After a rare stationary period of several months, I was excited to get out of town again. My cousin was getting married and I was very excited to see some friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years. In typical cheap and adventurous fashion, I was going to ride my motorcycle to the west coast for the whole ordeal. Out of curiosity though, I checked my flight deal apps and was surprised to find that I could actually fly into the obscure airport of Pasco, WA and out of Seattle for cheaper than excellent motorcycle MPG gasoline (+hotels).
Needless to say my budget travel compass pointed me toward flying and I purchased the tickets. To make sure I still squeezed in an MC trip, I took the scenic route north out of Durango through Ouray, Paonia and Glenwood Springs to Denver for my flight. Most marvelous and highly recommended — it was also smooth sailing for leg 1 of the trip, a great start.
The next day proved a long one.
I had not been sleeping well due to a busy schedule. Whenever I am working a lot, my work seems to mesh into my subconscious and it continues in my dreams. When this happens I have the infamous server/bartender nightmare:
The door keeps opening, more and more people pile in, everyone is raising a finger for service (btw stop doing that people!), take orders, make drinks, drop off drinks, cash out guest, door opens, greet, make drink, cash, more fingers raised, more drinks, ENDLESS.
All. Night. Long.
I wake up feeling like I’ve just finished a shift. But on top of this I have also been finding more freelance writing gigs. One project in particular was a new style of writing that I had never tried before: Garbage filler blog articles.
We all know what these are, most of you probably read 15 of them a day. They are absolutely pointless and only exist to make websites seem like they have more depth and attract random customers through tricky SEO maneuvering. As most of my writing gigs, I never intended to do them, but I also never say no. I typically try and write copy for websites, you know, the boring stuff, but I church it up pretty well — fancy non-pushy sales writing. They liked the one page I wrote for them, so they asked if I would write some blog articles for them. I agreed (as always) and they suddenly turned it into a 6 article contract.
No problem, I do this all the time. I get in over my head in something I have no idea how to do and then I figure it out, usually under tidy time constraints. But these articles proved to be my Achilles Heel. Let me explain: I was writing articles about cookware. How to hang them, recipes, fun ideas for 4th of July dinner parties, how to grill pizza… Ok that last one sounds like something I could pull off… but, no, zero interest in all of the other topics.
I tried one, a ramen recipe article. So ya, for those of you who read 15 garbage articles a day, here is how they are constructed. I have never made ramen; I have barely ever eaten ramen. I researched ramen and wrote up a brief history on ramen, I used the word ramen 17 times in the article to get it to a proper 5% word ratio (it’s an SEO thing), I added several other catchphrases in proper ratios and then I looked up 3 ramen recipes and picked what I liked from each one and made my own. I had never tried it, and I never will. In fact I may abstain from ramen for good because of this project. And that my friends, is how these filler articles are made. Sure it reads well, it is entertaining, but God knows if that recipe is any good. Many of these filler articles you read are written in the same ad hoc manner. After discovering how these articles were made, I swore never to read another one again… but I still had to write 5 more.
It started eating away at me. I won’t even read one of those articles again, how could I write one?
It’s adding to your portfolio. You can make money on the road writing these articles. You used to read these all the time, what’s so bad about them?
These were my justifications for writing the articles, but they didn’t motivate me.
So I procrastinated again.
All of the procrastination turned into stress. The stress melded into my subconscious, and I started having nightmares about this little writing contract. On top of my server nightmares, I was now having amateur writing nightmares… So during the day I’d work on writing gigs, avoiding the one stressing me out, at night I would work at the restaurant and then when I finally went to bed I’d have endless nightmares of doing the same things… needless to say I needed the vacation.
The motorcycle trip proved cathartic in many ways, but I still had the writing nightmares that night and I woke up at 5 AM to take my mother to the airport for her flight… I should have just got on that plane, but we’ll get to that later. I go back home and finally have 2 hours of good, deep sleep. Mmmmmm. Then it’s my turn for the airport. First flight: Spirit Airlines. I have heard many horror stories about this airline, but they got me to Vegas without any trouble. On the flight I imagined how I would knock out 2 of these evil articles I had been dreading on my 5 hour layover.
Once in the airport I found a nice area, a seat on one of those crappy benches with horrible handrails every foot and a half… and got to work. But I couldn’t. I stressed about how if I didn’t do them now, I’d be working every spare minute while on “vacation”. I tried researching terms, figuring out all of the pots and pans you need for a proper kitchen (it was tempting just to say 1, that’s all I need…), where to hang them… blah blah blah. I paused. I thought. I hated it. But I had to do it!
No, wait, I didn’t.
It hit me. I had become morally opposed to these articles and I wasn’t going to write them. There is enough garbage on the internet and I wasn’t about to add to it.
But this wasn’t an easy choice. I was terrified about getting a bad review on my freelance site and ruining my future job options on it. I also knew I could complete the project if I put my nose down and got to work. I was in limbo. The limbo lasted for 2 hours. I didn’t spend a single minute on those articles, I only debated the different feelings I was having on this minuscule project that was causing me to have a nervous breakdown.
Finally I decided enough was enough, I wanted to sleep, I wanted to enjoy my vacation, I didn’t want to add any more garbage content to the internet and I sure as hell didn’t want to ever write anything similar to this again. So what if I received a bad review, filler articles aren’t my thing…
In retrospect, this breakdown was absolutely absurd. It was a tiny project outside of my fledgling writer wheelhouse. I learned a lot from it and a bad review wouldn’t ruin my writing career. I let my mind run amok and made a way bigger deal out of the situation than it should have been.
I messaged the client and informed them that I wouldn’t be able to complete the articles in a timely fashion and that they may want to find someone else. They were disappointed but they let me off easy. I gave them the ramen article for free… if any of you try that recipe let me know how it turned out…
The moral/professional Purgatory I had just navigated through that was the Las Vegas Airport, now turned into a true Purgatory that I couldn’t escape. Not only was I feeling guilty about my recent failure, but I had what turned out to be an additional 7 hours added on to my already 5 hour layover to stew on it.
A brief summary of the delays experienced:
Gate change – load 15 minutes late
“An easily fixable problem” that we could all remain on the plane for – 2 hours on plane on runway
Unload and wait for additional information – 1 hour
Wait for replacement plane (apparently they have extras since this happens all the time) – 1 hour
Plane is 120 degrees F as it was in storage, wait to cool – 1 hour
Another mechanical issue – 1 hour
Board plane to find yet another mechanical issue, something about a hose on an emergency mask – another hour on plane on runway
Finally 12 hours later, we left Purgatory, all we could do was pray the backup plane didn’t fall apart in the air.
To make matters worse, the whole airport wing we were in shut down at 8 PM and I was too afraid to miss an announcement about when our new plane would be leaving to go and find a restaurant that was still open. Any one flying through Vegas (especially on Allegiant Air) beware of the Purgatory that is Las Vegas Airport.