Friday, 07 April 2006

"'The Option' Days" Are Here Again I have a writing routine. So does every successful writer. In my class today—the second of the quarter—my students were treated to guest appearances by New York Times best-selling author Joshua Wolf Shenk and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Barry Siegel. (And damn did they ever handle it with aplomb.) Joshua talked to them about his writing routine—a mandatory three hours slaving and flailing daily—and as he did the contours of my own routine became more apparent. (What can I say? Contrast has a way of creating reliefs.) My routine is more ambitious than his by the very degree to which I'm a lesser writer. I don't tie myself to the chair for three hours daily but six. Had I Shenk's skills I wouldn't need to. (Only I don't. So I do.) Over the course of the conversation I inadvertantly revealed to my students the existence of "'The Option' Days." What are "'The Option' Days"? Besides an excuse to indulge my love of awkward quotational apparatuses, "'The Option' Days" are those entirely comprised of six or more hours staring at a Word document which contains only the words "the" and "option" (in that order) and being dunderstruck trying to complete the sentence. Do I want a verb? "The option considered by . . ." would make for a fine sentence. As would one in which "the option" introduces a prepositional phrase: "The option before the . . ." That would also work. Whichever one I choose will determine the argument and tone and structure of all that comes after it. So I sit there. Paralyzed by "the option." Haunted by "the option." Aware of the irony inherent in feeling paralyzed and haunted by all the options "the option" provides but unable to appreciate its ironical exquisiteness for the foul mood into which I've descended. So I sit. Frustrated. I stare dumbly. And brood. Over the dead end that is "the option."

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