All right, so I love to write. Stick me in a room with a (preferably obscenely expensive fountain) pen and a (preferably obscenely expensive leather-bound) notebook, leave me alone for days, and I’ll be perfectly content. You don’t know how thrilled I am that email (yea! Let me write that answer for you) has become the communication device of choice over the telephone (egad! You expect me to articulate a reasonable answer to that question via my vocal cords?). Some of us, I guess, are born with pencils in our hands. Writing has always come easily to me, much more easily than speaking. That doesn’t mean I think I’m much good at it, but when you love something, you don’t really worry about whether or not you’re good at it. I love chocolate. Do I have to be any good at eating it in order to do so? (Judging by how many articles of clothing have been ruined by chocolate stains, I’d say "no.")
However, send me an email that says, “We need the math catalog letter by Feb. 26th,” and I am thrown into an utter state of panic. This message means I’m responsible for writing a half-page letter that will serve as an introduction to my company’s math catalog. I sit and stare at this email for a moment, writer’s block setting in as I try to compose a response to it. Soon, I'm deeply immersed in the five stages of grief:
1. Denial or disbelief
“What? A catalog letter? You expect me to write another one of those? Didn’t we just do that? You mean catalogs come out more often than once every ten years? I never said I could write marketing pieces, you know. I could swear someone told me we weren’t doing a math catalog anymore. In fact, I could swear we never have done a math catalog. Are you sure such a thing exists?”
“Why the hell do I have to write this stuff? Don’t we have a marketing department? Catalogs are a marketing function not an editorial one. You mean I have to write one of these EVERY SINGLE YEAR?! What the fuck? Whatever possessed me to take this job? Whatever possessed me to go into publishing? I was going to be an accountant, dammit! Accountants don’t have to waste their time writing catalog letters."
“Okay, if I don’t have to write this thing, I promise I will never, ever crack any editorial v. marketing jokes again. If someone else will write this piece for me, I promise that person can have my first-born son. All right, you’re right, I know, I’m never going to have a first-born son. How about a dozen fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies instead?”
“ What makes you think I can write this? No one’s gonna like it. No one’s gonna read it. No one’s gonna read our books. As a matter of fact, I can tell nobody likes me. All the other catalog letters are ten times better than mine. What good am I? I can’t do this. Is this all life is: being assigned tasks we can’t possibly complete? It’s all so pointless, isn’t it? I don’t blame all those people who kill themselves."
5. Acceptance and Hope (Finally!)
“Well, I might as well get to work on this thing…hey, this isn’t really so bad. What if I go with this theme this year? That just might work. We’re publishing awesome books here. A good catalog letter will be like a beacon, people drawn to it, drawn to our awesome books. Everyone’s gonna be reading our books.”
This is not to say that the piece I write isn’t vetted through a husband, my friend The Platonic Editor, and everyone in my department before I submit it. And this is not to say that I stop thinking, “What the hell? Why can I write a blog post such as this one in no time flat, with nary a worry in the world (despite the fact it’s available for the whole world to read), but I have to spend at least two days worrying about this assignment before I can even compose the first sentence?” However, it is to say, “It’s done, and I’m pretty happy with it now.”