I’m a great believer in Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Why? Because humans have such a wonderful creative capacity and, simultaneously, an equally wonderful capacity to muck things up. (It’s just wonderful in a different direction, that’s all!).
I’ve experienced direct examples of Murphy’s Law. And you can practically guarantee it will afflict you if you’re trying to do something in a hurry.
Part of the reason I give myself lots of time to go to an appointment is if I’m driving, I know if I leave plenty of time, I won’t have many problems parking. If I leave it to the last minute, all my usual parking places are full. How do people know I’m about to turn up then? I do know this scenario could also be called How to induce Unnecessary Stress and it’s just not worth it so I leave early!
Likewise, if there is something you are washing up you absolutely must not break… well watch out, that’s all I’m saying!
The best thing about Murphy’s Law? I guess it proves we are human and it can make you laugh.
I’m sure there are Murphy’s Laws for various professions but I list below some of the writing ones. Please do share any good examples of Murphy’s Law that you’ve come across.
Murphy’s Law for Writers
1. You can never find a working pen when you want one. This is embarrassing if you’re a writer at a signing session!
2. Your toner cartridge runs out halfway during a print run. This is particularly true if, like me, you have a printer which has no indicator of how much toner it has left.
3. You discover the writing competition of your dreams, it is tailor made for you, and you have a story you know would work well for it. You check the closing date. Yes, it was yesterday.
4. You either have a buzz of ideas to write up or none. There is no happy medium.
5. You either have lots of time in which to write or very little. There is no happy medium.
6. Naturally, when you have lots of time, that is when you find the supply of ideas is on the scanty side.
7. Equally naturally when you have little time, that is when your head is buzzing with great story or article ideas. All you need is the time to jot down some notes but alas!
8. If you use a laptop or smart phone for writing when out and about, your battery will go flat at the most inconvenient moment.
9. You will run out of paper and/or toner/ink jet cartridges etc when you’re trying to meet an urgent deadline.
10. Deadlines are never set as far into the future as you would like. You will always be getting your work out at the last minute.
11. Power cuts never happen at a convenient time for anyone. Yours will happen just as you were about to save a mammoth writing session. You will lose it and have to redo it. (This will only happen the once though as after that you will become paranoid about it happening again and will be selecting back up options every five minutes!).
12. You will never have as much time for reading, which all writers need to do, as you would like for this as (a) you’re trying to do your own writing and time is limited and (b) when not writing other factors get in the way. On the rare chance you do get to sit down and read, you will feel immensely guilty over it. Ironically you shouldn’t feel this way. All writers need to read well to feed their imaginations and spark ideas but there is always the vague feeling, when reading, you should be doing something else. Something that is more active and obviously “useful”.
13. Writing Conferences: You will never get to go to as many of you would like (cost grounds!) and the ones you do get to, you will find your classes are in rooms that are as far apart as possible so you have to walk quickly between them to get to the next one on time. You will often fail in that aim! You will learn the art of sidling late into a course, trying not to look embarrassed at being late. You will fail in that too. What will cheer you up is when other people come in after you!
14. It is common advice to have plenty of work “out there” so that when rejections come in, as they will, you still have something that is being considered. This is good advice but where Murphy’s Law can strike is in things like sending the wrong story to the wrong email address, sending the same thing twice etc. Take your time on submissions to avoid this.
15. Never overestimate your capacity to meet deadlines. Assume the worst and give yourself loads more time than is needed otherwise old Murphy will strike again here too. The greater the time pressure the more likely it is Murphy’s Law will trip you up.
16. When you try to write “funny”, it won’t happen! When you are writing a serious piece, don’t be surprised if humour creeps into it. Sometimes the latter can be useful for taking the edge of a piece (and that can be important). Never force a mood of an article or story. For the latter, write to the character. For the former, think of who your audience is likely to be and write in the way you think they would appreciate.
17. You are keen to support your fellow authors. Two of them have books out. You couldn’t be more thrilled for them. You want to go to support their book launches. They’re having them on the same day at opposite ends of the country… yes, old Murphy has struck again (and for your friends here too).
18. You decide to update any promotional materials you have… business cards, pens, postcards etc. You have checked the text etc several times and happily put in an order. When you get them back you suddenly realise you’ve left an important detail out. (Guess how I know about this one!).
19. You sign up for an online seminar on some aspect of creative writing you know you will find useful. Prior to this, you have had no issues with sound/video use on your laptop. You sign in to the seminar at the required time (you usually can’t sign in too early) and lo and behold you either have no picture or no sound. You will have sound when you decide to express your frustration verbally. Your host will either have a fit of the giggles or cough. You will be embarrassed. (Before you ask, not yet is the answer to this one for me. I’ve had the no sound happen. I’ve refrained from swearing so there!).
20. You discover at your signing session there is a major sporting event on somewhere else. You’ve wondered why it was quiet! (Oh and the only ones who turn up are those who loathe football but don’t “do” books either. They just wondered what you were up to!). NB. This has not happened to me yet but I suspect some local writers could tell a few tales here!
Okay, over to you, send in some good examples of Murphy’s Law for us to laugh at as that is the best way of dealing with it!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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