Is my left foot REALLY buried in some Quakers?

Have you ever done something so mindbendingly stupid you wonder whether you should hand yourself into the Police for depriving someone else of valuable oxygen?

Don’t bother casting your mind back, searching for mental torture. Let me share my agony instead…

A few days ago, I did something I’ve never done before.

I still can’t believe it happened. 

It was so colossally stupid, I almost thought about not admitting it to you.

And then I remembered… there are no secrets between us.

(After all, I’ve seen you eat tuna)

Thing is, in typing it out so you can enjoy my numbskulledness, I’m about to relive the mental torture all over again.

Oh well, here goes…

I was writing an email sequence for a client.

To help give you some context here’s a peek into my writing habits…

I always write with a mackerel (smoked) under each arm, my left foot in a bowl of Quaker Oats*, with my headphones blasting out Mmm Bop by Hanson on full volume.

* Unless it’s St Swithin’s day when it’s the right foot. Obviously.

I tend to work in 30-minute blocks. I’d love to boast about being one of those writers who goes up to his office, gets lost in the flow, and comes down to find the year is 3037, everyone else has buggered off to Jupiter, and ants are now my master.

But I’m not.

I’m blessed with ADHD, so 30-minute blocks are about my limit.

Yesterday, in a feat of great timing, I finished off an email just as my timer went “ding!”, so I ticked it off my to-do list, fired it off to my chief, and headed downstairs for a quick break.

Next session… new email, so I get to work…

I’m about 10 minutes in when I suddenly realise…

I’M WORKING ON THE SAME EMAIL I FINISHED IN THE PREVIOUS SESSION!

I’d spent 600 seconds refining this “rough draft” into something slightly less sickening when, 15 minutes ago, I was gazing at it like I was Michel-bloody-angelo showing off the Sistine Chapel.

It reminded me of something I learned from a torn-up magazine I found in a hedge:

“You can always find something to tweak”.

That’s the thing about words – they’re never “done”.

This should be good news, but for most of us, it’s not.

it means there’s always something you can change around, even when you’ve already ticked it off your list…

“Should I say my gutter cleaning masterclass is ‘comprehensive’ or exhaustive?”

I have a rule:

Lovely, innit?

I have another one:

If it’s 90% there and I’m faffing about with words… stop and let it go.

Could it be better? Maybe. But it’s not worth the mental drain.

In my last email, I warned you about trying to write “perfect” emails. Noticing when you’re faffing about and hitting send is HOW you stop trying to write them.

Every time you stop faffing, you remind yourself that email is a “feel” thing.

Of course… this still relies on you having the mental capability of looking at the correct email to start with…

(If you figure that one out, do let me know)

John

P.S. If you want to know more about my writing practice, let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll go into it a little more.

(Best stock up on the porridge now)