My sister, Emily, is putting on a 5k in Shelbyville this August and over the past week or so, I’ve been training for it.
That’s right. The eden who said she would never run—specifically, the eden who said that even if something awful was chasing her, she would rather be eaten alive than pick up the pace—is going to run (and probably keel over dead during) the Runaway Bride/Runaway Groom 5k.
“What on earth could drive someone as adamant as eden to go against principles she’s held for most of her life?” you might ask. “Charity? Personal betterment? An attempt at a healthier lifestyle? The desire to measure oneself? The need to achieve something?”
None of the above. I just don’t want to do any of the jobs Emily might find for me to do if I’m not running. And I imagine there are a lot of them—timer, register, water-hander-outer, the guy who writes down what everybody’s number is, etc., etc., etc.
“So, you would rather run 1-3.1 miles a day for the next two months than do a small menial job for half an hour? Say, holding a stopwatch or handing out t-shirts?”
Yes. In fact, I have a long history of doing more work to get out of doing less work.
Ask my high school biology teacher. Instead of gathering, pressing, and labeling the native leaves of Missouri over the allotted 3-month period, I found them all the night before they were due, pressed them between cookie sheets and baked them in my mom’s oven. Then I pretended to be sick that next morning so I had time to glue, label, and binder my leaf project, before suddenly feeling better, calling around, finding a way to school to turn it in that afternoon.
Better yet, ask any teacher who required my class to keep a journal and then turn it in at the end of a semester. You think it’d be easy for a writer to write half a page a week about anything he or she wanted. The thing is, though, you can find about ten different pens and pencils around your house and fabricate entries the night before they’re due. (Helpful Tip: To make it especially engaging for your reader, refer to a “previous” entry in a “later” one. Maybe you realized something about yourself as a person or learned to see things from a different point of view.) My favorite trick is to start an entry with a pen that’s almost dead, run out of ink, try scribbling at the top to get that darn pen to work, then get a different pen to finish. It gives your journal an earnest, true-to-life appearance that your reader can relate to.
I once made, printed, and “wore-in” a funeral program for my little brother, falsified airline e-ticket documents, and forged an excuse from my dad just so I didn’t have to do makeup work for skipping one too many (terminally boring) composition classes in college.
I just don’t want to do the up-front work required to make life easier. I can’t even imagine living in a world where I put my nose to the grindstone, make a sincere effort, and rise through the ranks until I hold some respectable position in a reliable 9-5 job.
This is probably a huge reason I’m a writer. Say I write a book over the course of a year (Halo took me eight months, but let’s round up). Then I spend a year revising it, getting feedback, overhauling, and re-revising. Then another year doing the various and sundry things it takes to publish a book. Three years.
If I had a consistent job that paid $7 an hour, with two weeks’ vacation (and not counting all the days I would undoubtedly call in sick because I’m a terrible employee) I’d have made $42,000 in three years’. Also, I’d have 3024 hours of free time (not counting the assumed 8 hours a night for sleep).
The payoff for those same three years as a writer is anywhere from $80 on the low end (this is assuming every one of your family and friends buys your self-published book and not counting the expenses of self-publishing) to $20,000 on the high end (assuming you sign with a major publisher who thinks you’re aces and wants to promote your debut book out the wazoo (Which, by the way, they never want.)). The best-case scenario figures out to a whopping $1.14 an hour. And in case you’re wondering, there’s no such thing as “free time” for writers, only “wasted time.” If you’re not making words into sentences, you might as well be hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.
But I’d still rather write because, in my mind, it seems like a keen way out of doing a real job. (And other reasons that even fewer would laugh at.)
What was my point? I guess that I realize I would rather take the hardest possible way out than do a small amount of work because any way out at all makes me feel like I beat the system.