Day One-Hundred-and-Twenty: Full-time badass/writer

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“So I want the monogram to read M-A-X P-O-W…”

 

I am happy to announce that an actual real-life company has deemed me employable. Yeah! Not that any of you ever doubted that, right? (Right?)

So, I have a full-time job.

This is both awesome and scary.

It’s a big tick in the ‘Growing up and getting my shit together’ box, and a big step further into the adult world–which, let’s face it, still makes me feel like Will Ferrell in Elf.

I spent my first day as a technical writer being shown around the building, having stuff explained to me in a “we’re not trying to overwhelm you, but you probably need to know this” kind of way, and double-checking that they had hired the right person and I was not part of some switched-at-interview mix-up.

It’s not that I’m super surprised that someone would give me a job–I do have a degree now, and a not-useless set of skills–but a lot of writers only dream of being paid (in a full-time position) to just, well, write.

When I get a census form whenever the fuck those things come out (every five years, apparently, so I’ll be waiting until 2016), or am filling out any other form that asks for my occupation, I can actually put the word ‘writer’ in my job title. Not a vague ‘Administration’ or ‘Hospitality’ (because KFC totally counted) or ‘Sales’, but a studied-to-get-a-freaking-degree-in-this writer.

This is a serious win.

 

“I thought you studied journalism,” some of my more observant friends will point out.

This is true. I did study journalism. I also had a second major in Creative and Professional Writing.

“But didn’t you want to be a journalist?” the same friends will tactlessly push.

While it is true–though, admittedly, shocking–that a student of journalism would be considering a career as a journalist, asking the above is a bit like asking a science student, “But didn’t you want to be a scientist?” It’s kind of reductive to assume that the broad set of skills one obtains in each of those degrees would only be useful and desireable in one single job. (Besides, ‘scientist’ is about as vague as you can get. Some of those guys don’t even wear lab coats and swirl beakers. I know!)

I did consider getting a job as ‘a journalist’, and even applied for a few, but at the end of the day, my most basic desire is to work as a writer. I want to have a job where the skills that I paid a painful amount of money (that I don’t yet earn enough to pay back–writing jobs, eh?) to get are being used. If that job is as a journalist: great. I love journalistic writing; I’ll probably do it on the side anyway. If it turns out, as it has, that a job as a technical writer ticks those boxes, then I am happy to broaden my horizons beyond the expected, and get some new skills to boot. Someone actually wants to pay me to do what I love? Show me to my desk.

So, here’s to Monday to Friday, bussing to the city, budgeting with an actual income, challenges and new experiences, and the impending appearance of some kick-ass business cards.

 

TB

Technical Writer/Bad-Ass M.C.

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Day Twenty-Seven: Hooray for internet comics!

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In my sleep-hungry state, I find myself having serious trouble concentrating on anything technical (or anything simple, really).

 

This is where internet comics suck me into their mawing, sexy abyss. God, do I love me an internet comic. I’ve been on the Cyanide and Happiness train for years, read all of the Damn You Auto Correct blunders from their inception until early this year (sometimes at work, where random outbursts of laughter are perhaps inappropriate), and scratched my head to more than a few xkcd clangers.

There’s something so tempting about these graphic bursts of information, story, or joke that having me drawn unheeding towards the Previous, Next, or Random buttons. Just one more for today, I tell myself. Then I realise I’m up to 250 (counting backwards from the most recent) and there’s so much awesome comic left to devour, and I just can’t stop. A lot of the comics that I do read cover elements of science or philosophy that would be dry and stuffy in text form, but are like the most fascinating thing ever when explained by one cartoon horse to another. The things that I’ve learned from reading online comics are probably only topped by the things that I’ve learned from the wrappers of sanitary pads (Odd Spots, ha).

Today, I stumbled upon Hark! A Vagrant for the first time, and ohhh hot damn, am I hooked. If I could draw (and we know from a few days ago that I can’t–at least in Paint), I would be all over the internet comic thing like a struggling writer on any form of paid work. But alas, I’ll have to settle for using clever wordplay and pilfered memes to get my points across.

 

Maybe I’ll take up the pen and practice my comics in the meantime. People like child-like line drawings of cats and frogs, right?

 

TB

Day Ten: What I really want to put on my resume

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(Photo source: funnyjunk.com)

 

Have brain. Will work for peanuts.

The ability to write a good resume and cover letter could be the difference between getting an interview and ending up on the ‘no’ pile. I’ve been told this many times over my school and university careers.

“You can be the smartest, most creative, most hard-working person that ever walked the earth,” teachers told us. “But if you can’t translate that onto paper, then you won’t get the jobs.”

Being a writer, I should be good at this. My letters are well-written, but unfortunately I find it hard to ignore the little voice in my head that screams, “YOU IMMODEST WANKER” everytime I write about my skills. (Even writing the beginning of the previous sentence had me worried I’d sound pompous.) The problem is that modesty only comes across face to face. Downplaying your abilities in a written format just reads as, well, having no abilities.

Over the years, I’ve learnt that reading the job advertisement thoroughly, and essentially ‘parotting’ back what they’ve said is a good place to start.

“We’re looking for a creative person with excellent problem-solving skills…”

I am a highly creative person, whose problem-solving skills are legendary. This one time I solved two Rubik’s cubes at once…

Notice, too, that I’ve thrown in an example. It’s usually not enough to say, “I am really good at resolving difficult situations”; you need to add, “like this one time where a shark grabbed my leg and I punched it in the face until it let go”.

I’ve found that it’s also really hard to let your personality shine through in a formal document. Much as I’d love to write cover letters in the same vein as I write my blogs, the professional realm demands some degree of politeness and restraint. (They’re not keen on f-bombs either, I’m told.)

The other issue that comes up a lot is truthfulness. I’ve lost count of the number of times that people have told me to “just make it up” on job applications (and credit card applications). Part of me is ok with small lies, particularly if you know that after one week of training you’ll have that skill down anyway, but fibbing about bigger stuff has a strong likelihood of backfiring.

“We’re doing today’s interview with a German scientist. He speaks very little English, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue, hey Frauline.”

The funny thing is that, if you think about it, you can usually find a genuine situation where you’ve had to use that skill (albeit in an abstract way and maybe not even in a job setting).

“The applicant will have strong leadership skills and have a demonstrated ability to lead a team…”

One time I was waiting for my meal in McDonald’s and it was taking ages, so I led the crowd of hungry customers in a chant of “Where’s our food?”…

“The applicant will have an exemplary customer service record and always go above and beyond to provide excellent service…”

I have never hung up on a telemarketer, and I’ve even offered them some great deals on home loans while I’ve got them on the phone. And I don’t even work for a bank…

In an ideal world, an interview would be guaranteed, and a cover letter would be a mere formality (or abolished all together). If cover letters really must be provided, we should be able to write candidly.

Look, I’m not an idiot. I don’t necessarily have all of the skills that you’re looking for yet, but I learn really quickly, and I’m willing to spend extra time catching up on the things that I haven’t yet grasped. Let me work for you for a few days, watch me during that time, and decide based on that whether to hire me. Also, I am hilarious.

Alas, I must save such clear and simple talk for the informal channels (hence, posting it here), and put the ‘professional’ element of my Creative and Professional Writing major into practice. Thank god for KWB100: Fudging a Resume. 😉

 

TB

Day Seven: Stop chasing perfection

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On the seventh day, God rested. Apparently. If God is anything like me, he/she probably looked back on the work he/she’d just done, found 15 things wrong with it (proximity of waste expulsion zone to genital zone, anyone?), and spent the whole day tweaking and fretting.

When I was in grade two, we got a one-hour block each week to write stories. Everyone had a special story-writing exercise book to fill with various tales of fun, adventure, and woe (and Super Mario if most of the boys’ pieces were anything to go by). Each week, I’d wait patiently for the hour to come, take my book from my desk, carefully smooth the pages, and get stuck into writing. The other kids wrote short stories. Two pages was standard. Four was a more detailed yarn.

I wrote a novella (comparatively). About a dolphin… who shared a special bond with a human–SHUT UP! The content wasn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, but I had a story in me and that story needed time to develop on the page. I’m sure the other kids forgot about story time as soon as the bell rang. They’d toss their pencils and book into the belly of their desks and run cheering into the playground. I’d squeeze a few more words in until the teacher urged me that it really was ‘pencils down’ and I could finish it next week.

Ha! Seven-year-old me would think. This baby’s got another ten chapters in her at least. Every week I’d inch closer to an ending, and every week there’d be a unique (and usually far-fetched) twist.

“The dolphin delivers me safely to shore and I pat its nose. I’ve had a great time at the beach and will never forget this day. OH, but what’s this? Now my little sister is drowning! The dolphin springs back into action…”

You know how this shit goes. The problem with my masterpiece is that I never finished it. I never signed off at the end, drew a couple of accompanying pictures and took it home to Mum.

I have a whole folder of these filed away. Stories that captured me while I was showering, or popped into my head while I was climbing a tree. The initial fever of writing was exhilarating. After a few hundred words the doubt would set in. I’d eagerly picked a horse based on a cursory glance, only to realise a few lengths in that it was actually a donkey with a bung leg. (Apologies for the horse analogy; Melbourne Cup is still on the brain.) My stories weren’t stayers, and they were never good enough to finish.

Until very recently, my stories also remained unread–which is stupid. Isn’t having a readership kind of the whole point of writing? Philosophers have pondered this for thousands of years (I imagine). If I write a 50,000 word manuscript and show it to nobody, does it even exist?

“Who’s your target audience?” tutors would ask me of story assignments.

You, me, and the inside of my handbag, I’d think.

If only they’d had Twitter when I was a kid. Short, sharp, and posted instantly.

Dolphin @ beach. Magical bond #bestdayever #ocean #dolphins4lyf

Give me the next topic!

 

One of the first blogging tips I read was that perfectionism (which I hope is a word) is the downfall of a good blog. Learning to accept that a post is good enough and clicking that ‘publish’ button is the only way to generate content. If it were up to seven-year-old me, this post would have been written over six months and been well over 20,000 words. Instead, I shall embrace the typos (and rush to fix them when I find them later–thank god for the ‘edit post’ function), get to the god-damn point more quickly, and post as much word-vomit as I can.

 

In other news, I’m thinking of starting a progressive story-writing blog. One hour per week of intermittent and implausible dolphin action. Follow that shit.

 

TB