Derailment, deconstructed

diorama of alice chasing white rabbit down hole

1. Launch writing program to begin rewriting work for the day.

2. Work on rewrite for 10 minutes. Hit snag, and decide I need grounding exercise writing buddy created for me last week when I hit previous rewriting snag.

3. Open email client to track down writing buddy’s note, because I appear to have willfully refused to keep the usual three or four redundant copies handy, and email is the only place I know I can find a copy.

4. Note new email in inbox!

5. Read first new email. It contains a simple request for information, accompanied by a factual error. Rather than fulfilling request (which could be dispatched in roughly 15 seconds), I fixate on factual error, moving swiftly from assessment of my history with correspondent (contentious, fraught) to speculative analysis of his intent (passive-aggression? none?) to my own response (judgmental, assumptive). Briefly reflect on the subject of mirrors. Succumb to mounting moral indignation over misguided accusation of imprecision, and begin hashing out a reply.

6. Catch myself acting like horse’s ass and save email to “drafts” folder. Win!

7. Read next email. It is an autoresponse from a company whose product I downloaded for trial yesterday during a promotion. Robo-mail notes that I have not replied, and extends grace period of an additional 24 hours, but at what looks like a reduced percentage off. Simultaneously pulled toward the deal and suspicious that it is less of a deal than offered yesterday. Consider going through “Trash” folder, then realize I emptied it last night in obsessive-compulsion-fueled panic attack.” This series of thoughts apparently creates just enough distance to remind me that I passed on deal yesterday because I’d realized I had zero immediate/projected use for the product. Determine that these needs have likely not changed overnight. Delete email.

8. Open last new email, which contains references to a “branding expert.” Briefly wonder why sender of email does not consider me a “branding expert.” Tar-pit balloon of mixed gases (anxiety, hurt, anger) bubbles to surface. As it swells, I consider clicking on outbound link to view further information on “branding expert.” Miraculously, it pops, covering me with filthy shame, but allowing the clearheaded realization that I have no extra time, ever, to view videos of any “branding expert.” Wipe shame from battered psyche. Delete email.

9. Close email client. Win!

10. Find myself staring at browser window previously hidden by document and mail client windows. It contains Amazon affiliate income information. Wonder why Amazon affiliate income is so low. Wonder where I have failed to provide sufficient value for hot clickthru action. Wonder whether, if I do empty my affiliate income stash to buy that Kindle 3G I’ve been wanting, I will ever earn enough affiliate income to fill Kindle 3G with books. Wonder where my privileged life has gone off the rails that I am spending perfectly good (re)writing time wondering about jerkoff assclown B.S. like Amazon affiliate income and overpriced digital reading devices. Remember that I am supposed to be (re)writing right now.

11. Minimize browser window and maximize document window. Stare at rewrite. Realize I have forgotten to retrieve my writing buddy’s notes.

12. Decide to transcribe rabbit-hole behavior, because unpacking things and examining them is only way I have ever learned how to change patterns. Recall Beverly Sills quote I am forever spouting off to others. Sigh inwardly.

13. Decide to post rabbit-hole experience to the blog, after rewriting it.

14. Finish rewriting original rewriting chore, sans writing-buddy notes. Note that the Earth appears to be turning on axis.

15. Post to blog. Wonder if post should have been rewritten further.


Image by Smath. via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. I love your posts — they always make me giggle and perhaps blush a bit in recognition. Thank-you for making my neuroses seem incredibly cool and funny instead of just…neurotic.

  2. This is my favorite post of yours ever. Ever! I do all of this, and the voice in which I talk to myself as I do it is not at all pretty.

  3. Hey Colleen, I’m happy to read I’m not the only one who gets easily derailed.
    Just adding my two cents here about the rewriting thing… could it be that you rewrite a lot as you go along? I was once told that *some* writers, copywriters and translators (that’s me) want it to be “perfect” the first time and they pour everything they’ve got in the first draft. When I was writing my masters’ thesis, cutting or changing a paragraph felt like I was literally chopping off a limb. A wise friend then told me to “kill my poodles”, the parts I was overly attached to. So I try (the operative work being try) to let the first draft flow imperfectly, let it marinate for a while and then go back to mold it into my final version. Most of my work consists of adapting TV shows in French, which is really rewriting. So I spend my days rewriting my rewriting, oy… Hang in there! i

    1. could it be that you rewrite a lot as you go along?

      Yes! we talked about this the other day.

      And you’re right about the Shitty First Draft. I actually got very good at it, working on this book! Interesting, how I treat the book writing so much differently than I do the blog/newsletter/column writing.

      My favorite thing about your comment is the poodle thing. I love that you French Canadians turned your darlings into poodles. Now I have to go look up the French word for “poodle.”

      1. Actually, Colleen, the “kill your poodles” bit was from an English-speaking friend. Maybe the expression is “kill your poodles” among Anglos in Canada? Unfortunately we don’t use “tuez vos caniches” in French. It sounds hilarious though.
        Good luck with the deck chairs on the Titanic. Maybe humming “Nearer My Draft To Thee” would help? ;-)

  4. did this BEFORE writing my 1667 NoNoWriMo words – and was “checking” something for some reason and then read this and, blushing and laughing, closed email box and got the damn words written. Thank you for saving my writer’s ass.

  5. I think I know what your problem is.

    You’re thinking too much!

    Don’t think when you write your first draft, make grammar mistakes on purpose, don’t link ideas to each other, if you hesitate, write the first thing that come up to your mind.

    In the end, you’ll be obligud to rewrite the article, because it sucks!

  6. Ummm, that was awesome.

    I’m giggling uncontrollably. The inability to focus is the new focus.

    Hey, I come by here to read and still get your newsletter which is awesome too. Just wanted to to say hi! Hi.

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