All I had to do was turn in the rewrite. It would take collectively 33 minutes if I dedicated myself, distraction-free. I knew this. I felt it in my bones.
But I just couldn’t do it.
I used to write for Demand Media. Full disclosure: I hated it. Not because they were a bad company, or snarky, or possessive, or anything of the sort. They paid decently, had titles available to write to, and, well, they paid decently. But the problem mostly resided in the fact that I had to write for somebody else and their style is incredibly bland and I wanted to shoot myself in the spleen every time I took on an assignment.
Also, I’m not a trained journalist, and all that crap with citing credible sources and not injecting creative, subjective flair? Not for me. My time with Demand Media felt like I had made an active decision to become a sociopath. I loved the fact that I could have my work published — and edited — by a reputable company, but I also shirked acknowledging that I wrote there. I wasn’t proud of my articles. Every time I took on a new assignment, I felt a small part of my heart shrivel as I packed my personal writing style into a tiny box and set it aside for Someday.
And then payday came. The real-live-usable-money being deposited straight into my bank account always reinvigorated my choice to write for them. It’s so easy, I’m writing about travel, I love travel, I’m getting paid to write about travel, how could you not want to get paid to write about travel when you love travel? TRAVEL.
But I hated it, really. And I knew it, though I tried to rationalize myself out of it. It took an abnormally long time for me to be able to admit this to myself.
The turning point came when my procrastination took a leap into the sky. This, of course, was before I discovered Rescue Time (full disclosure article can be found here: Self Employment Woes: The Battle of Productivity (And a Brief Trip to Mordor), featured on my other blog Taking the Leap.
If I had known about Rescue Time when I still wrote for Demand, I’m sure my numbers would score in the low teens. I could while away an entire day for one 33 minute rewrite, feigning studious concentration. “I’m busy,” I would say, waving off interrupters as they attempted to engage me in conversation or invite me to a glass of wine at the local coffee shop (coffee shops usually serve alcohol in Chile, for the record. And coffee too, of course). “I have a rewrite,” I would say, adding a squint of the eyes that to me implied anal-retentive editors shoving deadlines down my throat and oh-my-god-the-stress-of-being-a-travel-writer.
But my only stress of being a travel writer for Demand was the fact that I simply didn’t want to be writing those articles. The torture continued for almost two years, the main impetus being that I just couldn’t convince myself that this writing should be turned down. The equation went like this:
Travel writing / Something resembling research + Twice Weekly Payment x Online Presence x Professional Portfolio Building = A DECENT GIG.
This same logic can be applied to a variety of jobs that are more notably a bad idea for me. Like, any sales job. Or maybe pyramid schemes. Both things that promise money and seemingly easy work, or at least work that draws on somewhat specialized skills that you can perform at a decent level. I would never apply for a sales job, despite the fact that the legwork and the actual substance of the job is rationally easy. It was even harder to convince myself that this job, doing something I loved doing — writing — could be a poor fit.
When I started making lists about my procrastination, I knew the end was near. Here is a list of how I spent my day during one of the last articles I wrote for Demand. I got the rewrite in, but dammit it took forever and it barely made it past Editorial.
1. Looked at pictures from the previous night and edited some in Photoshop (1 hour)
2. Hung out with Amanda at the house (about 1 hour)
3. Wrote down a story idea (5 minutes)
4. Wrote down all the things I’d eaten that day and the day before (10 minutes)
5. Made the bed (10 minutes)
6. Ate a banana and then lunch leftovers (30 minutes)
7. Added that to the list of things I’ve eaten (2 minutes)
8. Talked with boyfriend, was confused by his Argentinian Spanish (30 minutes)
9. Utilized the Internet to understand boyfriend (10 minutes)
10. Looked for a short story I wrote in Guatemala (30 minutes)
11. Sent Jill an email complaining about how much I hate doing rewrites (10 minutes)
12. Kept looking for that short story (30 minutes)
13. Started a list about things I do instead of the rewrite (10 minutes)
14. Found the short story and read it; became re-invigorated to finish it (30 minutes)
15. Reminded myself I had to do the rewrite instead, BY 6PM FOR GOD’S SAKE (30 seconds)
16. Checked my day job email compulsively (5 minutes)
17. Wrote a cultural reflection regarding “Pop Non-fiction” (15 minutes)
And so we all know what the begrudgingly compiled result looks like, please read “Do You Get To Keep The Same Passport Number If Your Original Expired?”, featured on USA Today’s Travel Tips section.
Though to preserve something of balance, I will also point readers to this article — How Can A Single Female Travel Safely? on eHow– as one of the articles I had fun writing, and one where a bit of my personal style managed to seep through the cracks.
Thank you for the times and the features, Demand. But hopefully, we have seen the last of each other.