Step 1: Once you are roused from slumber by thoughts of the monumental task at hand, brew some coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, thoughtfully bob a bag of tea into a cup of microwaved water. Optional: Add alcohol to taste.

Step 2: Flip open your laptop, preferably in a tranquil and solitary setting, but if there happens to be a spectator in the vicinity, take a moment to glance up and pause meaningfully, as though to silently acknowledge some unlucky muse. Savor the screen’s oddly comforting dentist chair glow, and feel good (this is the last time you will feel good for a very, very long time.)

Step 3: Launch the word processor of your choice. Starting with a template is always encouraging; you can prematurely enjoy your editing prowess as you happily chip away at its  inadequate stock phrases, and fill in its inviting designated gaps. Your piece, which is currently titled “New Document,” should excite you by sheer virtue of its newness. You are already halfway through the beverage prepared in Step 1, and through you surges a sense of halfway accomplishment.

Step 4: Name, date, title, and “Save As” your document. It is now real and your worry shifts from worry over its conception, to worry over its existence. It “is,” and “has” an “as.” You don’t realize the beverage has somehow completely chilled until it slides down with a shiver.

Step 5: Back away from the computer. You’ve been writing for at least a solid twenty minutes, and therefore you deserve a two hour nap.

Step 6: You’ve reluctantly returned to the screen after your (both long and all too brief) wayward jaunt, because if you don’t, x will happen. (Hopefully y will, but y is a long-shot and thus not currently your strongest motivator.) Your cup is empty, but the dregs of your mind remain. This brings us to the most important step of all:

Step 7: Word vomit. Type everything you want to say/any idea that comes to mind, even the things you are unsure or afraid of, because this strange ectoplasm will be the material that negotiates your thoughts with the rest of the world, and…and, it must spew forth—wait, gross, no—be expelled, before it can be shaped (molded, fashioned…should I extend the sculpting metaphor, or is that cliché? I’m leaning towards cliché, and, ugh, I forgot to remind you earlier that we have to be original, too…)

Step 8: Cut and Paste. The mad process of severing and conjoining, made to look natural. The one where you actually have to try. The preceding step forces you to face your inadequacies, and this one forces you to actually fix them. (Remember the “screen’s dentist chair glow?” It’s still here, illuminating you pulling your own teeth.)

Step 9: You have enough material to submit, the ache has transferred from your mind to your limbs; your agony dulled, you wonder whether it’s finished enoug—

Step 10: You hit “Send.” You’re just really fucking tired of finding synonyms for the word “collective.”

Real accomplishment. Congratulations! You’ve officially written something.

— Raven Pearson, Fall 2019 Staff

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