Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mulling Things Over to a Ridiculous Degree

Even though I don’t really have a huge deathwish to write fiction, I admit I find the concept of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) intriguing. Several people on my blogroll are giving it a whirl (Diana, Jane, and Julie) as well as my nonblogging friend, TC, in Chicago, so yesterday I thought, why not? Why not use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to finish a piece of fiction I started writing when I quit my last job about eight years ago?

After I quit I gave myself five months off. Part of it was spent decompressing from the soul-shriveling job and trying to reclaim my identity and maybe tap into some elusive and previously unreachable reserve of creativity. I decided it would be good therapy to write a modern-day satirical gothic horror novella about what it was like to work at that wretched place. It was cathartic. I made no attempt to create realistic characters, but it sure was fun—like jabbing pins into a literary Voodoo doll. Of course, despite the fact that I had all that time on my hands, I still found a ton of excuses to not write—a common and perverse problem among writers so it seems. But whenever I did force myself to sit down and work on it, it was a good thing and it made me laugh.

I opened the novella-to-be up yesterday and took a look at it again. Parts of it aren’t bad; parts of it suck shit. Still, maybe it would be a good thing to finish it, and get some sort of symbolic closure on that particular chapter of my life. NaNoWriMo might be just the thing to get me to do it. A firm deadline and the remote camaraderie of thousands of other frenzied writers. Plus, I’ve already got 10,000 words, so I wouldn’t have to actually write every day—I'd need to be only semi-frenzied. And it might help me become a more spontaneous writer—something I’m always striving for. I always tinker as I go and I’d like to break myself of that habit. Spew now; tinker later.

So I got all stoked about NaNo-ing—especially about being able to display that snazzy little NaNoWriMo pencil-jogger icon in the sidebar of my blog. Weird, I know. I logged onto NaNoWriMo’s site and signed up. Then I made the fatal mistake of reading the FAQs. You are not allowed to work on a work-in-progress (WiP)! You have to start at Ground Zero on November 1. Bummer! Of course, there are no NaNoWriMo police who will impound my computer and bundle me off to the hoosegow, but it just so happens that I am a rule follower par excellence and now that I know it is illegal to use NaNoWriMo to finish a languishing WiP, I just don’t feel right about participating.

Of course, I could just get on with it. But it seems I need artificial motivation and goals. Plus, after the letdown of realizing I wasn’t going to be able to display the icon and—even more importantly—the fabulous progress bar that tells everyone what percentage of your 50,000 words you’ve written, my enthusiasm has faded. I started thinking about how I really hardly have time for blogging let alone another mammoth nonpaying writing venture. Plus, I need to spend eight hours a day earning a living and—time permitting—hunt for mushrooms, remove every last piece of clutter from the house, hike, knit a sweater (or finish an afghan), drink beer with friends, scrub toilets, chase down dust bunnies, make apple pie, sleep—any number of things more crucial to my continued existence and/or that might yield a better sense of satisfaction. Bottom line, I really shouldn’t make finishing a piece of fiction I started eight years ago a top priority.

And yet, I’ve never deleted it, and I’ve transferred it from hard drive to hard drive through three (or four) generations of computers. I’m hanging onto it for some reason. Maybe it’s just a piece of virtual clutter? Or maybe I should crap or get off the crapper. I could just do my very own thing a—NonNaNoWriMo—and get the thing done. Dither, vacillate, waffle. I can’t decide.

Newsflash! B just told me he’s doing NaNoWriMo—and starting from scratch like you’re supposed to! I had no clue until this very minute. (He's always keeping important pieces of news to himself and then springing them on me.) He says his NaNo is really crappy. But I told him encouragingly, “Good! Good! It’s good if it’s crappy, because that means you’re being spontaneous!” What a supportive partner I am.

Anyway (and you knew this was coming) here’s the excerpt (taken from about the second chapter) that I would have pasted into my NaNoWriMo author’s profile if I had decided to lie and cheat. Remember, it’s very, very rough. It was done in the spirit of NaNoWriMo—I just let it spew. Don’t feel you have to say something nice about it. I’m just posting it to see if it will sort of prime the pump, and I’ll feel inspired to go head finish the bloody thing.


"Come on in and close the door behind you." said a voice.

It took Kim's eyes a few moments to adjust to the near darkness of the bell-tower office. All shades were drawn and the only light, if it could be called light, came from the screen saver of a computer monitor upon which a single white chessman spun counterclockwise at about 50 rpm. Kim tried not to become mesmerized and attempted to make out the face of her potential employer. Just then he moved his mouse and a document, which turned out to be Kim's resume appeared on the screen. By the additional light produced by the large amount of white space on Kim's resume, she made out the following physical details. Mr. Beezel had carrot-red hair drawn back in a ponytail. He held an unlit cigar in one hand and the kind of lighter you have to fill with lighter fluid in the other. His feet were propped up on his desk and clad in expensive cowboy boots, which sported a red chili pepper on each toe. In fact, it appeared that he had probably moved the mouse with the heel of his boot as both his hands were full.

"Let me just read through your resume for a minute," he said leaning a little closer to his computer. Thirty seconds later he said, "So do you want to know more about the job and our company?" Not waiting for an answer he continued. "We are a national leader in the design and production of communications resources for our clients, whether that be newsletters, internal communiques, videos, interactive multimedia products, annual reports, what have you. We take over those duties from our clients and we do it better and more cheaply than they could ever hope to do it. Your role, should we make the decision to hire you, would be as a proofreader. We've interviewed 40 or 50 people for this job and, to be frank, we're not seeing what we're looking for. Let me ask you a few questions."

"How old do you think I am?"

Kim was caught off guard. Her interviewer looked about 30, but it was really impossible to tell in such poor light. Should she highball or lowball? "About 30," she finally said. He looked at her with raised eyebrows, turned the computer screen away from her and typed something in.

"Insects. What do you think of them?" Kim could see that this was going to be one of those "unconventional" interviews, designed to rattle and confuse hapless interviewees and to winnow those who couldn't think on their feet from those who could. Fortunately, her boyfriend Rick had helped her prepare for this kind of interview.

"It depends. Some insects, such as spiders and ladybugs, are very beneficial, while others such as the gypsy moth are very destructive."

He typed something in and as he typed he informed her condescendingly that spiders were not insects, but, of course, arachnids. "Oh yeah, I knew that, it just slipped my mind," she backpedaled lamely.

"Do you eat red meat?"

"Well, most of the time I just eat..."

"Yes or no?" he snapped "this isn't a trick question. I just want to find out if you'd be happy eating lunch in our cafeteria."

"No." Kim's salary didn't allow her to eat much more than the discounted offerings at the Starbuck's counter, all of which were vegetarian, so she felt that she could truthfully say no.


"What's the best kind of pencil?"

" A number 2."

"No, the correct answer is a mechanical pencil. Do you know why?"

"No." Kim said, dejectedly.

"Less wear and tear on the environment!" Beezel crowed.

"OK, I only have a few more questions for you and then you'll need to talk to my sister."

"If your nickname were Bette what would your full name be?" he queried.


"Or Bertha or Isabelle or Hephzibah or Elspeth, to name a few possibilities. Don't always go for the obvious. In this business it pays to keep your mind open. I'll be frank. Our most important goal here is to make money. The more the better. Our best employees keep that goal in their minds at all times. Always go for that extra dollar. Whatever it takes. I started this company five years ago and our profits have increased at least 20% each year since. But that's not enough. I'd like to see a much larger increase this year. That's why we need to hire more staff. My last question: Can you start tomorrow?"

Kim was confused. Was this a hypothetical question or was he telling her she was hired? As far as she could tell she hadn't really answered his questions very satisfactorily, except for the red meat question. She decided to be bold.


"Excellent. I'm delighted. I think you'll fit right in here. I can tell you're a person who doesn't mind working hard for the right reasons. Also you're not a complainer like so many of the young kids just out of college who think they need two weeks of vacation right off the bat and never want to work an extra minute. You'll need to see my sister about details like salary, insurance, and that sort of thing. She's on the fourth floor. Titian Beezel-Dalrymple.

Kim was astounded but managed to murmur her thanks. "Thank you Mr. Beezel."

"Call me Brancusi," he said tossing the lighter aside and extending his right hand. "Be sure to close the door behind you."


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