A Day In The Life Of A Freelance Writer
You want to know what a writer’s day looks like? You want to see the Sisyphean journey of boulder-pushing from its fumbling start to its clumsy finish? Boom. Done. Gotcher back. Please to enjoy.
Awakening. Or some semblance of reanimation. Stumble into bathroom. While urinating, unexpectedly contemplate the sheer amount of words you have to write today. Suffer momentary panic that threatens to crush you under its mountainous thumb. Don’t worry. Panic-fueled anxiety needs energy, of which you have none. The panic runs swiftly out of steam because as yet you don’t have any coffee in your body. Idly wonder: would it be weird putting a coffeemaker in the bathroom?
Begin morning rituals. You don’t know what day it is, and you don’t much care. As the universal manna coffee brews, go outside with wife to walk the dogs. In the woods. In the darkness. Recognize that this is the complete anathema to “waking up,” but fuck it, whaddya gonna do? The dogs go to the bathroom after 17 minutes of trying to find the perfect poop nexus. (You long ago learned the truth: dogs can only poop on the convergence of certain ley lines: paranormal axes that shift minute to minute.)
Stagger back inside, drawn to the light like a moth, drawn to the smell of coffee like, well, a guy who will fucking kill another guy if he doesn’t get his goddamn motherfucking coffee. Contemplate breakfast. Ehhh. Nnngh. Mnblegbble. Fuck breakfast. Too tired to be hungry. Coffee. Coffee now. Head upstairs.
Wife calls up steps: “Did you make my lunch last night?”
Back downstairs. Make wife’s lunch because no, no you didn’t, you stupid shithead.
Upstairs. Coffee. Desk. Computer. Internet. Email. Any good emails? No. But you have a lot of them. You read like, every third email, then shut that shit down. Did anybody say anything on the Twitters? Haha! They did! Oh ho! Funny! Amusing! Witty! You retweet the fuck out of because, hey, good for them. Plus, that saves you from having to say anything witty at — *checks watch* What the hell time is it?
Shit. Should really be writing. What first? Blog post, blog post, always a blog post. Should’ve written it yesterday. Didn’t. Should’ve done a lot of things. Like not eaten ice cream at two o’clock in the morning followed by some Sriracha peanut chasers. That heartburn could bring down a Brontosaurus. Wait, aren’t Brontosauruses in the same boat as Pluto? Not a dinosaur, not a planet, scientifically gone the way of the mermaid? Poor fucking Brontosauruses. Google that shit.
Okay, no, seriously, should really be writing. What’s today’s blogpost? Didn’t you have an idea for one? Yes. But it’s gone now. Check your idea file. Did you write this when you were drunk? (Answer: probably.) Time to make something up. Got anything? Got nothing. Think think think think think. Pinch bridge of nose hard enough that you see stars. Idea. Yes. It’s not a good one. But it’s an idea. Write it down.
Power goes out. Lose last two paragraphs of blog post (Thank Christ for obsessive saving, and goddamn you, modern living grumble fuck electricity gods sonofabitch power company gnaarrgh fnargble). Rewrite those lost words in a way that ensures they have lost their original meaning. Post that fucker. Wonder: “Will anyone care?” (Answer: probably not.) Wonder: “Why do I do this every day?” (Answer varies: you hate yourself / you love the attention / you’re fond of mental masturbation.)
Time to really start writing. For real. Really for real.
Zealously check Twitter and blog numbers. Realize that when you die, nobody will care how many people visited your blog on this particular day. Except, panic: what if they do? What if they talk about it at the funeral? What if Saint Peter has a list? What if he has your goddamned blog stats? Shit. Shit! Shiiiit. Then recognize that you don’t really believe in Heaven. When you die, you want to be planted under a tree. Or have a tree planted in your corpse so that it uses your bodily juices to fuel its blood-hungry ascent. Spend next fifteen minutes thinking about death. Obsess until you cannot breathe.
Stop thinking, “I probably have bowel cancer.” Instead — Write, you asshole! Write! Okay. Doing this. Actually writing. One hundred words. Two hundred words. Steady, steady. Three hundred –
Wait, seriously? The little dog has to go to the bathroom again? What a little jerkoff she is. Didn’t she just evacuate her bowels less than two hours ago? The dog’s mouth must be connected to her butthole by an uncomplicated aluminum tube. She eats, and the food just slides immediately toward her telescoping canine sphincter. “I’m a writer,” you tell her. “I need to write.” She dances around in circles. Goddamnit.
She didn’t need to poop. False alarm. She just wanted to chase imaginary animals. And or, her tail. And or, the leash. Begin to suspect she is a time vampire. She does not drink blood but rather, productivity.
Back to the word mines. Slowly chip away at word count for the day. Gain momentum. Reach first thousand words. Celebrate in triumph. Have a little parade celebrating your sudden rise to divinity. Check Twitter. Check blog numbers. Think about Facebook, then think, “Fuck that.” Realize that you’re really hungry. You haven’t had breakfast. Get socked in the jaw by a tidal rush of self-loathing. Contemplate suicide.
Breakfast of champions: a hot dog from last night’s dinner. You eat it because you are starving. (You really should’ve eaten breakfast sooner.) Don’t worry. It’s totally healthy. That’s what you tell yourself. You convince yourself that this is a surefire part of the nutritional pyramid. Fruits. Vegetables. Grains. Hot dog. (Ketchup is a fruit. Mustard is a… vegetable. Grains in the roll.) Done. Sold. Delicious. Await heartburn.
Just about to finish the second thousand words of the day. This has been like pulling teeth out of a rabid dog. You hate what you’re writing. You hate yourself. No, wait. That last paragraph was pretty good, though. Wasn’t it? Maybe? Solution: hang your entire writing career on that last paragraph. Close down that browser window where you were Googling “How To Tie A Noose.” Move to finish the second thousand word chunk of the day… almost there…
Doorbell rings. Seriously? What the shit?
It’s the Radon Guy. You totally forget he was coming. (You hear your wife’s voice inside your head like some kind of disappointed Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I told you this morning he was coming.” She did.) He wants to tell you how your current radon system is not up to code. Then he wants to lecture you about French drains. Sump pumps. Manometers. You say, “I really need to finish my word count.” He says, “I don’t know what that means.” Finally, you just ask him, “Listen, will this kill the radon ghosts that haunt the house?” He tells you that yes, this will exorcise the radon ghosts. He’ll send you an estimate.
Back upstairs. Fine. Whatever. Time to write. Kick the tires, light the fires.
Did you really just waste an hour on the Internet? What happened? Do you even remember what you saw? Read? Watched? Heard? You try to reclaim it, but your Internet visitation is phantasmagoric: it evades your desperate grasp like a dream. Whatever. This is a probably a good time to gloomily pleasure yourself.
You need to hunker down. Get some writing done. So you go take a walk instead. You need to walk. Get that sluggish blood flowing through your torpid writer flesh. For the next half-an-hour, feel at peace with the world. Enjoy the sunlight. Hear the birds chirping. Decide you’d like some tea. Determine that the rest of the day is yours to own. If runners get a high, walkers get what? A moderate sense of self-satisfaction?
Get the mail. Hey, look. Bills. Somebody will probably want you to pay those.
Back home. Tea. Writing. You leap forward like an ass-whipped donkey. As you’re writing the next and final 1000-word stretch, you feel a sinking pit in your stomach, a hard knot of squirming snakes like one of those freaky garter snake breeding-ball fuck-parties. Each snake, a terrible question, a hungry dilemma: you have to do this again tomorrow. Check your email: no response from editors? No pitch acceptances? After this assignment, then what? The conundrum assails you: if you’re writing freelance work, you’re not doing anything personal (but you’re making money). If you’re writing something personal, you’re not bound to freelance work (but you’re making no certain money). Your head wants to explode.
You take the gun out of your mouth and finish your word count for the day. It’s actually not that bad. You pull up your pants and go get some lunch downstairs.
You didn’t go to the grocery store, did you? Crap. Unless you want to cut up a fryer chicken and boil some cabbage, your lunch is relegated to a handful of almonds, some old lunch meat, and a cup of ranch dressing. Part of you thinks: “Maybe this could be a new fad diet. I should write this down.”
After you belch up a bubble of Ranch dressing, you stop transcribing your hot new diet.
Time to switch gears. Time to get your Sexy Editor Pants on (but that means you can take your real pants off, huzzah, because, y’know, pants are for assholes). No more writing for the day, because too much writing makes Jack beat Wendy to death with an axe handle. Redrum, redrum. Though, let’s all be honest: if you were haunted by Shelley DuVall’s voice, you’d probably go ratfuck nuts too.
Editing feels good because it’s like self-flagellation. You’re going over your work and punishing it: hooking its scrotum up to a car battery, cooking nipple clamps on a hot griddle before biting down with mean alligator teeth. You cut, you clip, you stomp, you crush. It feels satisfying. It even feels like progress.
Wife calls. “Did you do [insert list of things] that I asked you to do?” “Yes,” you lie. “You’re lying,” she says. “Well, you should’ve stapled the list to my forehead like I asked you to.” You realize that this is not a good way to earn sexual favors. You tell her you’ll do the [insert list of things] that needs doing.
Ring, ring! Impromptu conference call! Woo! Time to talk about (script, novel, freelance project, radon ghosts). Yes, it’s technically productive, but it feels like you just threw your time into a hole. Where it was promptly eaten by rats.
Fifteen-minute power nap. It’s necessary. It’s necessary, or you’re going to go punch a tree. Or eat a gallon of ice cream. Or join a cult. You decide: this nap will be the best thing ever.
Five minutes into the nap, Something Happens. Mom calls. Dog needs to poop. Radon Guy forgot his manometer. Fuck this nap. Fuck this nap right in its ear. Time to shower. You are stenchworthy.
In the shower, get awesome story idea. Like, the Best Novel Ever. Will sell astronomical numbers but will also gain earnest critical acclaim. It’s genre, but it’s literary. It’s YA, but it’s porn. It is a literary panacea.
Look at your grotesque trogbody in the mirror. You are pale and chubby like a wood grub. Writer Body is the antithesis to Swimmer Body. You should be under a bridge somewhere threatening to eat goats.
You totally forget that story idea, didn’t you? Think. Think really hard.
Yep. You forgot it.
Oh, shit. You have to make dinner. Did someone say something about boiled cabbage? Mm-mm-good. Hey, wasn’t there something your wife wanted you to do? Well. Sure. Probably. But she didn’t staple it to your forehead like you asked. This conversation sounds familiar. You decide on two choices: a) as cabbage boils, run around house desperately trying to accomplish tasks, or b) fall into a deep fugue-like stupor and forget any of this ever happened. Ponder throwing yourself down cellar steps for sympathy. (“Look, I have a boo-boo.” “That’s a compound fracture.” “Oh.”)
Wife comes home. Dinner. She doesn’t castrate or crucify you no matter how much you deserve it for she is a forgiving soul. She asks you if anything interesting happened today, and you don’t really know how to answer that. You neglect to mention anything about nooses, guns, axe handles, or tree-punching. Instead you just shrug: “Guess not?”
Rest Of Day
Wine. Liquor. Television. Dog walking. Go to the gym. Emails. Twitters. Blog stats. Internet. Cat videos. Movie trailers. Cram cram cram. You need work. Long con, short con. Can’t feel legs. Anything from the agent? Editor? Anybody? Fraud. You’ll be found out. Lights out. Doubt. Triumph. Glee. Detestation. Can’t Sleep, Word Count Will Eat Me. Midnight ice cream. Repeat. Repeat.