A Day in the Writing Chair

It's 1:20 PM. I know I have to sit my butt in my office chair at 1:30 PM because 1:30 PM is writing time; so I scramble to make a snack, wipe down the kitchen counter, put away a few dishes, and angrily spray some insecticide on the beetles that are invading my favorite plant. 

1:30 PM. I let out a tremendous sigh as I trudge down the hallway to my gorgeous office and sit at my desk. I pull out my planner and check on my goal status for the week, even though I already know exactly how many words I've written and still need to write. 

Inhaling deeply, I hit the "record" button on my activity tracking app for the "Write" task.

I open my Scrivener project.

Oh, I don't want to do this at all.

I start reading through what I wrote yesterday, and it is absolute garbage. This makes me think of my high school history/government teacher who used to stamp our blue book essays with a "GARBAGE" rubber stamp in red ink if we didn't do well. But he pronounced it "gar-BAHJ," like it was French. He was my favorite teacher, and I respected his opinions and criticism.

I'm really glad he can't see my Scrivener project right now.

I don't want to edit yesterday's work, mostly because I don't know how to make it any less terrible. Regardless, I go ahead and edit a bit, adding descriptive words and removing unnecessary filler, but mostly I hurry through it and just try to focus on writing new words. Extend the draft, hit my goal for the week.

The process feels overwhelming and vexing, like suddenly I've been asked to perform brain surgery on an imaginary insect the size of a chia seed.

My god. I have no idea what to write, and therefore have nothing to say. I groan, and then make myself think about the little 1"x1" picture frame that Anne Lamott describes in Bird by Bird

Mindlessly, I write a little. It feels sterile and unreadable, but the words are something, I guess. I can edit them later when I feel better about editing. That day is not today.

I get to a certain point in my draft and I don't know how to believably kill this character by accident. He needs to die immediately--this is the inciting incident, the moment that propels the story forward. I can't believe I haven't considered the believability of his accidental death until right now, and scold myself for being such a useless outliner.

After mulling over a few options and coming up blank, I jump over to the Ninja Writers group on Facebook and ask the community for good accidental death injuries.

It's going to take a while for people to respond, and it would be easier to read multiple responses at once, of course. So while I'm waiting--because obviously I can't move on without them-- I open another browser tab and check my email. There isn't anything new in the Primary tab, so I check my Newsletters label for a free birthday cupcake coupon. Yes, there it is. I plan to get my free birthday month cupcake with my husband this weekend -- he also probably got a birthday cupcake coupon, so we can get two free cupcakes. It feels like I've won the lottery.

The cupcake revelation makes me wonder if there are other internet deals I should be considering, in the name of saving money, of course.

Google search: "Online freebies." The first website that pops up looks suspicious.

Google search: "Reviews for online freebie websites." Ah ha! The first website is definitely shady. I wonder why Google isn't smart enough to not put the shady websites first in their results list, when reviews--run through Google--make it crystal clear that the site is a scam. Google is disappointing.

Google search: "Legitimate website for online freebies." After a moment, I find a legitimate winner, a goldmine of opportunity. The freebies section is big but nothing catches my eye, or seems relevant. That's disappointing. The sweepstakes tab sounds much more promising.

NOW. WE'RE. TALKING.

I try to enter a sweepstakes for a free vacation to Hawaii, but I have to register with the website first. So I fill out the form, check my email for verification, and confirm my registration. Then I proceed to enter 12 consecutive sweepstakes, mostly for vacations, but also for a Yeti cooler, cash prizes, and free Welch fruit snacks. 

One sweepstakes entry has inexplicably caused me to be signed up for a year's subscription of Good Housekeeping magazines, according to an email. I ponder this, completely confused, then check out some other items in my email that have come in during my sweepstakes entry marathon. Sauce Magazine tells me that Ian Froeb released an article about the best sandwich shop in St. Louis this year, and I read the article even though my diet probably won't allow for 80-90% of the menu items. 

Disappointed with the meat-centric restaurant discovery, I go back to the freebie website and enter 3-4 additional sweepstakes. These are mostly the ones I felt 'meh' about originally, but now that I've entered most of the legitimately fun-sounding ones, what the hell. Free is free.

I've exhausted the sweepstakes list, and consider snacking.

Google search: How do I know if I'm actually hungry? I read a few articles. One particularly interesting article explains the distinction between 'hunger' and 'appetite' that I've never considered before. Immediately, I am horrified by my own eating habits that have been completely appetite-centric. I decide not to snack, though it pains me to admit that the decision is logical and good.

After a moment of indecisiveness, I check LinkedIn for new jobs. I don't need a job, but a friend of mine really needs a new job. I run the search daily, looking for new listings within the past 24 hours. I find a couple 'maybes', and send the links over to my friend via email. There are 3 listings today that are relevant, and it feels like a small victory. 

While I'm at it, I check another job listing site, even though it's extremely unlikely to capture anything relevant to my friend's job search. After all, this website is only for non-profit opportunities, and my friend is firmly housed in the corporate world. "You never know," I tell myself. Unsurprisingly, I find nothing on this website to send to my friend. 

I realize I'm breathing hard because I'm completely stressed out and panicking over my own inability to sit down and type up a fictional story. It's not rocket science. I should be able to sit down and write a story. Should I even be a writer if I can't get myself to sit down and type up words? Isn't it a qualifier for being a writer, that I write stuff and sometimes enjoy it, even?

Google search: Marconi Union - Weightless. I listen to the science-backed anxiety-reducing track and shut my eyes, channeling some yogi breathing and pretending that I know what I'm doing. I try to feel zen. Then I realize that I don't fully understand the concept of zen, and just try to breath like a calm, normal person instead. 

The Ninja Writers have come through, as always, so I read their comments and pick one. I kill a character, and it feels weirdly satisfying. 

Now I have no idea how my characters would respond. One would be numb, obviously, so I write her that way. Paragraphs later I'm certain I made the wrong decision, and try to get inside that character's head again.

Google search: The Wood Shack - Saint Louis. I look at the menu of that sandwich shop Ian Froeb mentioned, just to be sure that I wouldn't actually be able to eat anything there. There are 2-3 items that I could eat, so I add it to my list of restaurants to try in the future. It's a list that I keep in an app on my phone, and it's a mile long. 

As I'm looking at that list of restaurants, I see the name of a different restaurant in Maplewood I've been wanting to try.

Google search: The Living Room - Maplewood. I peruse the menu, satisfied with my decision to look at it. Yes, this restaurant is totally diet-friendly. With interest, I read through each menu item, even though I know I won't be visiting the restaurant in the next week or two. 

Just in case, I click over to my email tab and double check my Google calendar. Yes, I was right. There likely will not be a time to visit that restaurant in the next week or two. Oh well--it's on the list.

Etsy search: Wonder Woman. Because why would I not want Wonder Woman stuff? I browse a little then realize how unnecessary any purchases would be. But would channeling Wonder Woman in my office be so bad? I saw the movie three times in theaters and cried every time; even thinking about the No Man's Land scene makes me tear up. Surely a little Wonder Woman would make me feel more empowered as a writer.

The Etsy listings inspire me to imagine how I would look in a Wonder Woman costume, and I decide I would look absolutely incredible. With certainty, I decide that I will buy a cosplay Wonder Woman outfit if any of my books ever become best sellers. 

Oh right. My book. So that probably won't be happening. That's okay. It's not like I would have many reasons to walk around in a Wonder Woman costume, anyway. 

I give up all hope of writing and decide to watch the highlight video from my wedding instead, because it makes my heart soar. 

I stop the task recorder on my phone, and check my word count in Scrivener. At some point, I've managed to write a little over 1,000 words, but it doesn't feel like it. It feels like I wrote -10,000, as if a little gremlin snuck into my computer and started deleting my work, cackling with glee while I farted around on the internet mindlessly.

Sighing, I fill in a pitifully small portion of the progress bar in my planner.

Tomorrow is another day.