy to compartmentalize and have no problem jumping from one to another. I guess I'm just weird!


  4. This is great advice. Thanks for putting things in such a clear, unwavering perspective.

  5. Ouch, that must have hurt. I'll bet your knees hurt more now than they did when you fell.

    I've finally learned that multi-tasking does not work for me. I need to focus on one thing and get it done, then move to the next task.

    My deadline to finish a manuscript (including revisions) was March 27th, so I scheduled an agent pitch appointment at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference. I scrambling to finish revisions, but I think I'll make it.

  6. Tee hee, I always have two books going at a time--a new one I'm working on, one I'm editing, and of course one I'm promoting.

    I fell right after getting out of a plane. My roll-on caught on something behind me and I pitched forward and also landed on my knees. Went down in slow motion. Scared everyone around me, but I was fine. Much more careful after that.


  7. I always have a couple projects I'm working on - let one sit while I work on the other.
    Glad you weren't hurt - last time I went down - I hydroplaned in sandals on a patch of wet grass between the sidewalk and street. I nearly ended up under by husband's truck!
    DL Larson

  8. I read yesterday that Brad Paisley fell during one of his concerts. Fortunately, it was right near the end. He continued, but then went to the hospital and was ok.

    Judging from him and what some of you wrote, I'm in good company.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. One of those moments where you look around and pray no one saw you?

    I usually work on one thing at a time, but I always finish each project!

  10. Thanks for the inspiring comment, although sorry you had to take a tumble to realize it. I'm never in the here and now. My brain is always searching for something and finding too many projects. I'm going to make a conscious effort to pick one and stick with it. Now if I can decide which one. :)

  11. I can't work on multiple long projects. I'm not a fan of multi-tasking; I think it leads to more mistakes, which means you're not as productive as you could be.

    I work on one manuscript until it's done. I have a notebook to write down other ideas that I will work on later, but I don't touch a new idea unless the first one is finished. Doesn't this explain why I don't have more submissions out there? LOL!

    I can work on articles and blogging in between, but that's all I can promise.

    Sorry to hear about you taking a fall. Glad you could get something positive out of it.


  12. I'm going through this right now. Writing a trilogy brings millions of ideas into the brain, ideas that I need to keep so that I don't lose the scope of the entire piece.

    I keep Notepad on my desktop and add my ideas as they come so that I don't lose them, but I make every effort to keep on task.

    Great post!

  13. Very helpful reminder to stay focused. I do have trouble with that. I have found that making a list in the morning does help, although I'm off my list now and looking at blogs. LOL

  14. Great blog Morgan. I had a moment like that when I was carrying my computer and watched it go sliding across an icy parking lot when I lost my footing. My heart just dropped as I thought about my nearly finished manuscript and all the great work I had done that morning. I also learned a valuable lesson in that I always back it up now!

  15. Hi Morgan,

    This was a great post. Focusing on the here and now is also a good way to live life. :) Thanks for sharing.

  16. Glad you and your computer are okay.

    I do better working on one project at a time, otherwise I'd never finish anything.

  17. You sure hit home with this post! Yeah, I get distracted by the shiny things... My WIP is still a WIP. And I fell down and went boom the same way! Unfortunately, my right knee is still giving me trouble. I've since learned to focus!

  18. I'm always working on multiple projects. I can't function working on one thing only. Too boring and not challenging. I need a controlled chaos environemtn to write at my best.

    Stephen Tremp


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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