SCRIBBLES FOR EVERY SITUATION
The writing life is full of its various trials and tribulations. You never know what’s going to come next, but like a good soldier you press on anyway because that’s just how you do. Today’s Misanthropology 101 takes a look at some of the writer’s worst-case scenarios, and lends a helping hand with our advice on What to Write When…
…you’re hungover like bajayzus.
The Challenge: Writers sometimes have a problem, and sometimes that problem results in the mother of all hangovers. Thinking hard about anything more than where the cat hid the aspirin bottle becomes a serious issue in this state. Full-on creative genius is right out — you’re doing well if you haven’t vomited on your keyboard. But the writing still has to get done, either because you have a deadline coming up or because your pride/word count goal/encouraging supporters/rabid fans demand it.
The Solution: Bring your writing down to your mental pace, instead of trying to rev the flooded engine of your brain up to speed. Short sentences become your friend. Commas vanish. The world reduces to Dick and Jane simplicity. (You see what I did there?)
This style lends itself well to:
- Children’s stories
- How-to manuals or articles
- Pretentious post-modern fiction
- Poems that use the word “gray” a lot
…you’ve had way too much coffee.
The Problem: At the other end of the chemical spectrum (and often as a direct result of a hangover), caffeine or stronger amphetamines throw the brain into overdrive. You may feel like a spewing fountain of unbridled creativity, but the likely reality is that you’re just spewing in general. Some part of your brain may even realize that you’d do a better job on the project du jour another time , but you just can’t stop writing.
The Solution: Recognize that you sound like a squirrel having a seizure and choose an appreciative audience. Hyperactivity is a group buzz, so you are guaranteed to thrill fellow twitchers — as long as you keep it within their goldfish-like attention spans. Let your sentence length spiral as far out of control as you like, but keep the overall piece short. You’ll be inclined toward hyperbole as well, so pick audiences that like to watch things go sailing over the top and on into geosynchronous orbit.
This style lends itself well to:
- Political blogs or editorial columns
- Reviews of things people get excited about
- Anything at all about video games
- Anything at all about computer games
- Anything at all about the internet
- Gossip columns
…you’re obsessed with something.
The Problem: Doesn’t matter what it is, something’s in your brain and it’s all you can think about. Maybe it’s a new love interest or the dramatic end of an old one, maybe it’s a stupid browser game, and maybe it’s just porn. The point is that you’re fidgeting and tabbing out of your writing every five minutes to do something related to your obesession.
The Solution: Accept that your writing is going to be disjointed. You keep putting it down and picking it back up, and your brain’s focus has changed during that time, so there won’t be a consistent voice. Write something where the flow is broken up anyway, ideally by a lot of headers, sub-headers, and bullet points. Distract yourself from your obsession by searching for images to sprinkle throughout the piece, if it’s going online.
Alternatively, just write creepy, obsessive poetry and hide it in your drawer forever. But if you’re not going to do that, consider:
- Blog posts
- Consumer Reports-style product comparisons
- Sports recaps and analysis
- “Top 10” (or however many) lists
…you’re supposed to be working.
The Problem: Let’s face it — a trained monkey could do your job, and would probably shit on the floor less than your retarded co-workers. So you tuck a notepad under your clipboard of Q-9 sheets and do a little pre-writing on the sly. Of course, if you get caught, you’re canned like tomatoes.
The Solution: Realize that even if you’re not sure your supervisor can wipe his own ass without thinking it through, he’s probably smart enough to guess that a tightly-packed notebook page full of indentations and quotation marks probably isn’t work-related. You might be able to get away with “writing a personalized note to a valued customer” once, but for day-to-day purposes you’re going to need to work on something with a little more white space. Work on projects with lots of line breaks, indentations, and busy-looking margin scribbles. Cross some things out now and again, just to make it look like you’re scratching items off a list.
It’s easiest to get away with things like:
- Drafts of poems or plays
- Your grocery or to-do lists (hey, gotta write the boring stuff some time)
- Writing down and comparing all the possible names for your book/website/whatever you need a name for currently
- Sentence drafting (writing multiple sentences that express the same idea in different ways and picking the best for your work)
- Your inevitable resignation letter, because seriously, how much longer can you put up with all those stupid policies dreamed up by some mouth-breathing jack-off manager with an ugly car and a B. A. in Communications?
Got other problems? Want to know what to write in your particular situation? Drop a comment and I’ll tackle it in the next “Scribbles for Every Situation!”