Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tomato Soup & Cheese Pie

Had a project get pushed back to me at work today, one of those low priority projects that comes across your desk, you clean up as best you can in a couple passes, and send back out again.

It came back in the hands of one of our clients, who had marked it up and gave it back to our CEO... along with an offer for his copy editing services.

Yeah, seriously.

I had this terrifying moment where I wished I was just cleaning up and formatting technical SOPs and writing up exec bios and maybe internal memos again, instead of... well, instead of everything. I just wanted to work on things that didn't really matter. Things that nobody looked at. Things I could do where screwing up didn't look so huge and didn't make me look so goddamn incompetent.

I wanted to be nobody, doing nothing important.

I wanted a risk-free job. Because having a job where you actually do public-image type stuff means that not only are the odds good that you will fail - and fail often - but that you will look like a total incompetent ass in front of a great deal of people.

On the bus home, I wanted nothing more than to beeline for Chipotle. I was trying desperately to talk myself into pizza, but it makes me feel so much worse these days that it turned out to be easy to talk myself out of. I wanted something external to fix me and my incompetence. I wanted to hide under the floor, watch some crappy shows, and just disappear.

But you know what?

Here's the thing. Living is full of risk. Especially when you live like you want something. It's easy to do crap work that nobody cares about. It's easy to stay in the same job, in the same town, with the same friends, going to the same places, your whole life. There's nothing wrong with that. It involves minimal risk.

When I chose to be a writer, I chose to risk making an ass of myself in public when I fucked up. More than that, you don't even *risk* it, you just *do* it. Every time you put any kind of work up, any time you do something and put it up for public discussion, you *will* at one time or another, fail. You will fail utterly, and publicly. You just will. And you have to accept that. You accept it when you choose that life, or you find some other life, because this is what it is.

God's War is going to get slammed next year (if anybody even reads it. Slammed would be great, honestly, cause then it would mean people were reading it). I'm going to get called out on a lot of lazy shit. There will be typos. There will be offensive things to people of all walks of life, who will likely tell me just how offensive and stupid and ignorant I am (much of which will be true). There will be continuity errors. Huge plot holes. The occasional stupid line and unlikable character.

That's how it is.

I've had a lot of fear lately, because so much of my writing *has* felt disjointed, off. I've been writing a lot of blog posts and personal correspondence with typing errors; words show up in a sentence that shouldn't be there. Paragraphs don't tie together. Those deft open/close text packages aren't as easy to craft, in part, I think, because I haven't been working hard enough to create them.

I'm going too fast all the time, thinking ahead of what I'm typing, and then losing my train of thought (this post is a good example of that. I started out ready to tie it all up with a bow, and now I'm digressing into sugar numbers and copy edit errors, when I wanted to talk about fear and failure). I don't know what's wrong, if I just need a vacation, or what. My sugar numbers are fine. It's just harder to concentrate.

But whatever it is, temporary insanity or just my usual wackiness, this is how it is. Public failure is the price you pay for a public life, small as mine may be. Sometimes I fuck up. All you can do is work toward not fucking up next time. Or fucking up less spectacularly.

I need to go back to editing everything in triplicate before it goes out. I need to slow down. Not every project needs to go out an hour after I get it, which may be some of the problem. I'm always feeling a sense of urgency that's just not nearly as important as accuracy.

I remember working with my old boss back before he became President of another company, and how he'd work his ass off all night on projects. Things got done, yeah, but they weren't done without errors. And they weren't little errors. I remember one time we actually forgot to turn on an antenna at one of our cell sites. Another time, we sent guys up a tower we weren't sure we had a structural on (turns out we did, but we didn't know it when they were 100 ft up an icy, overloaded cell phone tower). We made a lot of mistakes. Tired, overworked mistakes.

But he kept all of our contracts, and got us new ones, because he fessed up to errors, accepted that they were going to happen, and knew how to make the best of them. Shit happens. It's the price you pay for running too hot, too fast.

And, like I said... in the three years I knew him, he went from Project Manager to President.

He made a lot of mistakes along the way. But he knew how to get shit done.

So it's back to boning up on my copy writing reading and research, which I've been lax about during our latest project, and, as said, instituting my triplicate copy check, exhausting as that may be.

I am not going to be a perfect person. That may be obvious, right? But here's the thing: when you fuck up big time, there's this part of you that says, "See, you're worthless! You're a total fuck up! You should go back to cleaning dog kennels!" and you're terrified it's true, that the whole world is smarter than you, that you're not fit to breathe, that you should have died two years ago in a hospital in Chicago.

And sure, all these things may be true. But you know what? Life is a persistence game, just like writing, just like 90% of the goals and dreams you set and make for yourself. There are a lot of people who give up when they fail the first time, the second, the third. And there are a lot of people who learn from their failures. And, of course, a lot of people who get by on pure incompetence.

I'd like to be in the second category.

Thing is, you know: I'm not a brilliant person. I work very hard just to have what I've got now. And I have to work harder to hold onto it, because there are down days, bad periods, and times when none of your emails or blog posts really make any sense anymore and what you really need is a vacation.

Maybe failure just means you need a vacation.

I'm going to go work on my pony mods and have Nyx chop somebody's head off.

I'm no better or worse than anybody else at anything. At life, at writing, none of it. I just have no interest in giving up or giving in on any of it.


Even when it's shit. You, your work, the world.


Because being dead is boring.

2 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

r@d@r said...

i'm printing this out and gluing it to the front of my refrigerator. well - that is, i would, if i wasn't currently in danger of losing my half of it. but that's another story.

Kameron Hurley said...

It pleases me when my posts make the refrigerator!! :)