Monday, July 24, 2017

How (Not) to Write an Essay for The 52 Essay Challenge

This is (late) Essay #29 of The 52 Essay Challenge, a series in which I write a new (unpolished, totally messy!) essay each week during 2017.

Wake up before everyone else. You like the quiet of a brand new day. It’s like a clean sheet of paper (which can be both exciting and terrifying), open to so much possibility.

Make some coffee. You know that writers all have their rituals. Some read. Some physically warm up with calisthenics. Some meditate. Some take walks. Yours is coffee.

You pour cold water into the back of the coffee maker, insert a brown paper cone filter (because you are environmentally responsible and do not buy the white filters), measure out the coffee carefully as you know the ratio of water to coffee grounds is key to the perfect cup. (Well, that and water temperature and length of steeping, but, really, who’s paying attention to that?) You “pre-heat” your mug by pouring a little water into it and popping it into the microwave. It is important that your coffee is not poured into a cold mug as that will affect the ideal temperature of the beverage. That said, you also warm up a tiny cup of half-and-half. Again, to not mess with the coffee’s ideal drinking temperature.

When the coffee has finished brewing, you measure out one teaspoon of sugar and run your finger over the spoon’s edge, sweeping away the excess to ensure that you have less than a teaspoon, as you do not like your coffee too sweet. You put the sugar in the empty mug. You then pour the coffee into the mug, over the sugar, allowing the heat of the coffee to dissolve the sugar while simultaneously swirling it into the coffee. This is a trick you learned when you worked at Dunkin Donuts in high school. You’re not sure it’s any different or better than simply putting the sugar into the coffee after it’s been poured, like most people do, but you’d like to believe that it does make a difference. It’s a habit you don’t want to give up.

You grab whatever fruit is available –berries, bananas, apples, oranges—and bring it, along with your coffee, to your writing studio. Now that you think of it, you grab a protein bar, too. Just in case. You leave your phone on the kitchen counter so as to try to minimize your distractions, like sending random text messages. They have a new collection of emojis now and you’re dying to use them all. Best to leave the phone in the kitchen.

Once in your studio (a converted bedroom in your house), you flick on the mug warmer and put down your coffee. You mentally note the effort with which you work to keep your beverage at the ideal temperature. What does that say about me? you wonder for a split second, but then turn your attention to your desk.

There is so much clutter, you think to yourself. Maybe I should clean a little bit. But then you scold yourself. See? This is why we don’t get any writing done. Focus, girl. Focus.

You take your journal –one that is from Paperchase, your favorite brand of writing journals (not Moleskin, like every other writer you know) that are hard to find but have recently been seen at Staples. There is something about the feel of their paper. And the spacing between the lines is perfect for your handwriting. Plus the bookmark ribbon is always a pretty color, not basic black. Not to mention the variety of covers. But you digress— You spend some time freewriting about whatever is on your mind. This, you tell yourself, is writing meditation. This is one of your rituals for writing. If you don’t do this, you’ll mess up your whole day. And writing anything of worth will be useless.

Oh, the things we tell ourselves. And the things we believe.

After you’ve done your brain dump and have thoroughly stressed yourself out with the giant to-do list that emerged from that dumping session, you are ready to begin writing your essay. But that thing that popped up in your freewrite –the thing about finding childcare in the event that their outdoor camp would be cancelled—that thing is gnawing at you. So you go to the kitchen, get on your phone and text everyone, including your mom, to find someone to care for your kids so you can go teach your summer session class later that morning.

Then you are faced with the phone issue. Literally. The phone is in your face. Okay, not literally, physically INSIDE your face. Man, theses kids and their use of “literally”! You upgraded to a new phone and, as usual, there is a problem. It is never easy to make any kind of change when it comes to technology. So, you decide to get on the phone (using your house phone. Yes, you still have a house phone for these very reasons.) with customer service because it is early and everyone is still in a good mood. You hope.

As you dial the number, you have already resigned yourself to the fact that you will indeed not write this essay. The phone call will take much longer than you have time for and then you will find yourself rushing to get ready for class. Thankfully, your dad will be arriving shortly to stay with your kids so you can do your job.

As for the essay, there’s always tomorrow. Maybe.

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