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The alarm goes off and as you swim up out of unconsciousness you realize with a dull sense of horror that you’ve arrived at Monday morning yet again. It’s like a more mundane telling of Groundhog Day, that 1993 comedy romp starring Bill Murray, except in this version you’re the reluctant star and there’s no way to extricate yourself from the cursed time loop. The previous weekend and its orgy of freedom is just a bittersweet memory now, while the one to come seems like a hazy mirage viewed across an impossible gulf. Five days away? Might as well be fifty years.

For those of you who actually spring out of bed and do cartwheels of joy because you love your job so much…you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. The rest of us don’t necessarily begrudge your bizarre optimism, we just can’t reconcile it with our own version of reality this early in the work week. At least let us suckle a cup of coffee or three before you turn that thousand watt smile toward us as we trudge into the office.

For us, nothing can change that soul-sick feeling of finding yourself back at the start of another work week. Eliminating Mondays wouldn’t solve the problem, as it would simply result in Tuesday become the new Monday. Speaking of Tuesdays, they aren’t appreciably any better. If Mondays are about slowly easing back into the work cycle after the unbidden hedonism of the weekend, then Tuesdays are about getting productive whether you want to or not. Those endless email queries and mounting reams of paperwork aren’t going to take care of themselves, after all.

The fact that you’re getting paid to do it doesn’t make it any better either. In fact, it makes you feel a bit like a sex worker. Like them, many of us aren’t doing our jobs out of love. We’re doing them because we don’t want to live in a cardboard box behind a smelly dumpster in some dank alley. Money makes the world go round, and without it things can get desperate real fast.

Wednesday, the proverbial ‘hump day’, sees a glimmer of hope return. Now it’s only two more days until that sweet geyser of freedom known as the weekend gushes forth like Old Faithful once again. We can see the coming reprieve from the tyranny of paperwork and looming deadlines and we can almost taste it. This is when we start making plans for the forty-eight hours of contiguous personal time allotted to us every week, if we’re lucky (more on that near the end of this diatribe).

Thursdays are almost as bad as Mondays. The end of the week is in sight, but it’s not over yet. If you’re smart, Thursday is the day you’ll work extra hard so that you can hopefully coast through Friday. That often doesn’t work out, however, as Fridays are generally the day that demanding clients and unreasonable bosses suddenly need this or that thing-a-ma-jig done before the weekend. Still, there’s hope that this week might wrap up differently. The next day might be the golden Friday of your dreams—where things are slow for once and the boss tells you to go home early for a change. Right, sure. It could happen.

Then, at last, you arrive at Friday. You awaken to the same droning alarm, but even though you still long to stay in bed you find yourself getting up a little less begrudgingly. Maybe there’s even a slight spring in your step as you make your way into the office or wherever it is that you make a living. Eight more hours and you’re free to do whatever it is that you’ve fantasized about over the oncoming weekend. Suddenly life has the potential to be sweet again, if only for a limited time.

Then the phone rings. Somebody got their wires crossed and now there’s a mess that needs sorting out. The fact that you didn’t cause the issue is irrelevant, because somehow it always falls squarely on your shoulders to fix it when something like this happens. So you work like hell to vanquish the problem—to render it moot so that its imposition on your time doesn’t threaten to expand beyond the end of the work day.

By four o’clock you’ve somehow managed to resolve the matter, and as you prepare to shutdown your computer (or put your tools away) relief washes over you like a cool wave. You made it. You’re almost free. Your heart begins to sing like a bird freed from its cage. Then you see the boss striding toward you. He or she is smiling, but you know there’s no good news behind those calculating eyes. Can you come in on Saturday and work for a few hours?

Like the ignominious fate of Humpty Dumpty, your hopes are utterly dashed and no amount of theoretical super glue can put them back together again. Your Friday night out with friends is suspended with one terrible utterance from your superior’s lips. You could say no, of course, but to do that would only push your farther down the ladder of success that you halfheartedly think you’re trying to ascend. So, with all the enthusiasm of a political prisoner being led to the firing squad, you agree to sacrifice more of your time.

At least you’ve still got Saturday night and Sunday to yourself, the optimist would say. It’s not a total loss. That may be true, but you know that by Sunday afternoon the knowledge that hated Monday is looming on the horizon will corrupt your last hours of freedom before the crushing drudgery of another work week is even upon you. For those of you who are like-minded in their disdain of this cyclical struggle, I sympathize totally and completely with your plight, and maybe knowing that you’re not the only one who feels this way helps a bit. Misery loves company, after all.

Blank

You get up in the morning and grab a coffee. Maybe you read what’s happening out in the world for a bit while you wait for your brain to catch up with your body. If you’re the type of person who eats breakfast, you’ll probably have something to eat. School-age kids will need their lunches packed and maybe a ride if the weather’s bad. Then the morning rush is over and you are alone with your thoughts and ready to start work for the day.

Maybe that isn’t your routine at all, but this is how most of my days start. Regardless of how you work, eventually you go to the place where you feel comfortable writing and sit down at the keyboard. With a flick of the mouse you start up your word processing program and sit back while it loads. This is it, the moment you must face as a writer whenever you start a new project: the dreaded blank page.

I don’t know about other writers, but the fear of the blank page never really goes away for me. I hate sitting down in front of an empty screen with the cursor blinking stupidly up in the corner, taunting me (“Hey buddy, what are you going to write today, huh? HUH?”). I know it’s not my computer screen’s fault, but sometimes I want to put my fist through its blank cyclopean eye. Sure, I’ve drawn up an outline and kicked around potential plot threads in my head for days, but all that empty real estate staring back at me is unnerving in the extreme.

Before my fingers even touch the keys I’m wondering if the creative muse that drives me has dried up at last. Maybe I only have a certain amount of words in me and once that barrier is reached and breached, that’s it. Pack up your shit and get a real job. What writer hasn’t thought this at one time or another?

I look at the clock and see that fifteen minutes have passed and I haven’t wrote a damn thing yet. The temptation to start editing other existing projects or fiddle with my website begins to take hold. Editing and fiddling is always easier for me. The content is already there, it just needs tweaking. That’s much more enjoyable than conjuring up an entirely new project from scratch. But no, I’m supposed to write in the morning. Editing is to be done later on, when the hard work of being creative for the day is over with. If I don’t make myself write today, maybe I won’t write tomorrow either, or the next day.

I feel slightly panicky at the notion, because it seems like it would be such an easy trap to fall into. There’s no one here to make me do it. No boss is standing over my shoulder asking for those TPS reports by the weekend (“I’m gonna get you to go ahead and come in on Saturday. That’d be great…yeah”). There’s no overachieving coworkers around to make me feel bad for my own lack of output. It’s just me, my computer, and a whole lot of white pixels.

Ah, but now there’s a bit of motivation: stop writing and the dream of working for myself will die. I’ll end up back in the world of being told what to do for a living by some guy who only cares about making shareholders happy. I’ve been there; I don’t want to go back. That’s why I abandoned the 9 to 5 grind and took up writing full time. I’m not doing this to become famous or rich. I loathe the idea of fame. I’m doing it because I love writing and it’s what I burn with desire to be successful at. That’s why I make myself write 2,000+ words each day and edit for a few hours afterwards. That’s why I have dozens of stories out there for consideration and dozens more in various states of completion.

So I lay down a sentence. Then another. And another. Soon I have a paragraph. Then two. Before I know it the page is filled with them. Within a few hours I have ten pages of double spaced, twelve point Times New Roman written. Sure, some of it’s probably crap. No, scratch that. Some of it is crap and will be revised or changed entirely later on after it’s had some time to gestate. That’s not the point, though. The point is that I did it. I looked that blank-faced beast in the eye, did battle with it, and emerged victorious once more.

Tomorrow I’ll do it again, but at least the work is underway. I’ve got something to build on. That feels good, but only for as long as the current project lasts. If it’s a novel, I’ll be busy for months. If it’s a novella, weeks. If it’s a short story, within a few days I’ll be back to square one again. The fear is always there, waiting in the wings. I suppose it always will be in one form or another. But if I was the kind to let fear stop me from doing something, I would’ve never taken up writing in the first place.