For a person who fancies himself a writer, these aren’t stringent requirements. In fact, it’s a pretty plum assignment. Yet, some months, it’s all I can do to push past the 500-word mark.
The duties associated with writing this column require that I come up with approximately 630 unplagiarized words roughly every 30 days.
A certain coherency is expected, and the finished copy must abide by established standards of decency. Imparting wit or wisdom is not mandatory, which is apparent to the regular reader.
For a person who fancies himself a writer, these aren’t stringent requirements. In fact, it’s a pretty plum assignment. Yet, some months, it’s all I can do to push past the 500-word mark. (At the end of the previous sentence, the word count for this column stood at 84. It could have been 86 if I had avoided those two contractions. I’m such an idiot. I mean, I am such an idiot.)
That’s the thing about writers — we love what we do, but we also dread it. At least that’s the way it is for me. For all of the times that the words flow forth freely with a rhythmic elegance, there are four times as many occasions when I’m simply banging at the keyboard like a test subject in the infinite monkey theorem. Or I’m simply staring at the screen, wondering how come monkeys never get writer’s block.
So it’s frustrating, this writing thing. Which is why it is perhaps foolhardy of me to embark on a project considerably more substantial than a newspaper column — a project that will certainly ensure a great deal of frustration and disgust over a long period of time, like going to an Adam Sandler film festival or a Chicago Cubs game.
And yet I feel that I simply must write a book. Before I depart this mortal coil, I want to see my name, if not my picture, on a dust jacket.
The temptation would be to carry out such an undertaking behind the scenes, revealing it to family and friends only after the first run has left the press and the judges over at the PEN/Faulkner Foundation have been put on alert. Keeping such unbridled ambition bridled during the working stages of a writing project would help to avoid embarrassment should I fail to deliver.
The problem with the stealth approach is that there is no external pressure to produce. And without that external pressure, it is too easy to put the whole thing off.
I came across an article recently about a guy who used Facebook to help him overcome a drinking problem. Taking the opposite of the anonymous approach to recovery, he relied on an outing to build support for his cause. And it worked. At gatherings, friends stopped asking him if he wanted a drink and he was too feared by shame to go into a bar and run into to someone who knew his story.
Now addiction and procrastination would seem to be opposite afflictions. One is really wanting to do something that is bad for you; the other is really not wanting to do something that is good for you. Yet both require behavior modification of a similar ilk. So I’m outing myself as a would-be author, and should I fail to deliver, a public failure.
I have the subject matter and structure of the story already worked out, and I’ve started the writing proper, but there’s still a long way to go. Write what you know, the saying goes, so it’s based on something that’s quite popular here locally. I’m not going for high-end literature, just something light and entertaining that will sell a couple of hundred thousand units and eventually be made into a motion picture starring Greta Gerwig and Paul Giamatti. Or maybe Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
I should really allow myself to dream bigger.
Dan Naumovich is a freelance business writer and fledgling author. He can be reached at Dan@naumo.com.