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"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wSunday, June 05, 2005


BLAST FROM THE PAST: Here's a piece I did for a now-dormant website in July of 2001. Girls, try not to get too hot and bothered over the bit where I take my shirt off:


Diary of a freelance writer

The sound of my brother's Volkswagen starting in the garage below jiggers the photo-receptors in my eyes and I reach for the papers on my nightstand to shove them aside. The clock reads 7:45.

I mutter a few expletives and for the next 15 minutes I lay in bed trying to figure out how to proceed on the article I abandoned at 1 a.m. for lack of direction. I've already blown the deadline by a day and I know from past experience from both sides of the desk that editors do not appreciate lateness. This is especially bad in this case because 1) it's my first article for this particular online mag; 2) I've had plenty of time to get it done; and 3) I already have more than the required 1,500 words down. But of the near 3,000 words of text, most are in my transcript/ rough notes format; only 600 or so words are polished. And did I mention that this one pays really well?

Very little comes to me except for the words of an editor friend from late last night: "When in doubt, pad." I replied, sure, and then I'd take part in the remake of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. It took a minute to sink in. We both laughed hysterically. In my defense, it was late.

I finally sulk over to the computer and hit the power button with my big left toe. Two minutes later, I've downloaded my e-mail and started my morning music, Creed's My Own Prison. I learn that Wlady Pleszczynski, online editor of the American Spectator has caught a typo in my transcription of a Jonah Goldberg interview for a forthcoming column. The note begins "a few minor matters" but as I look at the questions the first draft has left unresolved, I marvel that he didn't reject the piece outright. Upon rereading, my suspicions are confirmed. It can charitably be called less than a supreme effort. But I'm not feeling charitable: It sucks.

Back to the 1,500 word piece on Trinity Western University's recent win over the B.C. College of Teachers. I don't usually start out with an outline for pieces 4,000 words or shorter because I prefer to let the work grow organically and logically. This usually works because I edit as I go and then give the piece a semi-final read and make structural changes for flow or clarity. But sometimes it mutates or my brain jumps the rails, logic-wise.

About 45 minutes -- and 25 more words -- into it, I realize that the last hundred words or so are leading down a blind alley. I highlight, delete and am growlingly reminded that I haven't had breakfast yet. In the pantheon of normal human impulses, procrastination and hunger are kissing cousins.

After my usual Jimmy Dean sausage (though sans the normal salsa; it's gone bad and I don't feel like going to the store for more) and Coke and my two-mile walk, by herk and jerk, the words start to come. My muse, I muse, must be a glutton or a power walker; or both. A steady regimen of typing and checking my e-mail leads to a fairly good piece about noon. Before I send it off I pledge to plant a wet one on the editor from the Globe & Mail who had the pluck to tack the following headline onto a human interest story: "Students at Trinity Western University have pledged not to smoke, drink, swear, take drugs, fornicate or have gay sex. Are they unfit to teach your children?"

Then, back to the Spectator story, I send Wlady an e-mail saying that I'm back on the job and that he should have the revised piece in "an hour or so." Two problems 1) my room is beginning to heat up; and 2) I have no idea how to make it work.

For the next four hours "or so," I bounce all kinds of different ideas off the walls and off of my friends' heads, interrupting this process as often as possible by doing the dishes, checking out the new proof of a book by WorldNetDaily commentary editor Joel Miller (I'd give out the name, but he knows where I live), and scanning this week's New York Press. I have to type with my shirt off and with a fan on because the temperature continues to inch up.

Finally, and miraculously, I get the complete rewrite done shortly before 5 and send forthwith. I then satisfy my daily bout of wanderlust by taking my pimped-out 1985 Plymouth Reliant out to a remainder book store in Custer, Washington. There, I pick up William Barrett's The Lillies of the Field (great movie); Rick Moody's Purple America (I liked The Ice Storm); Jay Winik’s excellent and readable history of the end of the Cold War, On the Brink; and Slate reporter Jacob Weisberg's In Defense of Government: The Rise and Fall of Public Trust (don't ask); all at 75 percent off the remaindered price. The total bill comes to less than $5.

I come home and make dinner -- half a frozen pizza -- while I flip television channels. Nothing, nothing, nothing, more nothing, click. Maybe I don't have the patience for it any more.

After I find out how my brother's day went -- he's in construction -- I start a novel that I've promised to review for Christianity Today, The Niphilim Seed, by James Scott Bell, who, the back cover tells us, "is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction." It begins thus:

"Dr. Sterling Brown felt something at the back of his neck. He spun around.

"Nothing.

"Shaking his head, he forced a chuckle at his nervousness. No one was following him into the Universal Sheraton Hotel, least of all the devil himself.

"Or was he?"

Now I'm not allowed to render a verdict here but readers are invited -- hell, encouraged -- to take a wild guess.

posted by Jeremy at 11:21 PM