Sunday, April 11, 2010

How I write

It’s thesis writing month.

Classes finished a few weeks ago, and now we’re supposed to spend April writing up/htmling up/voicing up/ingesting up the last year or so of our lives. Because I chose print medium, that means I have to write up a 40 page article suitable for publication in a magazine, which may not seem so bad if you’re not in journalism, where the average article is 500 words and still most people won’t read past paragraph two. So trying to write a compelling piece of journalism 20x that length is…a challenge.

I’m averaging 4 pages a day, which is quite good for someone with the self-discipline of a toddler left alone in a room with a 3-layer chocolate cake and instructions not to touch. For me, the battle is not so much in spitting out the words, as it is in making myself actually sit down and do it. I need a fire under my ass to accomplish the littlest of things – I need to see a live rat licking a 10-day old plate before I contemplate washing dishes. I need my power to be shut off before I pay a utility bill. And, my god, I need deadlines before I can write shit all.

This is why daily news suits me. There’s no time for procrastination, not when the deadline is 5pm and it doesn’t matter if you’re working on a news brief about a knitting circle or a 1000 word feature on conflict in the middle east – get your shit to print or get your ass back to the unemployment line.

There are textbooks for journalists, meant to inspire us and teach us the basics of writing for print. An essay that is featured in most of them is "Why I write," first penned by George Orwell and later remastered by Joan Didion. These just happen to be two of my favourite writers and two of my favourite essays. But I think we all know why we write...writers are all very similiar people - creative, wanting an outlet, expressive, somewhat introverted, brimming with neurotic tendencies, and one 9am gin short of alcoholism.

How we write, however, is different for everyone. This is how I write.

Without a deadline other than the general “end of April…if you can,” my days since April 1 go a little something like this:

7am: Alarm goes off
8am: Actually roll out of bed, convincing oneself that subliminal soaking of 1 hour cbc news during sleep is productive.
8:10am: Coffee #1-3.
9:00am: Open word document, flex fingers in anticipation of Pulitzer Prize worthy word-stuffs about to pour from brain.
9:30am: Stare at blank page. Heart starts speeding up.
10:00am: Maybe a shower will get me going.
10:30am: Maybe an hour on facebook will get me going.
11:30am: Call MC to see how her writing is going. Learn that she is done her first draft. Call Spaz to see how her webpage is going. Learn that her supervisor told her she’s brilliant. Call BadInfluence to see how his writing is going. Learn that he still hasn’t started. Feel better, put down phone.
12:00pm: Stare at blank page, tears in eyes. Question thesis choice, medium choice, career choice. Reread older sections, decide I’m a terrible writer. Life = wasted.
12:30pm: If I can’t be smart, maybe I can be hot: to the gym! Stairmaster like a motherfucker, sweat like a whore. Rock out to Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, stretch to the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack. Feel better about life.
2:00pm: OH MY GOD IT’S 2:00PM.
2:30pm: Eat everything in the house, consuming 5x as many calories as I have just burned. Lie on couch in shame.
3:00pm: Sister calls. Yell at her for disturbing my writing process.
3:30pm: Train the cat to fetch a ping-pong ball. Watch him take a nap. Take photos of his cuteness.
4:00pm: Message BadInfluence in tears. Hint that if he wanted to bring me a redbull and also give me a back massage, that would be ok.
4:01pm: BadInfluence shows up with redbull; concern. I’m affectionate for 4 minutes and then I yell at him for disturbing my writing process and tell him to leave.
4:05pm: Watching BadInfluence put on his jacket makes me feel loving; panic. I jump on his back while he ties his shoes and cling to him like a liferaft; whisper dirty things.
4:06pm: BadInfluence rolls his eyes and carries me to the boudoir.
4:07pm-4:50pm: I'm a good girlfriend.
4:51pm: Yell at BadInfluence to leave; shotgun redbull.
4:52pm-8:00pm: Write 4 pages.
8:10pm: Message BadInfluence. Tell him if he wants to come over and make me dinner, that would be ok.
9:00pm: Eat beautiful meal, cuddle, watch news. Love life; BadInfluence.
10:00pm: Panic about the drek I’ve just written. Reread it, make BadInfluence reread it, start rewriting sections, yell at BadInfluence for not being more stressed.
12:00am: Slink into bed, ashamed at acting like such a heinous bitch. Promise BadInfluence I’ll be nicer tomorrow.
12:01am: Yell at BadInfluence.

And that is how I write.


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