I can't claim to have completed this exercise as instructed in the book. The book suggests writing out a detailed description of every element of the perfect work situation. At first I wasn't going to do this exercise at all. I mean, the reason I was reading the book in the first place is right there in the title: If Only I Knew What It Was! I don't know what my "pefect job" would be, so how can I describe it? I mean, hello, why do you think I'm reading this book... derrr....
Later in the book the author lapses into a litany of the all-too-common examples found in lifestyle guidance books of this type, detailing stories of people who quit their jobs and become "consultants" working in the same field but making far more money and garnering more respect and success than they did as mere employees. This might work for a few people, but at least one of two factors must be present for someone to become a successful consultant: they must have an extremely high skill level in a particular field, or they have to "know people."
Another annoying exercise later in the book are the typical "list your successes" and "create a skills inventory" assignments. Okay, like, you know what? Some of us have no successes! Or at least, no successes that are worthwhile. Okay, so, successes and skills... and yes, I actually thought about this for a while: so, uh... I can tie my shoes and they usually stay tied throughout the day? Hardly the kind of skill set on which I can base a lucrative consulting business. Again, if I could put together a list of successes or an inventory of skills, would I need to read a career guidance book?
Anyway, I was all set to ignore the "perfect job" exercise and skim the rest of the book. I ended up actually reading the rest of the book rather than skimming it, an indicator perhaps of how desperate I am to figure out what I wanna do with my life or where I want to go from here. As I read, I kept thinking about the "perfect job" exercise, and to my surprise, to some extent I came up with a "perfect job" description.
I used to say that David Hasselhoff had the perfect job: producer, writer, and star of the most popular television program in the world, spending all day working with some of the most beautiful women in the world in some of the most beautiful locations in the world, and when he wasn't doing "Baywatch" stuff he was performing on Broadway and doing concert tours in Europe. How much better can it get? Not much better, that's for sure.
I've never understood how people find the time to do so much. I mean, write the episodes, produce (and occasionally direct) the series, and star in it? Rehearse for Broadway shows, then perform daily? Record albums and appear in concert? How can one person do so much?
To do what Hasselhoff does, however, requires a LOT of people skills. People skills are not high on my skills inventory. In fact, people skills are not ON my skills inventory, at all, not even at the bottom. Nor are time management skills. I might be able to manage the writhing around in a puddle of my own vomit drunkenly demanding a cheeseburger part of The Hoff's lifestyle, but the writing, producing, starring, and stuff all require constant interaction with dozens, even hundreds, of people on a regular basis. That's just not my forte. Besides, I lack the Force of Personality to walk into a room, instantly command attention, and sell people on my Great Ideas.
While The Hoff's job might be perfect, I don't think it's perfect for me. The skill set is too vast to master at this point in my life. However, as I was thinking about the perfect job topic, another perfect scenario came to mind, a scenario that was SO perfect that it actually irked me considerably the first time I read about it.
As those of you who have perused this journal from time to time are aware, there is one semi-celebrity who seems to have an unparalleled ability to irritate me. I refer, of course, to a Very Famous Author. The "perfect job" description that came to mind was based on the "Acknowledgements" page in one of said writer's books. Actually, in more than one of said writer's books. He really likes to rub it in sometimes. What he offered in these acknowledgements were thank-yous to his friends who graciously allowed him the use of their house in Ireland in which to write. The Very Famous Author flew to Ireland to stay by himself at the vacation home of friends to focus on his writing. Additionally, he thanked his other friends who allowed him to use their Florida island home in which to write.
At the time, this irritated the hell out of me. I mean, most of us regular schlubs have to scrimp and save for years to afford a one or two week vacation to Ireland or Florida; but here's this guy, his rich friends let him stay for free in their vacation homes so he can write without interruption. Obviously this guy travels in well-heeled circles. And obviously this guy has some of those Hasselhoffian people skills, because people like him enough to offer him the use of their vacation homes. Did I ever post the results of my Deep & Lengthy Cogitations on the Success Formula of the Very Famous Author? If not, remind me to do that at some point. I believe I have largely figured out his Secret, and because of this, he does not vex me to the extent he once did.
Not being quite so blinded by envy as I once was, I was finally able to see why I feel so much envy toward This Famous Author. He has My Perfect Job.
My Perfect Job means I could go someplace AWAY from everybody and all distractions and TYPE STUFF, and then sell it, and get lots of money for it. Accolades, fame, groveling sycophantic fans, that part I could take or leave, but I like the idea of getting AWAY from people and working on MY project BY MYSELF and then getting PAID for it. Self-paced, self-directed, and not beholden to anybody; and yeah, specifically, taking long solitary walks along rocky oceantop cliffs, then retiring to a cozy blaze in a stone hearth and typing from dusk until dawn; that sounds like the perfect job.
Now, the Very Famous Author has to answer to people at this point in his career. He has agents and publishers and editors and all kinds of people -- mentioned, of course, in the Acknowledgements of his stories -- who help him, guide him, put together deals for him, pay him... and to whom he must answer. He thanks them for being infinitely patient with him -- of course they're patient, he makes a lot of dough for these people at this point in his career -- and these days he can pretty much set his own schedule. Or, his personal assistant sets his schedule, and takes care of paying the car insurance and the utility bills, so he can sashay off to Florida or Ireland to write. That part of his job wouldn't be so perfect. And then there are lawsuits against former "creative partners," and what sounds like a constant whirl of publishing events and fanceh Hollywood parties. Those aren't the perfect parts. The perfect part of the job, at least to me, is the Go Off By Yourself and Type Stuff and Get Paid a Lot of Money For It part.
So that's my perfect job.
Now, the thing is, if I could manage to tell a story, to think up a beginning, middle, and end, and throw in a few clever plot twists... this perfect job is not completely out of reach. I can type reasonably quickly. Most of my commas and periods are in the right place. My spelling is fairly okay. And I don't mind, and sometimes I even like, sitting here typing stuff. Plus, it's not Ireland or Florida, but sitting on the deck looking out at the ocean in Hawaii isn't the worst place to sit and type.
Can I tell a story that anybody would want to read? I don't know. My default position is "no." I assume I'd be boring. I AM kind of boring, much of the time, and so is the stuff I write. Once in a while I come up with something funny. Or, funny to me, anyway. Public response does not support this assertion to any significant extent, but still, sometimes I can do all right. And that's without much practice. Maybe if I practiced typing stories, I'd get better at it.
Here's the thing: in the Olden Days of, say, three or four years ago, it was necessary to "sell yourself" as a writer to an agent or a publisher before you even had a chance of getting your stuff out there. Suddenly, that has changed. Suddenly, there are eBooks. Suddenly, Amazon, the biggest bookseller in history, lets ANY Joe Shmo with a manuscript publish an eBook at no cost. Suddenly, the entry barriers to becoming a Very Famous Author, or at least an author who gets paid for typing fast, have been dramatically lowered.
Amanda Hocking self-published a string of teen vampire eBooks, and they started selling pretty well for her; well enough to attract the attention of mainstream book publishers and garner her a two-million dollar contract! Okay, Amanda is one out of a gazillion would-be Very Famous Authors. Most people don't hit the big time like Amanda. It's kind of like pulling the handle on a slot machine.
Here's the thing, though. If I had an unlimited number of quarters in my pocket, I'd head to Vegas and start feeding the slots, waiting for the big payout. Problem is, I don't have an unlimited number of quarters at the moment. I'd run out of quarters really, really fast, in fact. But typing out words and posting them up for the Kindle... well, heck, look at all the words I'm wasting on this LJ entry, when I could be writing about steamy hunky vampire boys and their irrational attraction to annoying high school girls.
Okay, that genre might not be my particular strength. In fact, watch the self-doubt taking root, I might not have a strength at all when it comes to writing. Other than rambling incoherently, maybe. I don't know that I could parlay incoherent babbling into a lucrative consultant job OR a saleable eBook on Amazon or B&N. But, I can type a lot more words than I can dig quarters out of my pocket.
There's a guy, Joe Konrath, who has a blog about writing and self-publishing. Joe sez almost anyone can do it. Okay, there's that "almost" thing; my exceptional skill, which I should add to my list right after Tying My Shoes, is Being the Almost in Something Almost Anybody Can Do. Anyway, Joe sez, in short, just keep writing. If it's crap, so what, do another one. And another one. And another one after that. Keep crankin' 'em out. Joe sez most... yeah, I could be the exception here, too... would-be writers will get better over time if they keep practicing.
Joe writes detective thrillers. I'm trying to read a few. How does a thriller writer come up with a "mystery plot" that's, like, mysterious? I remember reading something by crotchety sci-fi author Robert Heinlein about a jillion years ago. Heinlein got his start writing mystery short stories. I remember reading his comment about that. He said, the first time one of his stories was published, that he couldn't believe he could get paid for doing something so easy! He said once he figured out the formula, he could crank 'em out, and they all sold!
Heinlein, and his buddy Asimov, wrote a lot. A LOT. Kinda like Joe Konrath sez to do. The old timers got their start in the days of the pulp magazines. There used to be a lot of fiction magazines on the newsstands. That was eighty years ago. Today, eBooks are the new pulp fiction. Buy a book-length story for a buck-ninety-nine. Apparently people are doing it.
I don't know how long the fad for cheap eNovels will last. The market is probably flooded already, glutted to capacity. I can think of a hundred reasons why I would fail as a hack pulp fiction writer, some of them valid, even! But... it's like pulling the handle in Vegas. Sometimes, somebody wins. And the more quarters you drop in the slot, the greater your odds of winning. If I could type more than anybody else, who knows, I might hit at least a small jackpot once in a while, too.
Anyway, Barbara Sher's book wasn't a complete waste of time. For a change, a career advice book actually stimulated a positive response in me. It actually helped open my eyes to something I didn't clearly see. What would my perfect job be? Typing stories and getting paid. Working mostly by myself. Maybe signing autographs at Dragon Con. That'd be kind of cool. Free admission to Dragon Con and Comic Con, pretty sweet, huh? So I suppose I should try to work in a "fantastic fiction" genre.
I realize, of course, that I've never been able to complete NaNoWriMo, topping out at, what, 700 words one year? That's a far cry from the 50,000 to 100,000 words necessary for a book-length eStory.
If I pursue this, I might need some help from you guys on putting together clever plot twists. We'll be co-authors, sharing that 30-cent commission we get from the sale of a $1.99 eBook.
I'm currently reading Konrath's eBook about writing eBooks. Clever, that guy. I think a big part of his income is indirectly derived from his writing blog. People, like me, buy a couple of his cheap offerings to see what it is he's selling after reading his "free" blog. Self-marketing through Social Media is a big part of independent author success, so I have read. Fortunately, one of my prescient friends recently sent me "The Idiot's Guide to Personal Branding," so there ya go! I'm on my way!
I'm still not sure what to do about Time Management. There was an interesting section in Chris Guillebeau's The Art of Nonconformity about independently pursuing the "equivalent" of a post-graduate degree, which shall be the subject of an upcoming post.