Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, February 25, 2005

If you can't do the job well, don't do it at all.

I thought I couldn’t write because of my major personal problem. I thought that I would NOT be able to get the job done. But as I am slowly recovering from this problem (which I would call trauma except for the fact that, aside from needing counseling because of it, it wasn’t as bad as most of these cases are), I feel my muse slowly coming back to life again. Little by little, I’m able to get back into the writing game, mentally preparing things I have to write, structuring leads and pondering interview questions.

The thing of it is, though, I’m not yet out of the woods. Part of me is still “messed up” because of what happened. It’s just not over yet and I suspect it’s going to be a while before it is truly over.

I bit the bullet this week and told my editors that A) I might not have Internet access for a while because I was leaving my home (with my daughter, of course) and B) A basic summary of why I was leaving. My editors were very understanding to my situation and invited me back once I got settled in the near future. Another editor inquired if I still wanted to send in an article that had to run in April and since it was a timely topic, of course I said yes. I wouldn’t be able to do it later unless I reslant it and I want to give readers a chance to get the heads-up on this annual event before it occurred.

Later, though, I found I was indeed able to submit in time after all: I would have the computer and everything to use. I notified my editors and, to my big surprise, one of them instructed that I take the time to recover from this problem and that they would always be there and ready when I was 100% better and able to submit my next article to them.

I pondered this. I really wanted to keep up with work on that end but, at the same time, I just couldn’t completely put myself into the job of writing the best article I could. And it was kind of a good thing my editor allowed this break, because I ended up getting really, really sick (I had NO strength to even stand up and my head felt like a bomb went off in it) and couldn’t do any kind of writing, anyway. (My mom is convinced I got sick from stress but I really wonder.)

I shared my dilemma with the gang at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. This is the thread I started for it:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8366 One person made a comment that really put this into perspective: “Start producing crap however, and it's their necks on the line too - their bosses swing in, Changes are made, and you could well have blotted your copybook for life.” This comment floored me. It really is true. If I tried to still do my job even when I was allowed time off and when I couldn’t even think straight, the writing will suffer.

And you can’t let the writing suffer!

This reminded me of a saying I heard once: “If you can’t do the job well, don’t do it at all.” And I swear I never ever thought about this at all during the time I pondered whether I should heed my editor’s advice or try and be macho about it (even though I’m not a man! Hmm, I wonder if there’s a “Macho Woman” song....). Of course part of me screamed, “Listen to your editor!” While the other part could only ask, “What about your readers?”

It’s the second part I struggled the most with. One job is an article series. I never mentioned how many articles I’d be doing in this series (although at present I have 12 to cover the whole year) but, you know, the regular readers might be expecting the next installment. And if that next one doesn’t show up, they might start to lose interest, unsubscribe, wonder if I’m out of ideas or decided to quit. Of course, they might also think it just got interrupted, but part of me is expecting all the bad stuff.

But if I’m writing for my readers, then it is the readers’ expectations I need to keep in mind. And the very first thing a reader expects is a well-written article. They want something that was worth their time to read. And given the state I’m in right now...I just don’t think I have it in me to give it to them. Not at this point, anyway.

And so, for my readers’ sake (and not so much for my editors’), I will take some time to recover from this problem. I will try to get myself back together and, hopefully, get myself to write again. I don’t know if I can say when that will be but hopefully soon. After all, I got a book to get typed then finalized for a publisher (who doesn’t know of what all has been going on but I don’t feel I need to share it with her, too). I will take some time off. Maybe I will turn to journal-writing to help me cope with this thing, maybe I won’t use writing at all. I’m definitely going to get some counseling, though. And, hopefully, I’ll soon be on my way to being back in fighting shape.


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