How I Don’t Write

How I Don’t Write

When it comes to my complete and utter lack of a writing career, people never ask me, “How do you do it?” It’s pretty simple, actually: I am wholly dedicated to never actually writing, but — and this is crucial — thinking about doing it a lot.

My routine starts when I wake up early-ish, or not, depending on when my body naturally wakes up. I get out of bed and think about writing for about 30 seconds and say to myself, “Prolific career, here I come!”

Then I brush my teeth or wander to the kitchen and do some dishes or just crawl back into bed. When I’m finished, I sit down at my computer with a cup of coffee. Time to start writing. So I open Instagram and search around for feeds from people who post pictures of their laptops (or composition books) in well-lit coffee shops where they get together and collab with other makers. They’re probably writing open letters to post on Medium too.

After a few minutes of looking at other writers and thinking about how much better my writing will be, I refresh my Gmail a few times. Maybe someone wrote to ask why I haven’t posted one of my fantastic and fun stories online lately, or ever. Nope. Just an email from my virtual friend Cassey Ho of Blogilates telling me that her FABruary Workout Calendar is now available and I can rock my way to slimmer inner thighs, just in time for BIKINI SEASON! A couple more emails to sift through and I’m on my way.

When I’m full up on that, I’m just about ready to write, but I need to make a Spotify playlist real quick. You need good music to write — especially if you’re going to go at it uninterrupted for a few hours. I think Seth Godin suggested that. How did that asshole get so popular writing about things? I could do that. But first, I need to get that playlist going. I’m thinking old-school-meets-new-school-old-school, The Stones meets Alabama Shakes. I could call it “writing traxx,” all lower case. Ending words with an ironic double-xx is pretty funny. Remember that for upcoming satirical blog posts.

Actually, I have so much writing to do that a new playlist will take too long, so I just browse Spotify’s playlists for about 20 minutes instead. Found one called Positively Productive that starts with a Sia song — uplifting tunes for anyone ready to crush it! I’m about to crush the shit out of some personal essays about my travels and quirky part-time jobs I’ve had, so I think I qualify.

Then I just need to find the right topic. The time we got held in Chinese customs could be good. That was pretty wild and will be hilarious because it involves my mom on a Skype call saying, “The Chinese government is the best government in the world. Jim? Are you there? The government in China is a beacon of hope and no one should ever say anything about them, because there is nothing to say. Jimmy?” because she was worried they might be monitoring the call. Chinese government = guaranteed laughs.

Yeah, good topic. But how should it start? The start is crucial when you write a hilarious personal essay that’s probably going to run in The New Yorker someday. You don’t want to ruin your story out of the gate. There’s nothing worse than an opening that makes you think, “I wish I was rocking my way to slimmer inner thighs right now.”

I should probably read some personal essays, just to get an idea for format — not like I don’t know already or whatever. Maybe David Sedaris or Lena Dunham. Basically pieces about nothing, yet deceptively witty and profound. No big.

Wait, isn’t Lena the same age as me? Yup. Wikipedia confirms we’re almost exactly the same age and her parents were fine artists in New York. We’re practically the same person, except for the parents and the NYC thing. And yet somehow she’s already in The New Yorker and has a hit show on HBO. Fuck. Time to buckle down and write.

That’s what this routine is all about. Writing. And writing some more. Until. You. Can’t. Write. Any. More. That would be a good Instagram post, actually — as long as it was ironic and making fun of people who think like that. Because, fuck those guys. But they do have a point.

Yes, reading a Lena Dunham story is a good idea. Time for a new Spotify playlist. I’ll just go with one of my old ones, there’s a timesaver. After all, this routine has no room for interruptions — it’s about cranking out the creativity while you’re in the groove. And I’m just about to get there.

I better check the playlist, though, because it would suck to get in the groove and realize, “Oh shit, this one’s only 23 minutes long and has three Bon Iver songs on it.” Maybe I’ll go back to the “writing trax” (one x, still good) list I made last year. It starts with a Bon Iver song, but that’s the only one.

Now the real creative writing begins. I think I read a BrainPickings article that you should turn off the Internet when you write. Something about the neural receptors in your prefrontal cortex being more creative when they can process totally uninterrupted. Some unknown painter made really amazing children’s illustrations that went with it. These are the kinds of things you should keep tabs on, because someday you might be on a panel at TEDx Mankato and they might ask about the best writing advice you’ve ever read.

If I kept a journal, I would write: “TURN OFF DISTRACTIONS!” really big on a single page right now, like a message to the future me. Maybe I should get a journal. That could be a cool Instagram post. (If I decide to go that route? Or maybe I should stay more elusive?)

Another critical inspo from Brainpickings is that rare letter from Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald about always being direct. That was pretty cool. I think my writing style is kind of Hemingway-esque with a Sedaris twist to it, and maybe I’ll pick something up from this Dunham essay. I should probably read it before I turn off the Internet.

Just got done (or should I say Dunham? Puns like that could be fun to mix in to writing) reading the essay. Kinda “meh” on the whole thing. It was good, but pretty self-serving. But maybe that’s what you need to be an interesting millennial writer? Maybe check her Instagram to confirm.

Now I can turn off the Internet and crank out some gold. LET’S. DO. THIS. Shit. That cut the Spotify. It’s probably time for a break. They say mental breaks enhance creativity and productivity by a pretty huge percent. Plus, I’ve been meaning to see Spotlight and I think that’s about writing, so I could write off the movie ticket.

Wow. Powerful movie. Incredible writers using their talents for social good. Damn. Now that I think about it, I would be really good at giving voice to the voiceless, maybe winning a Pulitzer or something. In the scheme of things, writing personal essays is pretty selfish. I think someone wrote a good open letter on Medium about that.

Journalism is definitely the way to go. I could check what they’re writing at the Boston Globe to get an idea for format or whatever. But first I’ll need a good playlist.

– Jim Moen