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The Five Mistakes that Caused Me to Not Write My Column This Month

Hacks for Hacks: Sense of Humor Required

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, songwriters, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Due to circumstances surrounding Hurricane Florence, I will not be writing my “Hacks for Hacks” column this month. My family and I are quite safe, riding out the storm on a wooden raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As much as I would love to blame Mother Nature, which I do for the bulk of the problems in my life, I must accept full responsibility for not planning ahead and taking measures to deliver my column. I offer my humble apologies to Writer Unboxed and my readers.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, I catalogued the mistakes I made in the hope that you can avoid them yourself.

Mistake 1: Ignoring the weather report

Despite the fact that the news reports have been saying for the past week that a hurricane was approaching, through a combination of distracting websites, wishful thinking, snacks, and willpower, I remained unaware of this fact until the rains had begun. As I always say, never underestimate your ability to not notice an inconvenient fact when your sanity depends on you not noticing it. Had I been smart, I would have written and filed my column early in the week when Florence was still just a tropical storm.

Mistake 2: Selling my laptop for a handful of magic beans

When I finally did accept the fact that a storm was coming and that I very well could lose electricity, the life-giving substance that gives power to word processors and blogs alike, I took stock of the situation. I concluded that, given that my column is published on a blog, and that blogs live in “the cloud,” I could plant some magic beans to grow a giant beanstalk and climb up into the cloud myself. Once there, safely above the hurricane’s devastation, I could hand-deliver my column. Not only did I forget that I’d need my laptop to write the column (which is a pretty boneheaded move, I must admit), but the beanstalk only grew four stories tall, and was promptly blown over by the gale-force winds (another oversight for which I feel quite foolish).

Mistake 3:  Trying to turn time backwards by driving my car in the opposite direction of the flow of traffic

Huge time waster, with nothing to show for it. In my defense, this would have worked if not for the roads being closed due to flooding, or if I had a jet ski.

downed street light caused by a hurricane
photo by dasroofless

Mistake 4: Selling my jet ski on Labor Day weekend

Every writer should have a jet ski. Whether you’re trying to meet a deadline or navigate around a difficult plot point or find a red herring in your detective novel, those things will get you out of more jams than you can count.

Mistake 5: Traveling to an alternate dimension in order to steal a completed column from an alternate-dimension version of me

This gambit is familiar to writers and readers of science fiction, and let me tell you from experience, it’s not worth it. There’s no way to prepare yourself to meet an alternate version of yourself and realizing that they’ve got their life together. Probably because the alternate-dimension version of you isn’t a writer, but a medical-records technician. I’ll never forget the look of disappointment on my double’s face when I told him I have no bestsellers and don’t meet Stephen King for beers every Tuesday. Anyway, yeah, alternate-dimension me hadn’t written anything, either. I shuffled back through my battery-powered dimensional-portal generator, admitting defeat at last.

We writers love to procrastinate, relying on last-minute panic to get the creative juices flowing. But let my tale be a lesson to all of you not to put off your writing until the last possible second. We are at the mercy of elements we cannot control—elements such as the elements, for example—and we’ve got to be proactive to make sure we meet our deadlines and keep our promises to our editors, and most importantly, to our readers. Once again, I’m sorry I was unable to deliver a column this month. Next month, I promise I’ll be back to writing columns on how to choose the perfect pen, or how to defeat your standing desk or whatever. Weather permitting.

Have you learned any writing lessons the hard way? Has blowing a deadline made you a wiser writer? Share your hard-won knowledge in the comments!

About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.