Editors, please only read steps one and ten and/or only the parts where I talk about turning things in on time.
Step one: get an assignment!
I’ve gotten tons of assignments in the past year and each one is as thrilling as the last. Not the assignments themselves—those aren’t usually that thrilling—but the idea that I’m going to write for money! I hope signing a new contract never gets boring.
Step two: do the research.
This can also be fun. I enjoy meeting new people and the people I talk to are generally super tickled to be the subject of a magazine story. When I’m blogging (at DearWendy.com, for example) this step is generally “think about what you’re going to write,” which is differently fun because I get to make it all up.
Step three: memorize when the deadline is.
I don’t want to get this work done too quickly, after all. But I will be damned if I actually miss my deadline.
Step four: allow the deadline to get too close.
Obviously. There are naps to take and cats to pet.
Step five:* open the text document. Stare.
This must be done two days before the deadline for if I’m going to make my deadline.
Step six: walk away.
You know what? I hate writing. This is too difficult and I did not take very good notes. This is going to be impossible to write. I don’t even know where to start. I’m done with this.
Step seven: realize I no longer have the luxury of pretending I don’t have the luxury of ignoring the assignment any more.
This involves sitting at my computer, hands clutching my head, willing words to appear on the screen. Starting and stopping happen here. I will write 300 of 650 words and delete them all, because they’re all garbage. Repeat. Loathe writing. Loathe my abilities. Loathe every other profession, because every other profession is easier than this.
Step eight: write one really great line.
This is what is known as the turning point. One really great line is all it takes!
Step nine: write the whole thing in 30 minutes.
Buoyed by my one really great line I now have the clarity to write the entire piece, and I can’t be bothered to eat or pet a cat or even look at Emily. Luckily this lasts, as I said, only 30 minutes. I am also able to edit happily once I’m finished!
Step ten: cash that check!
Because I turned my assignment in on time, I get paid! I always cash the check the day it arrives. Not only is it polite, it’s also extremely fun to put money into my bank account.
*Addendum to step five: I will sometimes write a blog post about my writing process instead of writing my assignment.