Things I Won’t Say When I’m Famous

9 06 2011

As a newly-unemployed person, I’ve been reading a lot of advice from somewhat reputable people. Advice from people who’ve written books. Job hunting advice from HR professionals and job sites. Career advice from people 20 years into their careers. And I’m noticing in a common thread in most of these articles and blog posts: They’re mostly crap (with a few gold nuggets).

Now, it’s easy to assume I’m saying this because I am grumpy, or that I’m saying this from my inexperienced youth, but really I’m saying this as someone who cannot use much of the advice I’m reading. The advice seems to be self-centered explanations of what worked for the adviser, and not necessarily things that would help most people in the given position. The advice seems to be coming from an ivory tower where no one remembers what it’s like to be down in the trenches. It’s like telling a kid who’s facing a beat down to just believe in himself. That’s great, but what the kid can really use are some self-defense lessons.

One day, I’m going to be successful enough to be invited to address an audience with my own pearls of wisdom. I don’t know what I will have learned by then, but here is a random assortment of  five things I won’t say.

1. If you’re really meant to be a writer, you’ll find a way to sit down and write every day. That’s bulls**t. Sometimes you want to sleep. Sometimes you want to go out and be a part of living civilization. Sometimes you have nothing to say. Not that you don’t have control over how you’ll react to these things, but it’s misleading that writers dispense this belief without also mentioning the other sentiments they grapple with.

2. Writing requires complete solitude. No. How can you create any rich writing if you never experience anything to understand where that richness comes from? You need to live, then write. You will certainly need moments of unparalleled focus, but that shutting off from the world for a year thing doesn’t make sense to me.

3. Don’t take no for an answer. Sometimes no really means no, like when security is escorting you off the premises, for example. You need to figure out when to persist because it is important, and when you’re unnecessarily obsessing over something and need to take another direction.

4. Don’t feel strange about cold calling. You should feel strange about cold calling. It is strange. This is not 1973, where the only way to get information is to call and ask. Do some research or something. I’ve been on both sides of a cold call, and both times were awkward. It’s especially awkward if what you want isn’t available (no one here has personal assistants ma’am), or if you have no idea who to ask (there are 55 people working at this magazine ma’am), or the person you’re asking not only doesn’t know you, but also can’t help you (I’m just an intern receptionist, I’m not even allowed to give you a yes or no. True story.).  Cold e-mailing is better, I think.

5. You can “change the world.” No one person can change the world. You can help change it. You can have the beginnings of an idea that sparks the processes. You can even gather enough people to carry out whatever change you have in mind. But you, by yourself, cannot change an entire planet. I won’t fuel such a delusion of grandeur.



8 06 2011

Guess who’s unemployed again? Meeeeee!!! Yay!  Photobucket

Well, what can ya do. I just finished a great internship at a great magazine, met some really awesome people that I know I will remain in contact with, and I ate and drank well. I would really like to work at Discovery or TBD, and have applied to many other places where I would also like to work. If you have any leads on places in the DC area looking for journalists or Web specialists (not programmers or coders, but content managers), please pass the info along in the comments. I don’t know where I will end up but I do declare one thing:

I will not take another internship.

This isn’t me being proud, or picky, or self-important, this is me being real. I have been published since I was 15. I have done an internship every summer during college. I’ve even done an internship during my first college spring break, and even during an 18-hour semester. I have proven myself enough. I am absolutely worth a (preferably salaried) full-time position with benefits. I am beyond intern status.

Now that I’m between jobs, I’m freelancing and taking a novel-writing course. I won’t disclose my idea but I think at the very least this class will help me begin to think about it in a more concrete way, instead of it just living in my head as a flight of fancy. I’m considering taking a dance class or two, but concerned about looking silly after not having done choreography in so long. This is probably a silly concern.

I realize I’m rambling. It’s sort of what happens when I force myself to write with no topic in mind. I’m supposed to write for an hour. Perhaps I will end this and go work on that novel.

I’m a sham!

11 05 2011

I have  a confession to make. I am a writer who has never finished anything.

OK, that’s actually an overstatement. I have never finished a long-form work. As a child I wrote and illustrated complete stories, I’ve finished an [awful] short story or two in high school that no one will EVER see again if I can help it, and I’ve obviously finished many assigned articles. But the stort stories and even novels I’ve started on my own volition have never seen a conclusion. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve even gotten to inciting incidents, or the catalyst of anything—I spend a few pages on building characters and settings and the circumstances that have brought them together and then . . . .

There was this one mythical novel I started writing when I was about 12, about a bored young princess with magical powers, which was largely a rip-off of a book I had read around the same time. Then there was another My Girl-esque thing I started writing about a suburban 13-year old girl who had normal 13-year old girl concerns (“when I’m I gonna grow boobs?!”) whose male best friend and neighbor was a different race. Of course, I had planned to eventually have them fall in love. I never made it that far.

When I was 14 I got into fanfiction on the B2K message boards (I was young OK!). My legion of riveted followers never did find out what happened with Omari, Jarell, DeMario, and Druex’s relationships. (Damn the internet and its permanence!).

Today I have about four unfinished story arcs in a few notebooks. They could be great, but the suddenly-blank pages silently suggest that we’ll never know. Why can’t I finish anything, or at least get close?

I’m tired of wasting my youth and not tapping into my full potential, so I’m hoping to find out what my problem is this summer in a writing course—Intro to the Novel. Granted, it’s an eight-week online course, but I have faith in the instructor, who seems capable.

Hmm, tapping into my potential. How I long to release myself from this incessant thinking-and-not-doing hamster wheel. I am the one with the key, and I’m sure I’m making it harder than it is. This course—an undertaking that frightens me, quite frankly—is my attempt to take concrete steps away from thinking and toward doing. I promise me, and anyone invested in me that I will continue to make such steps. Bear with me as I reconcile who/what I am with who/what I could be.

Commuter Blues

21 03 2011

I have been a passenger/pedestrian/commuter my whole life—I just got a driver’s license a little more than a year ago. Since then I haven’t driven more than two miles (pretty much). I think these years have made me both fluent in and sensitive to mass transit etiquette. Sadly, the same can’t be said for everyone. On behalf of everyone who understands commuting protocol, I’d like to raise issues with some of you amateurs.

Dear Mr. Stand-on-the-Wrong-Side-of-the-Escalator Man,
MOVE! Evvverybody is standing on the right side. Have you not noticed? It’s rush hour, man. You just made about 15 people miss the train/bus, because you’re too oblivious to notice an orderly line of people calmly riding on the right, and a harried procession of people moving up the left—where YOU are standing.

Dear Mrs. Industrial-Sized Stroller,
Ok, you gotta transport the kiddies somehow. We get it. I’ll even let go of your decision to purchase the most hulking stroller you could find, knowing you will be using mass transit at some point. But could you not plant yourself DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE DOORS? I mean at least move back some, so people can actually board before having to contort their way around you.

Dear Ms. I-Don’t-Like-When-It-Gets-Crowded-On-the-Bus,
Look. This is MASS transit. Lots of people, all trying to get where they’re going. Now I know you don’t wanna muss your hair, and you don’t want your elbow to brush someone’s back, and you don’t like when people are close enough to smell your expensive perfume, but can you please move back? When you leave that gap, the bus driver believes the bus is truly full and will not stop for more passengers. You cannot fathom the ire you inspire in those left at the bus stop who, unlike the driver, can actually see the comfortable buffer zone you’ve selfishly carved for yourself. Here’s a rule of thumb: if there’s space, fill it up. Actually, maybe it would be to everyone’s benefit if you just worked from home, in a hamster ball.

Dear Group of Rowdy Youngsters,
I was your age once, and I get it. Your unsupervised commute home is the only time you’re free from adults (or at least the ones that can make your life miserable). You’re with your hilaaarrious friends and their shenanigans are just sooooo contagious, so why not hang upside down from the standing poles, cackling and cursing like a sailor? I’ll tell you why not. Because everyone around you wants to punch you all in the face. Listen, there’s a real world outside your juvenile bubble, and after eight hours of it, the last thing anyone wants is to find him or herself in a train/bus-turned-school-cafeteria. And you know what, even if we’ve had a great day, enduring your buffoonery is not the way we’d like to end it. Calm down, or we’re calling your Moms.

Dear Random Unstable Person,
You can be found in every major metropolitan area. Maybe you’re a veteran who got a raw deal, or maybe you made some bad decisions and are now battling addiction, or maybe you’ve always had mental health issues and simply fell through the cracks. Now you ride trains and buses all day ’cause its safer and easier and lets you sleep and gives you an audience. I’m not going to bash you because your life is already rough, but please understand that when you start ranting, “preaching,” chanting, or howling (no, you aren’t singing angelically), you’re making everyone around you incredibly uncomfortable. That may have something to do with why you’re always getting shooed away.

Dear Gee-Honey-Where’re-We-Goin’ Family,
We “cityfolk” accept tourists’ presence as a given. We don’t inherently resent you and your City-Name-Here T-shirts, and khaki shorts, and take-pictures-of-everything attitude. We just don’t understand why you didn’t plan out the transportation part of your vacation. Why don’t you know what stop to get off before boarding? Why didn’t you Google the ticket/voucher/pass/card price? Is holding up the fare line part of your itinerary? Is huddling around a map in the middle of foot-traffic an experience on your to-do list? MOVE. We don’t mind you asking directions—its highly preferred over your bewildered body-blocking, but for the love of God, do a bit of research.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Loud Cellphone Talker,
The great thing about phones is that you can converse with a person as though they are next to you. We don’t need to hear your conversation. Now pipe down.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Don’t-Sit-Next-To-Me,
No one likes his or her personal space invaded, but again this is MASS transit. If it’s getting crowded, MOVE OVER so someone can sit next to you. Ma’am, your lipstick-sized clutch doesn’t need its own seat. Sir, you aren’t that fat—quit pretending there isn’t enough space. Stop being such a jerk.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Mean Conductor/Driver/Etc.,
I’m sure there’s probably some policy to back up your behavior, but how could you be so heartless (©Kanye)? That old woman hustled a full city block trying to catch you—you’re just going to pretend you didn’t see her? Dude, I think she’s having a heart attack back there! Call an ambulance! Oh well, you say, I got a schedule to keep. And besides, this phone is only for business. And I know there’s no eating or drinking allowed, but there’s no need to yell at that passenger who just took a sip of water. Especially if the passenger is four years old. Why are you so upset? I’m sure your job is no walk in the park but you’re responsible for setting off a lot of sh**ty days.

And finally,

Mr. This-Isn’t-My-Train-So-There’s-No-Rush,
You are thee worst. The absolute worst. You’re rushing along ahead of us, and we’re all worried we’re about to get left behind because we can hear the bus/train/trolley/whatever coming. You see it first and, realizing it isn’t the one you’re waiting for, immediately slow down, EFFECTIVELY SLOWING DOWN EVERYONE BEHIND YOU. And, instead of bumrushing you out of the way, we silently meet your pace or gingerly maneuver around you. Once we get past the meathead obstacle that is you, we resume our break-neck sprint only to have the doors slammed in our face. And you just stand there, oblivious to the frustration you’ve caused. We could’ve caught that you know. We really could’ve. You suck. Please take a long walk off a short dock.

It's a good thing we have a 15 minute wait because we're gonna need those quiet moments of reflection to keep from choking you.

If you’ve ever been one of these offenders, I hope you can now see the error of your ways. And if you’ve ever encountered these walking obstacles, take solace in the fact that you aren’t alone.

Destiny, Free Will, and Other Post-“Adjustment Bureau” Musings

16 03 2011

I went to see The Adjustment Bureau the other day. The trailers/promotional tactics have been misleading, but had they tried to explain the movie more honestly, it would sound very silly.

It’s not a silly movie, and anyway, this is not a review; it’s a reflection on one of the movie’s central questions. Does free will truly exist? In the movie, the character known as The Hammer says something to the effect of, “you can choose what soda you’ll have for lunch, but the big things aren’t left up to you.”

I think I have always believed this, or something like it. I think that destiny and fate are real—they are God’s assistants. I believe that everyone in life ends up exactly where he or she is “supposed to” be, whether that destination is good or bad. I am not sure, however whether our choices are already known to God, so our destiny is simply to make those choices, or if we have a set endgame that we will move toward regardless of our choices.

I do not think the Bible explicitly says anything about free will—and since it’s explicit about pretty much everything else I can’t imagine this concept was simply glossed over. The Bible does indicate that we have autonomy and the ability to think and decide—with words like “choose,” “elect,” and so on (Deuteronomy 30:19 for example), but I really don’t think there’s record of God granting us the power to determine our earthly destinies. You can choose some things, even major things (to disregard Him or follow, to tell the truth or lie), but I don’t think God ever said you can control or choose whatever purpose your life was meant to fulfill. Destiny, unlike goals or ambitions or causes or beliefs, is much bigger than just the bubble of you and the things you care about, in my opinion.

I’m going to pull back a bit before I jump down the rabbit hole and have a full existentialist moment (which happens often enough).

There’s another sentiment I have, and it’s in direct conflict with the preceding one. I believe that everyone has the potential to “be somebody”—everyone born has infinite potential. (Please do not confuse this premise with the idea that everyone has the opportunity to be somebody—that’s another discussion, and anyway, that’s not what I’m saying). Life is rife with factors that undermine and blunt this potential over time, but everyone can be great. (I know it sounds like something you’d read on the back of a cereal box, but I believe it wholeheartedly).

On the other hand, do these ideas necessarily have to contradict? Maybe everyone does have the potential to be phenomenal, but our destinies will pull us no matter what. But how much potential can you really have if your destiny is to become a garden-variety lowlife, and even if you do show promise, what does potential matter if your destiny is miserable?

Hmm. I don’t know how to reconcile any of that but I am perfectly content to let the two ideas coexist.

Now let’s see, where did I start this discussion…ah yes. The movie is a great story with interesting ideas and effective actors who toy with them. I had never heard of Philip K. Dick before this—I’ll wait while you gasp and give me a brief Wikipedia-like run-down—. . .yes, yes Minority Report, I know now. . .yes. —I plan to go find and read his works.

Ode to Spoken Word

2 07 2010

I was a quiet child; shy, soft-spoken, all of the above. But the power of the pen served me well–with it I stayed in touch with my feelings, got things off my chest, explored my imagination, and grew to love who I am. I read anything I could understand, bathing my mind in poems, novels, and memoirs.

Like the world is made of matter, I am made of words. They pierce me more powerfully than any weapon can. I am always reminded of this fact when I hear good spoken word.

For those who don’t know, spoken word is in essence, performed poetry. Why would it be neccessary to perform poetry? Well, just as some essays gain power when delivered as a speech, some poems simply come to life when delivered by their creators (as opposed to assuming whatever life readers impose on them. I do not say the latter part as a criticism–I simply mean to introduce an alternative).

With spoken word, there’s a better chance the poem will be received as the poet intended. There is also something about witnessing the passion that went into the work. The way faces contort, voices raise and break, arms gesticulate wildly all adds to the message at the heart of the poem. I walk away with more. At the same time, spoken word leaves me hungry for more of the sustenance words provide me.

Finally, spoken word gives me the opportunity to get to know the poet him/herself. What do they look like? Do they seem introverted or extroverted? Maybe they’ll give me the background story of this particular piece. I can even talk about the work with them at the end of the event. This is the type of access pages unfortunately can’t afford me.

Don’t get me wrong. Those pages are my first love. They lullabied me to sleep, kept me company on long trips, and caught my tears whenever they touched my heart.

There’s just something visceral about that spoken word though….

To the poets out there, both the slammin’ outspoken and the quiet scribes sending their work out like sailboats to the sea, thank you. You lift me up and make me want to do better, think better, live better, be better.

Allow me to reintroduce myself

14 06 2010

Hi folks. Last two weeks were a bit rough for me…the stress erected a sturdy brick wall in my mind. Which equals no writing anything outside of a teary diary rant.

Well, enough of that. There are a few things I’d like to discuss. If you can forgive my absence, I hope you will happily read my coming thoughts. I haven’t forgotten you Duly Noted!!