Writing hypocrisy.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my non-air-conditioned Massachusetts home, holding a glass of iced water to my forehead, sweating, and writing an article. The topic?  Keeping your house cool in the summertime–without air conditioning. My client wanted suggestions like “Use fans! Open your windows for ventilation! Close your curtains against the heat of the day!” …and I’m sitting there writing about how wonderful those options are, how you can totally make a home comfortable without central air, while taking more clothes off and cursing my home’s failure to keep the house under ninety-something degrees.

Five years of copywriting has taught me just how ridiculous the world of content marketing can be.

When I was in college, I succumbed to the same crime of inconsistency. I wrote for the university paper, and one week I’d been assigned an article on time management and procrastination–particularly, how to complete projects well within deadlines. I had a week to write the article, but I ended up drafting it (with lots of excellent advice, I might add) half an hour before it was due.

I mean, what was I supposed to do? Go to my editor and tell her that I was sorry but due to personal failure, hypocrisy, and a priority system that put that paper near the bottom of my list, I couldn’t turn the stupid article in at all?

The worst part was being rewarded for such last-minute work. As a student, I often received feedback (from notoriously stringent writing professors) praising my hard work and attention to detail on the very papers I’d written between 3 and 4am the day before they were due. Too often, the stuff I actually spent hours researching, writing, and rewriting garnered a Nice try, but I’ve seen you do better.

How do you universalize an experience like that? Just stop trying? For me, the solution fell somewhere along the lines of taking the advice and knowledge of professors and then writing to my satisfaction, not to theirs. I got better grades that way (and, I daresay, wrote better stuff) but it took most of my college career to figure out that secret.

And yet. Some days I have no idea what I’m satisfied with when it comes to writing, because when I’m particularly tired, ANYTHING looks good. And when I’m particularly energetic, nothing even seems adequate. And when I’m uncomfortably hot, all I care about is finding an AC.

Such is life.

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