Thursday, 5 September 2019

Why Haven't I Done it yet? -- Cecilia Peartree

As a dedicated procrastinator, there are lots of things I keep putting off doing. They range from making an appointment with the dentist, to swapping some theatre tickets from one date to another, to writing up the minutes for the Annual General Meeting of the local organisation of which I am currently secretary. I suppose the road to my personal hell, if I believed in it, would definitely be paved with intentions, not all of them good, although from my point of view not exactly evil either. I realised when I thought about this that I use a variety of excuses to put off doing things, but they tend to fall into two main categories. There are things I don't really want to do at all, like going to the dentist, and things I think don't have time for, such as writing up the minutes.

Writing up my family history research, which is very much on my mind at present following a real-world meeting with a distant relative from Utah, is an odd one as I think I really want to do this, but I don't seem to be able to get round to it even when I do have some time to spare. Sometimes I tell myself I am saving it for a retirement project, which would be fine if I didn't keep putting off retirement from my day job! I've even put further obstacles in my own path to prevent myself actually doing it. At the moment I can't even start on it because my family history software is on the 'wrong' laptop, i.e. the old one that takes over an hour to boot up (and probably much longer now that I haven't switched it on for over a year) and which has been relegated to a lower shelf that is only accessible if I lean over a chair, thereby dislodging various things piled on top of each other and quite probably also dislocating my dodgy knee.

The pile in question is as precarious as this but less colourful

However I can't help feeling I've been deliberately sabotaging my chances of doing it because I just don't know where to start. I'd quite like to make it into a book for future generations of the family, on the off-chance that some random descendant will be interested enough to look at it. This is quite a long shot as for a long time I was the only person in my family who was at all interested in any kind of history, and my mother was actively hostile to the mere idea of finding out about her ancestors., so when my late brother and I started on it, we had to keep it secret from her, which was quite frustrating. With this in mind, I probably shouldn't include her travel diaries in anything I compile. In any case she tended to focus not so much on the rather exciting places she visited, such as Lake Baikal or the Kruger National Park, as on her travelling companions, who always managed to annoy her in some way. Perhaps I'll find I can paraphrase the diaries a bit! There are also parts of the family history that I feel 'belong' to various other people, such as accounts of the relatives who trekked to Utah by wagon train with the Mormons in the mid 19th century, and some research on calico printing done by a second cousin in Glasgow.

I am also hung-up on the format of this possible future publication. I feel it would have to include charts, photographs etc, and I know from the little experience I have of creating a book with photographs in it that it's very difficult to get them into the right position on the page and make them look good in print. Although judging by the research I've done so far, we aren't exactly descended from William the Conqueror (not least because my ancestors are about 95% Scottish) or anyone particularly famous, I do have some quite nice family stories to write about as well as the bare facts, and it would be good to record them in some way. On the other hand, there is always more research that could be done! I think perhaps that's what is holding me back more than anything else. What if I write up what I know so far, and then find something amazing in my next bit of research?

Well, I've managed to overcome that last obstacle in the case of the two historical novels I've published in the last couple of years, so if I am determined enough I should be able to do it again, I suppose.

Meanwhile there is always time to work on a new mystery novel


1 comment:

Umberto Tosi said...

You probably don't procrastinate as much as you think - at least judging from your accomplishments. I try to lighten up on my anxiety about putting things off and over dithering at the start of projects, but I do anyway. I think of Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Thanks for your candid post and good luck with your projects.