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Wildly Exaggerated: How to Write a Thing

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Write a Thing

Many people have been understandably awed by my amazing ability to write 300 pages worth of sketches that will never see the light of day. One of the slack-jawed millions (who also happens to be my closest friend) has asked that I "send some of that productivity [her] way". Obviously I can't do that. I mean, I could, because how hard could it possibly be to write a dissertation? "Foucault something something memory blah blah blah reading and retention dippy-do Foucault again (CITATION)." There's your first sentence. You see my point? But I digress (often and with great enthusiasm).

While I can't write her dissertation for her, I can offer her some of the wisdom gleaned on my epic 2 month journey, and I shall endeavor to do so. She doesn't need help with preliminary work, as she's already in the thick of the writing process. And if you're reading this, you've probably already done your idea-coming-up-with and now just need to get into the nuts and bolts. Here are the steps I followed to make my caffeine-induced dream a sad, alcohol-soaked reality:
1. Buy some stuff. This is America, dammit (NOTE: if you are not in America, get on the internet and buy stuff from America. Please. WE NEED THE MONEY.) Yes, you probably already have roughly 35 notebooks, 139 pens in various states of ink depletion, 2 computers (featuring 3 word processing programs and a paid subscription to Evernote), and a smartphone. But is any of the stuff you already own truly suited to the project on which you are now embarking? Of course it isn't! You need new stuff! Tell yourself it will help you get motivated! For reference, I bought Scrivener, a bunch of imported gel pens, and 5 Moleskine notebooks of various sizes and colors.

2. Realize that you just spent a lot of money on things that will not do the writing FOR you. Get very depressed. (Note: even though these products didn't do the writing for me, they were all instrumental in the work I eventually did. Especially Scrivener, the most amazing piece of software ever written EVER.)

3. Implement a highly regimented and disciplined writing schedule. Make sure it's doable, because you will be sticking to it like a total rock star for about 3 weeks.

4. Miss 1 scheduled hour of writing due to oversleeping, family crisis, illness, car trouble, earthquake, water leak, etc. Have a total breakdown. Approved breakdown activities include: drinking to excess, getting tattoos, doing P90X, quitting your job, streaking at a nationally televised sporting event, making cupcakes and spelling out profanities in the icing, buying a Lady Gaga album, taking up paintball, reading Kafka to the elderly, and crash dieting. Feel free to add whatever feels right to you, provided that you remember to include copious, uncontrollable weeping between activities.

*5. Have an epiphany.* This is the step that saved me; the miraculous moment I went from "total loser" to "total loser who could brag insufferably about having finished something". My epiphany was as follows: "Who the hell ever heard of an hour long sketch show written by a single person? Most sketch shows are only 30 minutes!" Armed with the realization that roughly half of what I wrote was destined for a trash can anyway, I attacked the project with renewed zeal. I stopped nit-picking for quality because for all I knew, the crappy sketch I was writing wouldn't even survive the cull! I got back on my regimented schedule and finished in a little over a week. Now, if you're, say, writing a dissertation, you may not have the luxury of throwing out half of what you write. You'll need to have a different epiphany. Maybe something like, "If I just finish writing this one massive document, I'll be allowed to see my family again!"

6. Reward yourself. I would recommend a vacation of at least 2 weeks, to somewhere you really want to go, with travel companions you really want to be with, and an unlimited budget. But if you're like me and can't afford that, I find that a single glass of wine, a chocolate bar, and MST3K works well too.

Ta-da! Easy peasy! And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to spend literally the rest of my life reveling in my triumph while simultaneously never accomplishing anything ever again.



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