Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mental doodlings

As usual, I'm awake way too early for a Sunday morning. Can't even get into feeding the C-SPAN addiction yet because "Washington Journal" won't start for another hour. I should be working on a contract writing job that has gone past deadline -- a 1000 word essay on Finnish hockey player, 1992 Olympian, and Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne that's destined for publication in a junior high level reference work, a who's who of athletes -- but am having trouble getting warmed up to the task. Selanne's an amazing athlete, just got re-signed to a two year contract despite being 38 years old and burdened with the typical aging athlete problems (bad joints, various healed fractures, a definitely gap-toothed smile, a nose that's obviously been broken multiple times), but, much as I love hockey, it's going to take a little more caffeine to get me to where I can make the mental shift from current events to sports, type the phrase "right wing," and then go on to say good things.

I think one of the problems with the mild writer's block is I get to do so little real writing now, despite having a job title that puts writer first and editor second, that I'm forgetting how to. It's been steadily downhill since I went to the work for the government. The job at Apostle Islands NL required writing -- I cranked out Determinations of Eligibility like some sort of assembly line -- but the job in the regional office not so much. The job description for the position there included the phrase "research and write national register nominations," but it turned out the actual work was 90% cut and paste into a database and maybe only 10% original research and writing. I could feel my writing skills atrophy with every passing day, which is probably one reason I fell for Large Nameless Agency's offer here in Atlanta.

Once again, of course, the position description on the job announcement lied. I should have known. The job they tell you on the phone you're going to be doing is never the job they actually expect you do once you're committed to the cubicle. I went from 90% database and 10% creative/challenging to 90% proofreading and 10% creative/challenging. The ratio didn't change; just the content of the "wow, am I ever over-educated [and overpaid] for this!" part. Back in Omaha a lot of what I did could have been done equally well by anyone with a 9th grade education and half an hour's orientation to the computer; here in Atlanta most of what I do could be done equally well by any literate person who made it through a high school English (composition, not literature) class. (One of these days I'll have to do a rant about creeping credentialism and/or the way the young people of America are being pushed into acquiring student loan debt to work at jobs that really do not require more than basic literacy.)

Today, however, will be devoted to Teemu. I'll crank out the 1000 words, thrill my editor, and eventually acquire a miniscule fee and another set of pre-prints to take up space on the shelf with the rest of my (literally) encyclopedic oeuvre, which includes gems like "Tethered Satellite Systems" and "Grace Hopper Invents COBOL." When I told Utah Savage I was incapable of writing fiction, I wasn't kidding. But if you ever need bacteriophages explained to 8th graders, I'm your gal.


  1. hmm, why can't you write fiction? write it when you blog and your posts are always very interesting...
    did you see snl?...sarah was sucked..she's dumber than a brick..couldn't do anything but stand there and look cute...i did enjoy amy poelers sarah palin rap that sp was supposed to do, but wouldn't...jeez she's stupid

  2. I fall asleep too early to ever seen SNL when it's actually broadcast. Too many years of having to head out the door for work before sunrise have ruined me for late hours.

    I don't view Palin as stupid. Deliberately, willfully ignorant (and proud of it), yes, but stupid? No. She's too good at manipulating people and situations to ever qualify as not smart.

  3. I'm hoping you got your essay written. I think a little peer to peer fiction writing might be in order to stoke your creativity. You could start with at story about someone who finds themselves over-educated for their job. I'm not kidding.

    And at the very least, I look forward to that post about creeping credentialism. It's something I rant and rave about when I listen to MathMan talk about all the testing they do in school. The idea that everyone must go to college to succeed is ridiculous.

    - Signed someone who could have done her job with just her high school education

  4. I just returned from four days of camping, I wish I could have just stayed out there.


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