A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Novelist

10:00 am – Wake up to the sound of your cell phone ringing. You expectantly reach for it, hoping it’s this one agent you emailed last week, but it’s your sort-of boyfriend. You don’t pick up because if you’re going to get anything done today it can’t involve outings for Quizno’s subs or catching the tail end of his friend’s roommate’s band’s coffeeshop gig. And you really need to get stuff done today.

10:05 am – Check Twitter. That bastard Neil Gaiman is tweeting about his new wife and VW Bugs full of cash again. Don’t bother to check email; it will be nothing but spam, Groupons, Facebook invitations to more successful friends’ readings, and emails from your Uncle Phil with the subject line: “Take Back America!!1 The Time is NOW.” You reflect on the fact that you’re not sure if Phil’s a Republican or an anarchist.

10:07 am – Brush your teeth and stare into the red-tinged, puffy eyes of a person who spends 15 hours a day in front of her laptop.

10:20 am – Get in the bathtub with a copy of Tao Lin’s Eeeee Eee Eeee that a friend who knows people in the publishing industry recommended. Read 20 pages and decide that your novel needs more unemployed man-children and metafictional narratives and dolphin sounds. Shave one leg, nick your knee, abandon the whole hair-removal project, and get out.

10:45 am – Dress in a pair of black stretch legging that are pilling all over the inner thighs and a sweatshirt you stole from your gym in a moment of anger and paranoia that the receptionist who always looks at you funny knows your membership expired 8 months ago.

10:53 am – Amble into the kitchen and open the refrigerator. There is nothing in it but crappy leftover Papa John’s, one can of Heineken, two different-sized bottles of ketchup, and a grapefruit. You don’t feel like peeling anything or heating anything, so you sloppily eat a handful of Lucky Charms instead and matter-of-factly rescue and eat the marshmallows that fall on the ground, but not the lesser wheat puffs. Those you leave to accidentally step on later.

11:01 am – Sit down at your laptop, which is sitting on your kitchen table, surrounded by coupon books and library books and loose pictures and coasters and mugs with desiccated tea bags in the bottom, because you don’t have a desk. Sigh audibly.

11:03 am – Muster the courage to click on the Word Document entitled “2009 Novel – 3rd Revis.” Remind yourself to change 2009 to 2011 because you don’t like thinking about how long ago it was when you first created the file.

11:05 am – Spend three hours on the first chapter, mostly replacing certain lame adjectives like “sad” with certain punchier adjectives like “lugubrious.” Decide to give the main character a dog; start the arduous process of writing the dog into ever scene where the main character is at a park or afraid his house may be burglarized.

2:05 pm – Decide it’s time for lunch. Open refrigerator door. Still nothing but pizza/beer/ketchup/grapefruit, so you drink the beer.

2:10 pm – Make a trip to the corner store to buy cigarettes for the first time in 2 months. When the clerk, who knows you, says she thought you quit, you just shrug your shoulders and say you’re bored. On the way out you decide to go back and buy a can of Whole Wheat Pringles.

2:15 pm – You smoke a cigarette in your apartment, blowing the smoke out a window that’s propped open with a hammer. It doesn’t relieve your boredom much, but opening the Pringles can and checking to see if you won $10,000 does.

2:16 pm – You did not win $10,000. You still have crippling amounts of student debt.

2:20 pm – Spend three more hours speed-reading the novel from start to finish, but end feeling more confused and unable to work than ever, because you know the story so well that certain passages leaped into your mind pages before they were supposed to begin, all the jokes were stale because you wrote the punchlines, and this one “poignant” scene where a character is trying to decide whether or not to knock on his estranged father’s door just needed to get punched in its stupid, fakey face.

5:21 – Take great pleasure in highlighting the entire three pages of that fakey scene, including the part at the end where the character gets entranced by a lawn gnome that looks like his grandmother, and press “Delete.”

5:22 – Feel discouraged because you had just gotten the draft to an even 250 pages and now its 247. And you already rewarded yourself with a new coffee press for getting to 250 and now you feel like it was a false, puffed-up accomplishment.

5:22 – Go on Wikipedia and look up a bunch of famous authors like Michael Chabon and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith to see when they got their first book published, which turns out to be younger than you are now, in every case. Fight back the urge to cry by eating more Whole Wheat Pringles.

5:23 – Contemplate how these Whole Wheat Pringles still have the same consistency and easily crunched texture of regular Pringles. Invent a metaphor for yourself, wherein you are a broken Pringle in a can of whole Pringle chips, but you can’t get all down on yourself because you still taste as good as the other Pringles. If someone would just give you a chance, you know?

5:24 – Call sort-of boyfriend and feel relieved when he doesn’t ask why you didn’t pick up the phone earlier or return any of his messages. When he suggests you go get subs for dinner, your empty stomach practically growls “YES” in response.

5:27 – Change into your street clothes, which consist of the same stretch pants and a tshirt and a jean jacket. You can’t wear the gym sweatshirt outside your apartment because if that receptionist ever happened to be in the same line at the grocery store as you and ask about it, you’d probably just pee on yourself and admit everything.

5:30 – Walk the 7 city blocks to Quizno’s, where your boyfriend offers to buy your sandwich and you protest and say, “No how about I buy your sandwich,” but he has a real job so you don’t say it very forcefully and before you know it: free meatball sub with a pickle and salt-and-vinegar chips. You try to eat slowly and gracefully, like someone who previously had two real meals, but you keep talking with food in your mouth and dripping sauce onto your stretch pants.

5:48 – You feel so euphoric after eating all that protein that you don’t even make up an excuse to avoid going to see your sort-of boyfriend’s roommate’s friend’s band play. You even say, “Sure! That sounds fun! I really need to get out of my apartment more.”

7:00 – The band is still setting up and you’re getting antsy because you’ve been sitting in this coffeeshop for an hour, your drink was all drunk about 50 minutes ago, and, unlike your sort-of boyfriend, you’re not good at pretending to be interested in The Economist or Vice or any of the other stuffy old people or snotty young people magazines they have lying around.

7:06 – The band plays this weird acoustic stuff and your sort-of boyfriend is whispering a whole monologue in your ear punctuated with “shoegaze” and “moonlight” and something that sounded like, “Let’s move to London,” but you’re busy taking mental notes about the bassist who’s pretty large and clean-looking compared to his other bandmates and you think might make an interesting character–“The Only BandMate Who Couldn’t Fit in Skinny Jeans. And Didn’t Want To.”

7:35 – When you go up to the counter to get another drink the barista asks you casually what you do and you freeze up for a minute, before you remember that the barista will think it’s cool if you answer, “Writer.”

7:36 – The barista responds, “Oh, that’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to be a writer” and you have to try really hard not to shake your head at him sadly.

8:02 – The band is done playing and your sort-of boyfriend wants to go to an after-party with them and “discuss London” with you, but you beg off and take a cab that you really can’t afford home.

8:16 – As soon as you get home you polish off the Whole Wheat Pringles and sit right down and write a short story about the bassist. You finish it and, for the first time in a long time, you think something you wrote might actually be good.

9:35 – You spend some leisurely time looking for literary mags to submit your story to and browsing MFA programs, before settling in for some quality time with Netflix and a documentary about North Korea and some Buffy re-runs.

12:01 – You fall asleep at your kitchen table with the screen still up on your latest story and a glimmering in your mind that you should a) maybe break up with that sort-of boyfriend who never asks to read your work, b) go grocery shopping and definitely buy more Whole Wheat Pringles, and c) shave your other leg tomorrow. It itches.

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