Kage Baker hated being nagged.
Well, honestly, most people do hate it. Except for those solipsistic types who simply don’t hear things like nagging or suggestions; they exist in happy selective deafness. Kage could only rarely summon that kind of armour; more usually, she heard everything, far too well, and reacted like a goosed volcano.
This made things hard for a faithful minion, since she also liked to be gently reminded of her schedules and responsibilities, lest she get so involved in production that she missed out on delivery. That only happened a few times, but they tended to be memorable.
There was the time she forgot she had a signing in San Diego, and went to a Faire in Marin County instead. (The book shop called her agent, her agent called the cops, and we got home after midnight to find a note from the PBPD that said CALL YOUR AGENT.) And the time she forgot a novel was due in January, rather than June. ( Kage went into superhuman high gear and completed it in weeks rather than months.) And a few problems with the difference between East Coast time and West Coast time, for chats. (She signed on late but she did get there, telling funny stories about the revolt of her modem and cable setup …)
For a perfectionist like Kage, these errors would have been intolerable under any circumstances – they were worse because they were all avoidable errors. After each one of them, I laid on huger and more iron-cast precautions, so they’d never happen again. And since the police never came looking for her again, I can truthfully claim those pretty much worked. But it was hard. Kage really hated to be nagged.
I tried sticky notes, but you know what? If ignored long enough, and if drenched in enough corrosive Coca Cola, sticky notes lose all adhesiveness and blow sadly away. I tried several Notes programs on Kage’s laptop; after a few viewings, she simply didn’t see them anymore! And she never did learn to check her emails every day, and emails from me tended to be ignored anyway. Had Kage ever figured out her Spam filters, she never would have opened a reminder from me at all.
I got a white board and a spectrum of coloured pens, and wrote technicolour schedules and lists on it. I hung it on the wall between Kage’s barometer and the window with the sea view: so she had to look at it. That worked better than anything else, I must say – she really read it from time to time, and kept enough track of what was on it to make suggestions of what should be added. She really enjoyed crossing the finished projects off with a big black marker, too. Once I found an erasable one, anyway; that was my bad.
But nothing worked as well as Kage’s own iron discipline. Oh, she could forget things and put them aside, like anyone. Nor was she immune to occasional laziness, or the urge to saunter down the street to the beach with a sand chair and a thermos of Coke and rum – and believe me, once you have that power made available to you, Dear Readers, it gets harder and harder to resist. But sooner or later the ruthless supervisor in her own head would rouse itself and send her back to work. My nagging was ultimately pointless beside that inexorable drive.
I don’t have that drive – or maybe I just don’t have it as strongly, or as often. When it strikes, it is irresistible: I do know what it’s like to write all night in your sleep, wake up literally aching to get to the keyboard, and resent every sound, itch, puppy lick, kitten purr or (very needed) offer of another cup of coffee that comes my way: just because it’s all static blurring the words in their journey between my brain and my fingers.
But what I feel more often is that urge to do anything rather than write. I’m a frequent slob, but I’ll dust, vacuum and do other people’s laundry rather than sit down when I don’t know what to say next. I like doing dishes, and I utterly love driving around on errands. I also have a dreadful habit of very specific retail therapy: I shop for books. I shop for a lot more than I buy – which takes even longer – but once I buy them, I have to read them, right?
Luckily, I have a much better and more stubborn office manager than Kage did. Kimberly is not only an actual mother, she was a teacher for 20-odd years. And she usually taught kindergarteners. Little kids who are in school for the very first time and are not even sure what their own last names are, pose a much worse shepherding problem than one unmotivated older sister …
“You have to at least get a little blog in tonight,” she told me patiently all day.
“I don’t know what to saaaay,” I whined.
“So write about being nagged to write,” said Kimberly.
So I started that. And then we went out to pick up Fatburgers for dinner, because it’s a warm Los Angeles Saturday night and Fatburgers are cool; and on the drive, Kimberly asked me: “So where are you in “Teddy Bear Squad”? What happens next?”
And I started telling her and she told me “Don’t you leave me hanging here without an ending!” and lo! An ending happened as I told her the rest. So here we are and all I have to do it write it down. Tomorrow. Because tonight I am comatose from Fatburger consumption.
Nagging works. It may not be as strong as Fatburgers: but it works.
Hmmm. The cattle died well.
What are these Fatburgers of which you write so fondly?
They are a Los Angeles chain of burger shops. They are … pure, simplistic burgers. You can get ’em with 1, 2 or 3 patties; cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard, relish, bacon and a fried egg are available as condiments – no catsup. The veggies are fresh, the buns are home-made, the meat is locally sourced and fresh, too. The burgers are enormous, and just greasy enough to be convincing as genuine hamburgers … and the Fatfries are good, too. I’m fond of In N Out burgers, but Fatburgers are infinitely better. They’re even better than Tommy’s Burgers (another legendary LA chain) except they have no chili – which is Tommy’s main claim to fame. In no way are these good for you, I suspect – but they are wonderful!
I was actually at that signing in San Diego! The other day I pulled out my copy of “Black Projects, White Knights”, which Kage signed during the make-up signing in the same book store. I’d told her we were all worried something happened to her when she didn’t show up the first time. I’d forgotten what she’d written under her signature: “See? I didn’t die.” Gave me chills.
I remember her writing that! And you must admit, at that time – she didn’t. And while she was horribly embarrassed at the time, it later became one of her favourite stories to tell: the time the Police Department told her to call her agent. Plus the wonderful time she had at at he make-up signing later.
If only you could clone Kimberly….
I’ll have to look and see if there are any Fatburgers in Woodland Hills next time I visit LA. In-N-Out are about the only chain hamburger I like any more. I don’t need the chili anyway.
There is! At the corner of Ventura and Van Nuys Boulevards – 14402 Ventura Blvd. It’s right across the street from Casa de Cadillac.