Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Deadlines, Timeclocks and Paychecks

I wish I could be the kind of writer who waits around for divine inspiration. I wish I could idly wait for my muse, or hell, any number of muses to waltz by and kiss me. I wish I could be the leisurely kind of writer. If that were the case, it would be great to pass one afternoon, like Ray Bradbuy's “All Summer in a Day,” as a writer working on whatever it is a once in seven years writer works on.

I love to talk about writing. I'll talk to anyone about it. I'll listen to anyone too. It's a good discussion, and for me at least, it's not the normal mind-numbing stuff: reality TV or the highly organized things I find so disdainful. It's a conversation about writing. And I suppose at the base of it, it is a conversation about work.

Work. For years I agreed with Stephen Morrisey, while still with the pop band The Smiths, “work is a four letter word.” I don't know why I'd feel differently now. I just do. I love work and I love to be buried in it. Some people would claim it's because I finally found my life's calling, or that I found something to do in which I love. Neither are true. My life's calling, I think is something much more idle than this. And as far as loving it, I love aspects of it and I love those aspects only at certain times. Enough about that.

Even though it's work, there are still some tangible questions we need to address. I was visiting my mom last week. The subject of my work came up. She asked: “When are you going to get paid?” I kept cool. Even Janice said she thought I was cool. The appropriate response? Who cares? It's not about that. Will I be able to pay my bills with writing? Not today. What did I say to my mom? “It's going to pay, I got three projects going.” Then I tried my best to explain to her what the time clock looks like.

It's a big thing with hamsters in wheels inside of it. It chirps like a cricket. You just stand in front of it, wear fire resistant pants if you have them. Then you pull the handle down. The hamsters run faster and then a lemon falls, then a cherry, then a plum, you don't win today. The date and time gets stamped across the heavy cardstock which has your name written across the top. Then you go to work. Eventually a whistle blows and you can go home. If you're not already home, maybe you can go somewhere else.

Like I said, who cares?

As a writer it's about getting it gone. It's about doing it. It's about finally finishing that sentence or even finishing that novel. Just to have work, well, that's great. I've talked to people who want to be writers. I don't really understand that, but okay, I do like to talk about writing. They ask me, me of all people, how to be good writers. You can't be a good writer, no one can. You put the pen to the paper or the fingers to the keys and go. You do. You write and then write some more and eventually something good will come out of it. It gets easier, and it becomes that institution you get chained to. It's better than the church or the government or the death industry or just about anything else. If you have to be chained to an institution, shouldn't it be of your own creation?

So how is it done? Well, commit to it. Make unrealistic goals and stressful deadlines. It seems to work for me. Drink plenty of coffee. Get into a routine. Go. Go. Go. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything. And eventually, if you can meet all of your deadlines, then you'll hopefully collect a paycheck. If your mom is anything like mine, add a zero to the end of it.

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