The Work of Writing


Due to a series of terrifying life events that none of you would understand, I’m embarking on a month-long project. Fine, if you insist: my sisterwife/fellow sugar daddy-hunter/coffee shop aficionado/curator of divorces/practitioner of extremist fascism/PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE Meriwether “Poet w/ Eye of Dictator” Clarke is out of the country for one month. Where is she, you ask? Oh just my homeland, SOUTH AMERICA. She’s probably digging up Neruda’s bones to see if he was actually murdered as we speak. Now that Ms. Clarke doesn’t have text messaging access 24/7, I have a lot of free time. You say codependence, I say potato. Anyway, I have decided to conduct several experiments. One: Can a Young Woman Really Survive on Nachos and Iced Coffee for an Entire Summer? Two: Staying On Top of Emails. Three: Surviving.

And Four: Which Writing Production Method Works Best for a Frequently Crazed Biddy with Two Jobs and Several Pairs of Converse but No Reliable Form of Transportation Ever Since Evil Hoodlums Wrecked Her Bike’s Innocent Front Tire? Short title: Writing Stuff.

I have never quite hit my writing stride when it comes to the day-to-day grind. I typically write when I have a good idea, because I don’t think inspiration can be harnessed, and also because I’m just so, so, so, so, so cool (see above portrait of me and Lisa Hiton). But as my days get busier and my nights get shorter and I find myself evolving into the female version of a Norwegian summer, I want to give this structured thing a try. Should I do a lot of hemlock, like Socrates drugs, like Hunter S. Thompson? Write prostrate, like Truman Capote? Summon a broken novel out of madness and jealousy, like Zelda Fitzgerald? I’ll start with something a little more straight-edge:


THE STRUCTURE: Write for one hour a day at the exact same time every day. Only produce new content. Yesterday I wrote 1500 words, or five double-spaced pages, in an hour, so I’m feeling good. No wait: genius. THE HYPOTHESIS: I’m hoping that writing at the exact same time every day–preferably with a fresh cup of coffee in hand–will turn into a sort of Pavlovian thing, where I look forward to the ritual and my brain gears up to be creative at the assigned hour.


THE STRUCTURE: Down with the Muses. This week is all about making a strict to-do list and accomplishing every single thing on it, from intangible things like revision to tangible things like submitting to literary journals. THE HYPOTHESIS: I don’t think this is a very viable long-term way of writing. However, it might be a useful means of cranking out dreaded revisions and sending pieces off into the ether of Literary Bros Who Start Journals Just to Publish Their Friends.


THE STRUCTURE: This week is all about inspiration, flirting with the Muses, and wandering lonely as a cloud through places that inspire me (which, unfortunately, are dark alleys and train yards at night. Perhaps I should finally invest in some pepper spray?). No to-do lists, no daily word counts, just activities that a) are proven to help the creative mind (like ignoring the brain’s filter) and b) inspire me personally (like watching Woody Allen films). If I feel like writing, I’ll write. If I get an idea, I’ll jot it down. No pressure. THE HYPOTHESIS: Obviously, I can’t wait for this week. I doubt I’ll produce a lot of concrete work, because, well, it’s easier not to, but I think I’ll come up with a lot of ideas. And if I do nothing but read Neruda in the sand, it will have been a good week. (How’s that for a verb tense?)


WHAT SHOULD I TRY THIS WEEK? Writing only by hand? Writing after midnight? Writing in unfamiliar genres? Writing only about love? Only about hate? Outside? Imitating different authors’ styles? Help! I want it to be somewhat useful, and nothing too shtick-y…like sipping on hemlock.

Psst, let me know if you want to join in! I’ll update here, promise. And you can, too.



  1. Waking up at 5:00 a.m. and drinking the contents of an entire French press in one sitting… like me.

    Ok, I write total nonsense, but there’s something about writing realllly early that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something and can move about your day feelin’ like a real writer, you know? crack of dawn, gf!


    1. I thought about that…but my writing job already requires me to get up and write first thing, so it feels sort of redundant! Plus waitressing late…I WOULD DIEEE. *wailing emoticon*


  2. […] Oh, week three: meant to be a full-fledged orgy of inspiration. Epileptic fits of pastoral joy, “Look at that flame-edged leaf! I muse in agonized ecstasy on its transcendent contours…”, weeping over a perfect shard of broken glass, and so on and so on–basically all the things that make the world hate writers. Sometimes that’s the way it works, is it not? Though you might tremble at the cliched nature of your activity, sometimes wandering lonely as a cloud really does make your heart dance with the daffodils (and then with Microsoft Word and then with Submishmash and then with the PEN/Faulkner award). […]


You are truly great.

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