How to Spend Your Day Not Writing

It’s easy, really.  First, you get up very, very slowly.  Open the windowshades.  Note it’s dark and dank outside — which precipitates an interior argument:

Well, maybe I should just go back to bed.

Oh, please.  If you’re going to be a writer, you need to get out of bed and get to work.  Who do you think you are?  Proust?

I’ve never read Proust.  How would I know?

You’re trying to change the subject.

No, I’m not.  I just —

You’re also edging toward the bed.  Cut it out.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night.  I may be getting sick —

Shut up.  Get dressed and go downstairs and make some coffee.  Don’t even look at that bed.

Get dressed, brush teeth and head downstairs, as conscience urges you to do.  Linger over coffee.  When it gets cold, heat it up in the microwave.  (This happens quite often, necessitating a long walk between office and kitchen.)

Stare at email.  Wish you got better email.

Cough.  Put hand to forehead.  Note a certain feverishness.  Just as you thought!  Cough again, just to make sure your lungs are still there.

Read Slate, Salon, Washington Post online.  Check blog numbers.  Fret.

Another cough.  Notice headache, stopped-up feeling.  Diagnose self as having sinus infection.  (Feel relieved, since this is far better than your alternative diagnosis: brain tumor.)

Leap up every time phone rings (even if receiver is only inches away).  Get angry when it’s a solicitation call.  Tell solicitor you were busy at work.  And now look!  You’ve been interrupted.

Take quick power nap.  Get jolted awake when mail arrives.  Check it: four holiday cards from friends who have enough on the ball to buy, write, put postage on and mail cards.  Unlike, say, you.  Put bill you definitely don’t want to look at on the bottom of the pile.

Check news again.  Nothing is happening today.  Nothing!

Write three sentences of an article you’ve been yammering about for weeks, hinting you were “just about to finish it.”

Decide to skip yoga since you may very well be contagious.

Read over entire three-sentence article.  Note it lacks that certain je ne sais quoi quality you like to think of yourself as having.  Delete.

Check watch.  Practically four o’clock!  On a Friday afternoon, too.  Practically the holidays!  People in offices everywhere are kicking back, talking, having a great time.  Why should you be any different — just because you have a home office?

As your own supervisor, order yourself to quit working.  Stop immediately.  It’s either that –or go and delete something else.  How can you delete something when you haven’t written anything?  You can’t.  Avoiding all other philosophical discussions, you call it a day.  Not a good day.  But a day.

(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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