How to Tell a B- Story

I scratched my back until it bled. And I never stopped. My back right now is a bloody Jackson Pollack painting.

A bathtub of blood. Doctors don’t even touch it.

Very attractive. My best feature maybe. Shows every stress etched into my body over the past ten years.

But whatever. My point is this: I started with the back and ended with the two million. 

Meaning: two days ago, I couldn’t figure out what to write about. I write every day. But every day I probably start with writer’s block.

I don’t know what to say. And two days ago was particularly bad. I tried a couple of things to start:

  • I watched some standup comedy. I watched Louis CK. I watched Jim Gaffigan, Amy Schumer, Gary Gulman. I watched the last ten minutes of “what” by Bo Burnham.
  • I re-read parts of Slaughterhouse Five. In part inspired by an essay in The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders about Slaughterhouse Five.
  • I read part of “The Happiness Equation” by Neal Pasricha.

I procrastinated and played a lot of backgammon on my iPad.

Sometimes I’d be reading a book and it’s like I blacked out and the next thing I knew I was playing a game of backgammon.

And finally, the blank screen was still there.

So I started typing. “My back itches. I scratched it until it bled. I never stopped. ”

“It started because I was stressed about a company I started in 2006.”

And for 1000 words I described every splotch. Every blood mark. My bloody shirts that I have to throw out every few weeks.

I know, I’m really setting myself up here to be loved.

My point is this: about 1000 words in I wrote, “And then my friend told me how he made two million dollars this morning.”

I wrote another 1000 or so words after that. I didn’t know yet that I’d go back and completely eliminate the first 1000 words and then totally rewrite the second 1000 words.

But that’s what happened. And that’s how I wrote my article from two days ago.

I can’t tell you if the article is good or bad. I know it was better than just writing about my back.

I also got my two goals out of it. I feel it was entertaining and educational (at least to me I learned something).

So to write a simple story I had to get through a few hurdles.

  • Read fiction, read non-fiction, watch comedy, to kickstart some sort of creative ignition
  • Procrastinate
  • Stare at blank screen until it hurt my eyes
  • Start writing junk. “The Bloody Back Diaries.” I knew it was junk and I wrote 1000 words. At the very least, I thought, this will be my 1000 words for the day and I will exercise my writing muscle. Mission accomplished.
  • Recognize when I finally write a real sentence
  • Finish writing without looking back
  • Rewrite. Rewriting meant eliminating the first 1000 words and rewriting from scratch the second 1000 words.
  • Rewrite again. And again. And again. One 1000 word article I rewrote about ten times.

Check the box on four things:

  1. Entertaining
  2. Educational
  3. Am I embarrassed to hit publish
  4. Am I taking any chances.

I was embarrassed because I was showing why I have often failed at money, versus other people. And yet here I am, writing so much about money. Who the hell am I?

To be honest, maybe I didn’t take enough chances and that’s why the article is, at best, a B- instead of an A.

For instance, instead of saying what I learned, I wrote about how I lectured my friend.

That was a cop-out. The reality is, I was jealous of my friend who made $2 million in a single morning and was able to joke about it.

And the reality is: I’m also jealous of my friend with the deadline on the novel. I should have said that.

It’s pretty cool to have a deadline on a novel. I want to be so lucky but I can tell you my friend worked really hard.

So…ok. B-.

But at least I wrote my article for the day. Mission accomplished. If I write 365 articles a year, some will be good. Even an A or an A+.

Tomorrow I go to LA to interview Tony Hawk. I bet his back doesn’t look as bloody as mine.

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