Once upon a time there was a young man named Phil.  Phil had very little direction in life, unless you count “toward bed” or “toward video game console” as directions.  Phil also went in the direction of work at least five days a week, but that didn’t count because work served only to provide money for games, and addictions.

    The problem Phil had was one of motivation.  Phil new he was a talented, if unattractive, individual.  Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything he wanted to do.  His talent lay in the written word, but it was a talent that required a lot of time to make productive.  As much as he enjoyed doing it, actually sitting down and getting started were rather unpleasant chores.  It was much easier to play video games or sleep.  He knew that neither of these two options could get him out of his current rut, nor could they earn him any money.

    Phil’s friends were irritated with him.  They wanted him to actually do something with his ability.  Phil suspected, in that cynical corner of his mind that spoke in whispers, that they only wished him success so they could borrow money from him when Phil hit it rich, and probably to sue him for fictitious scandals of their own invention, capitalizing off of Phil’s astronomical levels of fame and fortune.  He knew he’d have to have them killed, eventually, to prevent this.  There were many people on the death list who would have to be cleared away.  Sometimes, Phil suspected he watched too many movies.  He saw conspiracy against him everywhere.
In the more rational areas of his mind, Phil realized they were only trying to help him get started.  They began assigning him homework, with consequences for not finishing it.  For a while it worked, but the resolve on both sides of the deal dwindled after a few months, and Phil began to stagnate again.

    Then, one day, Phil woke up screaming.  Pain tore at every nerve of his body, which was convulsing and twitching violently.  After a few moments, the pain vanished, and Phil opened his eyes.  His friends were standing around his bed, smiling.  There was a table set up at the foot of his bed, with wires running out of it in color-coded bundles.  In the daze of abrupt awakeness, and the all-too-fresh memory of the horrible pain, Phil realized the wires were connected to his body with dozens of little alligator clips.

    “You bastards!  What treachery is this?!” He gasped.

    Carl stepped into view.  “This,” he said, smiling pleasantly, “is motivation.”
“Yes,” said Sam.  “Motivation.  Carl and I have reached the conclusion that the fear of pain will motivate you to write.”

    “Not only that,” Carl added, “but we realized that the greatest writers led tortured, pain-ridden lives, and therein lay the root of their genius.  Because we are your friends, and we want you to succeed (for entirely unselfish reasons), we decided that this was the best method with which to expedite the desired results.”

    “You’re electrocuting me!  What the hell is wrong with you?”
    They looked wounded.  Carl shook his head sadly.  Sam fiddled with some wires.  Phil noticed Nate sitting in a corner, scribbling in a notebook.  Nate looked up. 
    “Phil, Phil,” he said.  “We are acting out of concern and brotherly love.  We know this is unpleasant for you, but it really is for the best.”

    “You have all gone mad,” declared Phil.  He tried to pick the alligator clips from his skin, but found that his hands were bound.  “Great.”

    Carl said, “Yes, Phil!  It is great.  You will be great!  And we will help you to be great, asking absolutely nothing in return, except book dedications, and maybe the occasional loan, or tropical cruise!”

    Sam laid a hand on Carl’s shoulder.  “Now, now, Carl.  Look, Phil, we know this seems very extreme to you right now.  But you have to believe us when we tell you it will all turn out for the best.”

    “Yes,” said Nate.  “Even Ronn agrees.”  Everyone else in the room frowned in confusion.


    There was a prolonged silence.  The machine on the table hummed quietly and ominously.  Phil tried for a few moments to figure out who Ronn was, and why he should care.  He shook off that line of thought and returned his concentration to the problem at hand.  Obviously his friends were completely insane.  They’d always been strange, and slightly abusive to one another, but it had always in the past been pretty harmless.  Electrocution, for instance, was crossing the line a bit.  And deluding themselves into believing that it was a good deed was just plain scary.  However, there was a certain twisted logic to what was going on here.  Maybe he had left them with no other option.  Of course, that didn’t really give them the right to break into his house and clip machines to his body.  There hadn’t been any warning, even.  

    Sam eventually broke the silence.  “We know what you’re thinking.  This has been a long time coming.  Your stubborn refusal to do what’s best has pushed us to this.  Now, we’re going to turn on the machine, and leave for some cokes at Applebee’s.  We’ll let you lay here and think about things.”

    Three hours later Phil’s insane friends returned, and turned off the machine.  Phil just stared at the ceiling, bleeding a bit from his facial orifices and smoldering gently.  Carl gently unclipped Phil and stood back.

    “Now, here’s the deal.  We will continue to motivate you on a regular basis for the next month.  Once a day, at totally random times.  During this time, you will write regularly.  A few pages a day.  No big rush.  Failure to produce will result in extra motivation, as I’m sure you’ll agree is entirely necessary.  After one month, the regular motivation will be stopped.  By this time we hope you’ll be willingly writing on a regular basis.  If you begin to slack off, we will regrettably be forced to use the machine again.”

    “Regrettably.  Right.”

    "We don’t enjoy electrocuting you, Phil,” said Nate.  “It’s a necessary evil.”

    “Hah.  Whatever.”

    Phil’s friends helped him over to his computer.  Obviously, they intended to start him off right away.  Phil, rightly fearing further inhumane torture at the hands of his sadistic friends, began to type aimlessly.  Carl, Sam, and Nate quietly left after a few minutes.

    Phil walked out of his mansion in the mountains of Washington state, and breathed the crisp air of the northwest.  He beeped open his BMW, and placed his briefcase in the passenger seat.  He drove down the tranquil winding highway away from his house, headed for the city, where his publisher was waiting for the final draft of his manuscript.  He could have just emailed it, but he had some other business to tend to on this day.  Despite his friends’ steadfast dedication to helping him along, their methods had left scars, both physical and mental.  Their plan had succeeded, and Phil was eternally grateful to them.  

    That didn’t mean retribution wasn’t justified.  Over the years, Phil had never let on that he had plans of his own.  Crazy plans.  Insane plans.  Plans involving ferrets.  It would be rough going, for a while, and the group’s relationships might be strained for a while, but in the end they would all laugh about it from their beds in the ICU, and when they were finally released, they would all go out for coffee and cigarettes to celebrate Phil’s new book, and to discuss the dragon Sam had engineered, Carl’s nationwide chain of successful and financially secure bakeries, and Nate’s record label and new life-partner Bill.  And also to wonder who the hell Ronn was.