Monday, December 14, 2009

Alexa Martin: WIP: Work-in-Progress (aka Writing-is-Painful)

Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues:

I hope this holiday season finds you alive and well. While I wish I could bring you tidings of comfort and joy--and maybe some figgy pudding--unfortunately I am writing to inform you of a matter of a grave and disturbing nature. As there is no way to phrase this delicately I will come out and say it directly: I have acquired a dire and potentially life threatening ailment. I have a WIP, otherwise known as a Work-in-Progress.

You might wish to brace yourself before reading further. May I suggest, in honor of the season, a steaming mug of wassail or perhaps a double shot of whiskey? (As a general rule I don't recommend self-medicating as a coping methodology. But I do recognize that these are trying times, especially after the Tiger Woods debacle that hit us all so hard last month.) 

You can take heart from the fact that there are times (albeit rarely) when a WIP can seem almost bearable. At the best of times a WIP is not unlike owning a overly rambunctious Great Dane. They're rather fun to play with. They make for great ice-breakers at parties. You can even lock them up for hours at a time when they become too great a nuisance (as they most decidedly will). 

 But, my friends, let us not shy from the cold truth. Though you may lock your WIP away, rest assured it will be heard. You are at the mercy of your WIP, and it is a cruel master/cold mistress. It will haunt your unconscious and subconscious mind (and will come to haunt the minds of those that surround you--that is, if they don't decide to flee your company or have you committed to an asylum first). You will dream about your WIP. It will shake you awake from cherished sleep, and you will find yourself scrambling in a furor for pen and paper before you lose your momentary flash of fabulousness--only to discover, in the morning, when you finally decipher your messy scrawl, that all you have actually written is pg 3 parapgraph 2 sentence 4--change "the catto "cat." Or, perhaps even worse, in a conscious fit you might find yourself overcome at the dinner table and perhaps--and I say this just as an example, mind you--suddenly reach over and grab your partner by the neck and say something vulgar like, "How the hell am I supposed to know what happens to little Joshie in that foster home?" 

Unfortunately, at this time, there is very little research being done on the condition of the WIP. From my own extensive investigation, I have gleaned that there are only two ways to rid oneself of a WIP. Both are excruciating, mentally and physically, and you will never truly recover from either. 

1). The conservative approach--Abandon your WIP

Yes, I realize this is as unthinkable as intentionally orphaning a child. But, while it's true that you will never truly get over the loss and will experience "phantom pain" until your dying day, on a positive note, having experienced one bout of a WIP, you will most likely experience another. 

2). The radical approach--Finish your WIP

This will likely kill you, but at least you'll leave something behind for posterity. If you're very lucky, you might even achieve a modicum of fame posthumously. 

Courage, dear friends! Let me assure you that there are indeed steps one can take to safeguard oneself from catching a WIP (or any kind of writing bug for that matter). A few "do's" and "don'ts" might be in order at this time:


Do cultivate your left brain
Do have a happy childhood
Do develop relationships with people who associate "dream fulfillment" with "dementia"
Do read Suze Orman
Do find an expensive and gratifying hobby like rock-climbing or base-jumping that satisfies your neurotic energy and nullifies your insecurities
Do take a pragmatic approach to life: it's better to be comfortable than content


Don't, when growing up, think of book characters as your "friends"
Don't, once grown up, have a life crisis and take time off to figure out "what it all means"
Don't read Bird By Bird or watch Dead Poet's Society
Don't get an MFA
Don't have a lonely childhood or failed love affairs  
Don't listen to the people who tell you that "anything is possible if you put your mind to it"

And now, my friends, I will attempt to appeal to your kind and charitable natures. "What can we do to help?" I hear you ask. You can do a lot for those of us who suffer from this affliction. You must flatter our writing incessantly. You must frequently tell us that we're brilliant. You might dangle such carrots before us as The Printz or The National Book Award, or--dare I say it aloud--The Pulitzer! You could consider becoming "a patron" or establishing a fund in our names (most of us accept checks or gift certificates to Anthropologie). In extreme cases, you might offer to write "the damn thing" yourself. We'll laugh at you of course. But, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. 

Seasons Greetings! May you Write in Peace! 


  1. Thanks for this fun, and true, post, Alexa!

  2. Thanks for this, Alexa! Always a pleasure to read you.

  3. Holy crap. I currently have two WIPs. Thanks a lot, Alexa. Now I feel doomed. (Also--WIP or no WIP--I, too, accept gift certificates to Anthropologie. I like their coats.)

  4. Great Job, Alexa! You're so funny... and honest!

  5. hahahaha - you clever girl you!

    I especially like Do read Suze Orman!! I mean, yeah, the woman can solve all our problems can't she?

  6. Must Tweet this! I suffer from the same ailment. Think we could get on some kind of govt benefit program?

  7. Love the "Do's" and "Don'ts"
    Hilarious (and true!) post.

  8. You're a nut! (But that's why we love ya!)

    Try putting a little bacon in that whiskey. Might help...;)

  9. Bless you, Alexa. I fear I've already done most of what you listed on the NOT TO DO list, but perhaps I've read this just in time.
    Emily Voorhees

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