2. Don’t write the whole piece in one fell swoop. Focus on a single sentence. Make sure that sentence is perfect before you move on to the next. Never mind that the entire paragraph may eventually be trashed. This. Sentence. Must. Be. Perfect. Agonize over it. Erase it. Try again. Get frustrated. Check Facebook. Maybe one of your writer friends has posted something on her newsfeed that will help you crack this goddamned sentence. Nope. No helpful hints. But here’s a video of a bunny chasing a cat. Adorable! Maybe you’d like to own a bunny. Research how to litter box train a rabbit.
3. Now it’s 1am. Time to really get serious. Go downstairs and make a cup of tea. Choose Tazo Focus tea for obvious reasons. Discover that the tea’s name is nothing but an empty promise.
4. To write this article, you’ll need to understand how malaria is transmitted. Malaria parasites are complex creatures. There is a lot to know. Google “malaria life cycle.” End up reading a study from 1955 about what happens when you vaccinate New Hampshire red chickens with dead avian malaria parasites. Realize you have no idea how you got there.
5. Set a timer. Tell yourself that you must complete the lede in the next 25 minutes. Fail.
6. Begin to question your life choices. Examine every bad decision that led you to be sitting in front of a nearly blank screen at 3am with your gut churning. If only you’d followed your dream to become a marine biologist! You’d be playing with dolphins right now, not writing this godawful feature! You’d be married to some bronzed boat captain. There would be no deadlines. Only love and the sweet smell of the ocean.
7. Realize you don’t know whether dolphins can smell. Decide you MUST KNOW IMMEDIATELY. Even though you aren’t writing about dolphins. (Answer: They probably can’t. They don’t have olfactory nerves).
8. Go to the kitchen. Eat all the things. Put Nutella on a gummy bear. No one is awake to judge you.
9. Take a bathroom break. Notice that someone has (once again!) left a smear of toothpaste in the sink. Clean the sink. And the mirror. And the bathtub.
10. Write as if your life depended on it. See that you have a full page of words, some of them about malaria. Congratulate yourself with a handful of salami.
11. Sleep for 3.75 hours. Wake up. Write some more. Wonder what a deadline of December 16th means. 8am? 5pm? Or perhaps anytime before midnight? Midnight your time or your editor’s? So many questions!
12. Make a pot of coffee. Grind the beans by hand.
13. Noon already?! Time to swap your pajama pants for sweat pants and put on a bra. All the best writers wear bras.
14. Realize that you now know TOO much about malaria. How could you possibly write just 2,500 words!? You’ll need 5,000 at least, and another two weeks. Despair. Repeat step #6.
15. Try to print out your draft. But the &%[email protected] printer isn’t working! Spend 45 minutes sifting through Epson support threads. Fix the printer. Bask in the short-lived sense of accomplishment that comes with successfully completing a task.
16. Print a draft of the article. Make dramatic slashes and illegible notes to yourself. Draw arrows everywhere.
17. Decide to go for a walk. Some people do their best thinking when they’re walking. Rethink the entire structure.
18. Revise. Despair. Revise.
19. Read draft one last time to check for typos. Realize that this story is so much worse than you meant it to be. Feel sad. Consider becoming a doctor. Email article to your editor. Feel immensely relieved. Skip and dance about.
20. Pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it!
Extra credit reading:
Image credit: Emilie Ogez via Flickr