Friday Frustrations: Timing
William Shakespeare (whose birthday was yesterday actually, as was mine) once said, "Better three hours too soon than a minute too late." While that aphorism can't always be taken literally (have you ever arrived too early to a social event? I have, and it's not pretty), it often applies to writing. And life more generally, of course, but that's another post for another day. It's too soon to drag you readers into my personal life.
But it happens to writers all the time. We'll arrive, somehow, at a good idea. Sometimes it feels like a reward for hours spent wracking our brains for a novel concept, other times we get really lucky and an idea falls into our laps. But either way, we're thrilled: good ideas can be hard to come by, and a good idea that hasn't been exhaustively written about already is a fucking goldmine. We feel like Archimedes and start getting excited about how we're going to execute and implement, whether we want to tell people about it or keep it to ourselves. Except sometimes, we make the mistake of holding onto that idea for too long. We make excuses for not pursuing it then and there, saying tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow until it's yesterday and the opportunity is gone.
This happened to me fairly recently with an article I wanted to write about allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood. The shortage of blood brought about by the COVID crisis made the FDA ban on blood donations for this particular population look especially ridiculous. I had written about this for a philosophy class in college over a decade ago, highlighting the absurdity of the restriction and its clearly antiquated, homophobic policy. So I started writing an Op-Ed calling for the policy to be reexamined and then overturned due not only to bigotry but the fact that other lives would suffer if there was not enough blood for transfusions.
I procrastinated for a few days, started writing it for submission one evening and got too tired; called it a night and swore I'd send it out in the morning. I woke up the next day to this and this and other headlines. While I was happy that at least some restrictions were lifted (this is a way bigger issue than me and some byline I wanted), I can't deny that I felt the sting of not having sent out my draft sooner. My idea was no longer relevant. Or, at least not in the way I was initially going to present it. So it was back to square one.
I wish I could say that this is the first time this has happened to me, but it isn't. I interviewed a filmmaker last August who had made a movie about Woodstock, one of the most enjoyable interviews I've ever conducted. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the legendary music festival and the article was supposed to come out then. But I had one hell of a breakdown very soon after that and couldn't bring myself to write it (ok, so I guess I am talking about my personal life now). As time passed, it became less timely until I finally just gave up. I feel like shit about it. Sure, it would have been a good story--I had my angle and structure all set to go in my head--but what was worse is that I let the director down.
Some stories, as they say in my industry, are "evergreen" and it doesn't matter when they're written or when they run; they're always relevant. But for a lot of topics, you have to really seize the moment.