The Last Minute

Editor’s note: My Super Secret Diary was unexpectedly off last week due to an unforeseeable Act of God called “poor planning on my part.” Management regrets the error and reassures you that you continue receiving this newsletter on a weekly basis going forward, at least until I forget again.


Sometimes people ask me how long it takes to write this newsletter each week, and the answer is always that it takes however much time I have. If I have a weekend, it takes all weekend. If I have a day, it takes all day. If I only have an hour, I can probably find a way to do it in an hour.

The problem is I can’t trick myself. I’d love nothing more than to wake up in the morning, write for a few hours, and be done with this for the week. But somehow my body knows. If there isn’t a real deadline approaching, I just can’t do it.

A lot of these pieces take me a whole weekend to write. But the truth is the actual writing barely takes any of that time. I need the whole weekend because I need to sit down in front of my computer, write a few words, switch to pen and paper, pace aimlessly around my apartment, switch to my other computer, run an unnecessary errand for no reason, berate myself silently, switch back to my original computer, get up and go to the bathroom even though I don’t really have to, berate myself out loud, and delete everything I’ve written and start over. It’s a highly calibrated process. There may only be an hour of actual writing in there, but that doesn’t mean I could do the whole thing in an hour. Except I just said that I could do it in an hour, sometimes. I guess the point is that I don’t really understand my own process very well.

Sometimes I spend the whole day doing something totally unrelated to this newsletter and then I get up to stretch or run to the bodega across the street for toilet paper and all of a sudden, without even meaning to, I write the whole thing in my head in like thirty seconds and, what’s more, it’s actually good. That only happens very occasionally, but when it does it feels like indisputable evidence that I’m a goddamn genius. Most of the time it’s the opposite: every word is a struggle and getting this out is like that feeling when you’re really nauseous and you know you’d feel much better if you just made yourself throw up already, but for whatever reason you just can’t, so you lie with your head near the toilet and swear you’ll never let yourself feel this horrible again. Those times I like to remind myself that many great artists were tortured, so theoretically if I torture myself enough, I’ll eventually become great.

This was theoretically an essay about procrastination, but I procrastinated too long and now I don’t know what it’s about. Then again, using your lack of inspiration as inspiration is the oldest trick in the book, and frankly it’s a little gauche. The thesis here was originally going to be that the quality of my work doesn’t suffer no matter how much I wait till the last minute, but I think this piece itself has ended up being evidence that’s not true.

Yours in hoping you remember that when I have to pump this shit out every week they can’t all be winners,

Max