(Warning: Major spoilers below for the television show You).
In the Netflix show “You” an obsessive serial killer boyfriend locks his procrastinating writer girlfriend in a glass cage located in the the basement of a quaint New York City bookshop. He has to keep her prisoner there because she discovered all his murderous deeds, but as an added bonus, according to him, now she can finally write! The climate-controlled and sound-proof glass cage is filled with out-of-print editions of classic books and he’s generously moved in a typewriter. “You say you’re a writer. I fell in love with a writer. Maybe you should be writing,” he says. Ouch, that is a dagger bigger than the one with which he stabs people.
But… it works. She does write!
The words pour out of her. And up until she rips out a typewriter key with which to shiv her boyfriend, the words are beautiful! Her book becomes a bestseller. I mean, the boyfriend does end up murdering her, but in his mind he’s done her a solid by bringing her literary ambition to life. “I gave you what you always wanted” he narrates whilst arranging on a table the book that made her posthumously famous.
How terrible am I that I couldn’t help but agree that being held in a glass cage did indeed give her the mental and physical opportunity to finally write, away from all the distractions of her university creative writing program, her job as a TA, her insanely high-ceilinged New York City loft, and her rich friends, one of whom is delightfully named Peach Salinger. He pretty much literally had a gun to her head and she had to write. That sick shit worked!
Talking about my lazy work habits and how I want to be writing and am not is like thirty percent of mine and Adam’s conversations, bless his dear and ever patient heart. I told him about this episode of You and he could hear the twinge of I don’t want to say jealousy but a little bit jealousy in my voice.
“Do you want me to hold you hostage and make you write?” he asked.
“If you did it, I promise not to be mad at you or involve the police in any way,” I said.
I’m not proud to admit that I’ve felt envy for people in prison and all the time they have to write and read. But the thing is, I do have the time. And if I was in prison I’d probably start a cooking-from-the-commissary club, a book club, and provide consultations on the cutest way to set up a cell and I wouldn’t have any time to write anyway.
My greatest fear in life is being a writer who doesn’t write. This is much more scary than being a writer who writes badly. I can imagine it would be a real soul crusher to come to the end of life and feel like you’ve squandered your passions and talents. This is to say nothing of how writing begets writing, writing begets good writing, and it’s often that act of writing that reveals what the writer was trying to say. So you actually have to do the thing to 1) have done it, and 2) to be any good at it.
Or, as Instagram tells me the late great Mary Oliver said:
Lately I’ve been following the Instagram hashtag #amwriting and I keep going “Yes! That’s so me” and showing various memes about procrastinating writers to Adam, Worlds Most Productive Person, because although at this point he knows he married a lazy woman, I want him to know that I’m not alone and there are many others like me. He has all sorts of tips for me to be a productive writer, most of which involve publicly sharing my productivity statistics. I suppose he thinks a fear of being shamed about how little I write will propel me to write more, but I’m not so sure because I feel I’m easily able to admit my shame about not writing enough. Like, I should have more shame about it.
Adam, a group of friends, and myself are just finishing up a month of DietBet, which is a weight loss “game” in which you bet $100 that you can lose four percent of your body weight in a month. (For a funny and historical blog post on this, check out My Year in 1918, the great blog of my friend and former NYU Paris Writers Program classmate, Mary Grace). I’ve done DietBet a few times, and met the goal each time, because apparently I’m more motivated by the inconvenience of losing $100 than I am by the fear of not accomplishing a serious life goal, indeed a goal on which I stake part of my happiness and a good chunk of my identity. Oh, and when Adam and I did that terrible dry month a few years back, I announced I’d donate “to an organization whose mission is so deplorable to me, that I basically would be racked with guilt forever if I helped to line their coffers.” (I don’t remember what it was). If logic tells that I’m motivated by money, then it follows that I should wager cash on my weekly word count. But, ahem, didn’t I already do that when I got my MFA in creative writing? Could I somehow connect our hefty student loan payments to my motivation?
Alas, I have no answers, only laments. But let me leave you with this: If I disappear and am found locked in a book-filled lair (preferably stocked with sharp cheddar, Smokehouse almonds, crisp apples, and red wine) I absolve my husband of any and all blame.