Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Habits of a Pseudo Writer

I blinked and now it’s February. This means that I only have four months left in Russia and four months to produce my masterpiece. Luckily I’m in denial of the former and am throwing my obsessive compulsive tendencies at the latter. The first step on the long road to productivity was eliminating distractions, which included relinquishing my Facebook password to my sister (who is hopefully not embarrassing me or defriending people on my behalf) and adding 7am yoga classes to my day. That left me feeling quite om-ed out, but I still had to trick my inherently lazy self to really get results.

Thus, I invented the Power Hour (patent pending), which shouldn’t be confused with the drinking game of the same name that predates my creation. My version consists of disabling my internet, blasting Girl Talk, downing a glass of tea and a liter of water, and then forcing myself to write 5 pages before I am allowed to leave my desk/library carrel. There’s nothing like the pain of a full bladder to propel you through fives pages of creativity at breakneck speeds. That and I gave my flatmate free license to slap me across the face if she catches me leaving my room before my five-page intervals are complete.

The downside to this method of writing is that 99% of what I am putting down is pure and unadulterated crap. Every once in a while, I will produce a sentence or two of literary merit to be salvaged in the second god-awful draft, but in the early stages, I just need to throw every idea possible at the page and see what works and what is so mortifying I should never show it to a living soul. Meanwhile, I try not to dwell on the fact that the FSB can access all of my files.  I just know some agent at Lubyanka is saying to his colleagues, “Guys, this girl has got to be a spy because she’s definitely not a writer. I bet English isn’t even her first language!” 

Following the advice of Stephen King in On Writing, I decided to keep the plot of my novel a secret until I’d finished a draft. This isn’t because I think my story is particularly brilliant; it’s actually just so I don’t get disheartened by harsh criticism or derailed by plot advice.  And since I find talking about my writing about as fun as getting a sex talk from my dad, I didn’t think this would be a problem. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at thinking on my feet, especially in Russian.

Yesterday, I had to do a 20-minute Russian phone examination for the State Department, and my interviewer asked me to summarize my novel. Too nervous to make something up, I started telling her the plot, trying to pepper it with complex grammar so I’d get a better score. She seemed satisfied with my answer, and then asked me if I had a title. I do, but I didn’t know how to translate it to Russian, so I deflected her question with a question.

Me: I don’t know, what do you think I should call it?
Interviewer: Me?! Maybe if I had some time to think about it, but not when you put me on the spot like this!

So now the FSB and a flustered Russian in the United States are privy to my literary lovechild. But, unlike the other three novels I have started and stopped in Russia, I don’t think I’m going to abandon this project. I can’t have destroyed my kidneys for naught.


  1. I love your Power Hour idea -- might need to try it out myself!

    Good luck on getting some (good!) writing done.

  2. I am excited to see what is going to come of this!
    Also, I might have to implement the power hour to get some personal statements done this week! I'll let you know if I have any success!!
    Good luck!!!