'Words Are Like Cockroaches'

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If you're ever in need of a good giggle over an analogy (and who isn't?), head on over to The Guardian's opinion page. Today Gary Younge is comparing immigrants and job losses to ice cream and sharks. Elsewhere, the inimitable Charlie Brooker is comparing words to cockroaches. The comparison comes in the middle of a trim, clever column about writing. Here's the passage in question:

To function efficiently as a writer, 95% of your brain has to teleport off into nowhere, taking its neuroses with it, leaving the confident, playful 5% alone to operate the controls. To put it another way: words are like cockroaches; only once the lights are off do they feel free to scuttle around on the kitchen floor. I'm sure I could think of a more terrible analogy than that given another 100,000 years.

That's when Brooker launches into a description of things he has done or has contemplated doing in order to turn his lights off and let out the cockroaches. For example: "wishing [his] inner critic inside a ... tennis ball" and then "symbolically hurl[ing]" the ball out the window. Muses Brooker: "it sounds like the kind of thing Paul McKenna would do. He's massively successful and can probably levitate." But then he stumbles upon a problem: "If I toss 95% of my personality into the garden, do I have to go and retrieve it later? What if it actually works?"

Brooker continues in this entertaining vein for a while. In his final paragraph, though, he does offer some useful advice:

To everyone who has ever emailed to ask me for advice on writing, my answer is: get a deadline. That's all you really need. Forget about luck. Don't fret about talent. Just pay someone larger than you to kick your knees until they fold the wrong way if you don't hand in 800 words by five o'clock. You'll be amazed at what comes out.

Indeed. The Wire hereby challenges any and all readers to try working cockroaches, Paul McKenna, levitation and tennis balls into their own 800-word piece by five o'clock.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.