Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Pressure


My back is against the wall, more bills than money to pay...
When I need relief I pray
- The Pressure, Sounds of Blackness



Early 2004. I was in third year at uni, desperately trying to catch up on the mountains of media coursework that had piled up. Something had gone wrong- I'd hesitated when starting the work, convinced I was going to fuck it up. And I was right. My assignments were laid out in ways that didn't help- headings were jumbled, practical projects were on hold while I caught up and team-members were getting impatient. Before Christmas there had seemed so little to do- then a few months down the line, I had a world of work to plough through and little idea of how to finish it all.

How was I supposed to tell a comedy club how to utilise their advertising budget? How could I have advised the heads of ITV on how to improve Parkinson when the talk show moved over from the BBC?

I'm just a simple man. After two-and a half years at uni, I started to wonder why I was there. But I was no defeatist. I would finish that degree.

Hence, I sat back down at the computer, the gold background blurring the contrast of the meagre 500 words that I'd managed to knock out. I could stare at the screen longer that way. I needed to finish this, fast. That's why I'd been living on 6 hours sleep a night for the past two weeks, jamming chocolate and Red Bull down my throat every evening.

A lecturer of a separate module had already snapped at me earlier that week, playing the tough industry veteran. I owed him some overdue work as well. Out of spite, I worked on something else to get his face out of my mind. Only this module was also perplexing me. Something about an inventor. He's made a microphone. We are required to advise him on how to protect his invention legally. We're studying media, not product design. This won't relate to our future remotely. I wonder how much of this course actually will.

My hands were moving over the keyboard again. There was an extra distraction of sorts, but something I might not feel if I wasn't so busy. Media legality slipped out of my mind as I stumbled to the toothpaste-stained sink at the other end of the room. The light above the mirror illuminated my reflection, my worn face obscured by months of fluoride-spit and grime. I forgot work for a moment and thought, Why didn't I clean here?

A growl of sorts responded to this, right from the centre of me. Then I blew chunks of pizza into the sink, strands of bread base congealed, hanging in saliva. My vision obscured behind watery eyes and my knees gave way.

Leaning with my head on a cupboard door, I tried to think of what I'd eaten and when. I couldn't place anything, but I'd not been hungry so I must have had pretty regular meals. It could only be one thing, I figured.

That was the most pressure I had ever put myself through. The right amount can get people to achieve all sorts- just look at how technology can leap forward during wartime. Without the Nazi's efforts to dominate the globe, America wouldn't have invented the atomic bomb. Britain wouldn't have developed the cavity magnetron for anti-submarine aircraft, and eventually the microwave oven. I got my degree in the end, so there was a certain sense of macabre logic to the insane graft that I put in- and the insane bullshit I put up with- even if it didn't pay off in the long-run. I'm still poor as fuck and the outdated equipment wasn't used in the industry then, let alone now. At the time, I was immensely pissed off with the situation. If the course had been laid out better, I would have had more to do in the first semester and less to sever my nerves with in the second.

Despite all this, I couldn't help feeling a sinister, nihilistic sense of enjoyment from what I put myself through. Lecturers wanted this work off me, or I wouldn't graduate. Today, in an attempt to get my writing noticed, I am the master and the slave. I write when I want and I stop when I'm tired. But how alive am I feeling? When was the last time I felt the constant thumb of pressure? And how much quicker can I get work written, and hopefully published, If I play the master a little more?

Well. Let's say I choose March as the month to test this. By the first of April I want to have written every day. I've got around 20 projects that I started and never finished. I'll polish off as many as I can. I never work to targets as I never have any idea of how long anything will take me, whether it's writing or driving or anything else. My only real target is to feel that burden until the 1st April, that daily guilt that I carried every day towards the end of third year at uni. Back then I had to work, otherwise- what was I doing?

Add to this the fact that I am using up leave and am in work for one day a week, for the next month. April 1st is the date that the annual year changes over, so I had to take my leave now or I would have lost it. Hence, the time that I have to do this should allow for immense wordage.

As Joe Cabot from Reservoir Dogs would say... Let's go to work.

No comments: