Some cosmic force must have taken note of the post I wrote about inertia and discipline last week and decided to play a joke on me.
Two days after that post went live, I began writing news stories for iConcept Media. For the next three months, I am contractually obligated to write a minimum of three 600-word articles a day. I’m fairly certain I’ve written more in the past 4 days than I did in the six months prior.
The guide my boss sent me to help me get acquainted with the duties of the position claims each piece should require no more than 45 minutes. Each one takes me between three and four hours. For those of you not keen on making mental calculations, that means I’ll be spending between nine and twelve hours a day writing, until late September.
I have never done anything 12 hours a day for three months straight. In high school, I sat in class from 8:25 am until 3:25 pm Monday through Friday. I only know those exact times because when I wasn’t staring at girls, I was staring at the clock, figuring out how many more naps I’d have to take before the final bell rang.
What I wasn’t doing between 8:25 and 3:25 in my high school years was paying attention to what the man or woman talking at the front of the classroom was saying. So although I stayed in the same building for those seven hours, drifting around from classroom to classroom to clandestine makeshift smoking parlor, passing those hours did not demand a great deal of discipline.
One summer, I worked at my father’s paper shredding company for eight hours a day five days a week. I cannot provide the exact times at which my day commenced and finished, because that summer I was too busy working—yes, actually working—to bother with staring at the clock. Mostly, I dug through piles and piles of paper, looking for x-rays, which I set aside so they could be sold to a third-party who extracted their silver content.
The work was more physically strenuous than one may assume—an x-ray is heavier than it looks, and stacks and stacks of hundreds of x-rays are just downright heavy—but it still afforded me the luxury of sticking my headphones in and letting my mind flit around to the girls in my high school or the concerts coming up next month. All I really had to do was rifle through papers until some silent bell rang and it was time to go home. I was exchanging time for money.
Then I went to college, and began exchanging money for the privilege to waste my own time. Discipline is nice to have in a university environment—it can make the difference between a 2.0 GPA and a 4.0—but far from necessary. I almost always had at least a week to write even a short, 600-word paper. Often, I had two or three weeks to do so. At the most, I would have to write, say, ten pages—roughly 3,000 words—in a week. Sometimes, a fortnight would pass without my typing a word. There was plenty of time to waste, and I became skilled at and comfortable with wasting it.
For the rest of the summer and about half of the upcoming autumn, I will have to write 3,000 words every 48 hours, and the clock will not write them for me. Work will not end when the grandfather clock of the great capitalistic machine or the school-bell of Mother Education strikes some magical hour. Work will end when my brain has once again defied all odds, overcome its own sluggish synapses, and squeezed out 1800 semi-coherent words.
I’ve been wondering for quite a while how many coherent words my brain has left in it. Every time I sit down to write anything, I run through an array of silent—or, if the circumstances are accommodating, varyingly loud—expletives, and wonder how I could possibly fill the page with anything worth reading.
Most of the time, when the page is full, I am more than a little amazed that I have managed to produce something sort of good.
Then, I read over what I’ve written and realize how many commas I’ve forgotten, how many words I’ve repeated, how sentences make no sense at all, how many non-sequitur rabbit holes I’ve fallen into. If I’m feeling hopeful, I do my best to make everything readable. Otherwise, I close my eyes, hit the print button or the save button or the send button, and hope for the best.
I will have to hit a lot of save buttons and send buttons over the next three months, and put my name on a lot of writing I myself can hardly bear to read. The jury is still out as to whether I have three months’ worth of words in that strange mental fountain which always seems to be on the verge of drying up. If I do, I don’t know how long I can force myself to sit in front of a computer for twelve hours a day and put those words on digital paper.
All that to say that next week I could well be posting about Netflix and delivery food again.
But I signed a contract, and I’m going to do everything I can to make the little fountain in my head, about which I know little and over which I have less control, fulfill it.
Besides, I am running out of angles on the whole Netflix and delivery food theme. I’ve been watching that movie for years.
NOTE: You can find the articles I write for iConcept Media at the following links:
I will also be posting most of them on Reddit, under the username Will2Write. You can see everything I’ve posted under that username at https://www.reddit.com/user/Will2Write/
By the way, this blog never would have come into existence without the encouragement of my aunt, Katie Black. She too is a writer, and we are posting in temporal tandem on our own respective blogs. Check out her excellent writings at katieblackfrost.com.
See you next Tuesday, or thereabouts.