« Creative non-writing | Main | I'm Awesome; Almost a god »


I'm in real trouble. I have a deadline of tomorrow for a short (six pages) essay about leadership. I have well over one thousand lines written, but most of them are just random, crappy ideas and thoughts and starts of essays. The big problem is that I am so used to writing, every day for my blog, in less than one page, that I am no longer able to think in longer, multi-page essay format. By the time I get to page two or three, I have made my point. If I go further, I am no longer talking about the same thing as I was on page one.

Sure, one can just pad their main point with crap, but I don't appreciate reading such drivel. I sure don't want to write it. I enjoy reading something short and to the point. If I am interested, I will look further into the details. If it is six pages, you better well have a lot of points that need to be covered. I don't. I have nothing insightful to say about leadership. I have not had enough time to conduct a study, I have not had enough time to do the in-depth research that would require six-pages (or more) worth of backup. I only have my own unfounded ideas to write about. Those ideas only take one page, because I have so few.

One thing that has really struck me about this whole ordeal is that I have spent much more time worrying and fretting over how I will write this six page essay than I have over my thesis. Part of that is because I know the thesis will be read by no one. Likewise, the essay will be read by no one, but for some reason it seems more personal. This makes it impossible to finish. I feel the same as I did in my favorite, and most difficult university course... creative writing 101. IT was a course I took for no credit, just to pass a requirement, and I was so surprised to find that it was the most difficult class I had ever had. It was the only class that I ever stayed up late to work on. It was the only class in which I ever made an appointment to meet the teacher and discuss how I can overcome the hardships I was having. It was the most time consuming class, the most exhilarating, the most satisfying, and the most humbling.

My current situation is quite similar. Of course I want the thesis I am currently working on to be good, but since it really has no value other than to get me a grade, I don't worry much about it. I don't fret about it. It doesn't disturb my sleep. This essay though, which has no grade, for some reason has become a big deal to me... maybe because I promised some friends that I would complete, but I don't think that is the major reason. I don't think it is because it will be widely read (it surely wont), but the very idea that it may be published is daunting... and it's not like something that I write on my blog, and can then change my mind about a few days later. If I write this, and if it is published with my name, I am screwed for life. I have never felt so consumed by something as I do this, and it kills me that I am no where closer to finishing than I was the day I started.

I love this feeling, but I hate it. My major discovery form this ordeal is that I am not a writer... I can't meet the deadlines. On the other hand, if adrenalin is something I am looking for, being a writer may be just what I need.


You are a writer - I read your posts regularly and deeply appreciate your honest and reflective thoughts.

I don't know anyone who has tackled a major writing project that hasn't encountered in some way what you are experiencing. Margaret Atwood writes about how many sharpened pencils she goes through before getting any scribbles down. Carlo Menotti (composer of operettas such as "The Medium" and "Amahl and the Night Visitors") composed a charming and funny piece for The Kings Singers about the white page before him that he could not fill up.

So, I pass on one of the best pieces of advice I
received when I was writing my thesis: "The best thesis is a done thesis." Same goes for essays.

Lastly, I agree with your insight about the relationship between vision and reality. It is well accepted that one function of leadership is to articulate vision. I have slowly come to realize that a complimentary function is to have a good grasp of reality. An exceptional leader sees both and is able to show other how to bridge the gap. T.S. Eliot (The Hollow Men): "Between the idea and the reality ... falls the shawdow."

Thank you for your beautiful photos. Thank you for writing about your quest.

Post a comment