For part of my work on the Los Angeles Review, I’ve been busy this past week compiling a comprehensive style guide to which I, along with my fellow editors, can refer when in grammatical doubt of any kind. My partner in crime, Kelly, and I thought it would be a great idea to post such a guideline for all to see so that we don’t run into the usual roadblocks of copyediting the week before we go to press. In the shuffle of contracts, emails, last-minute changes, bios and contact information, it can often be difficult to remember rules about past participles and split infinitives. I gladly accepted responsibility for creating such a guideline, not realizing that the project would soon consume my entire life.
The problem is that once I began putting this thing together, I realized that I would never be able to stop. Why do something of this nature in a half-assed way when it could so joyfully become an all-inclusive encyclopedia of all things-grammar related? Syntax, predicates, and conjugations—oh MY! I’ve had lots of other projects to nurture this past weekend, but I have largely ignored them in order to fully devote myself to this task. The guideline is now alphabetized, formatted, and almost ready to go. I can’t decide now, at the end of it, if I’m proud or if I’m embarrassed by how hard I worked on the guideline. It’s extremely nerdy.
I took a little break yesterday morning to take Mona to the park. There, she began flirting heavily with a male German Shepherd named Otis. Otis’ owner was a lovely woman, to whom I took an immediate liking. We talked while our dogs played, and she told me that she was a retired high school English teacher. I wanted to hug her right away, but I restrained myself. I simply told her that I’m a writer, and that this is why I liked her so much—because grammarians always seem to gravitate toward one another. I think she was tickled by my comments, but perhaps a bit frightened by my zeal for the English language. She and Otis left the park shortly thereafter.
Certainly I learned a few new things about subject and verb agreement this weekend, but I now realize what the guideline was really about: procrastination. I’ve got another artificial deadline this week, and need to finish writing a new chapter for my novel by Wednesday. After I finished working on the style guide, I planned to really sit down and begin writing. Not so much. I then decided it would be great to clean the whole house first. And then of course I needed to shower, do a face mask, tweeze my eyebrows, and give myself a manicure—then I’d hunker down in the office. But by that point, I was hungry, and who can get their creative juices flowing on an empty stomach? So of course I needed to cook a three-course meal. At 3 pm.
And then I sat down to finally get down to it. But I wrote this blog post instead. Now, I have no more excuses. No more distractions or vehicles of procrastination. The style guide is a 40-page behemoth of linguistic perfection, and my house is sparkling. My belly is full, Mona is napping. It’s 6:04 pm, and I’ve got the whole night ahead of me to finally do the one thing I wrote on my to-do list for the weekend. It’s time to write; wish me luck.