Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I also understood right from the start that it would take everything.

For the amount of jobs to which I've applied in the last year, I have interviewed for slightly less than half of them. A few of these interviews were for jobs - bill-paying, full-time - with some editorial responsibility, but most of them were not. They were all local, and this not being any kind of hub of printed writing, I'm pretty impressed with that. In virtually every interview, though, I was asked how I prioritized writing and how I managed this responsibility versus working. This question has come from a place of spontaneous curiosity and respect on the part of the interviewer. This question has been met with relentless shock and awkwardness on the part of the interviewee. I find I volley veiled insults and defensive attitudes with practiced ease.

One interviewer, gravely put off by my experience managing a staff and proofreading manuscripts, oblivious to my recent experience in programming and technical assistance (for a job that required both varieties of experience), asked me three times in the course of a half-hour - riding all the way an ascending current of totally annoyed with talking to me - why I majored in English, of all things. I was genuinely mean. It felt right to assert my dissatisfaction with her questions.

A trap I fall into - as distinguished from traps that I am inured to spotting, which don't really exist - is such: I go in for a job I can definitely perform, way below my skill level, met with some enthusiasm by the interviewer. Interviewer launches battery of enthused inquiries about writing, editing, publishing. I talk myself into oblivion about it. I vanish. No conclusions have been drawn about my ability to code medical insurance information or answer phones, but I feel awesome and rare.

After competently establishing the service-oriented-nature of my employment history, a recent interviewer who had made me feel very human asked me about writing, what my goals were, if I wanted to pursue graduate study. We got into it, and my hands went into grave-digging convulsions. I was completely honest about it. I usually take this position when I decide I want the interviewer to rue the day she/he met me. This was the job I got. In the interview.

The pay is so good I can self-finance Enigma Machine. Kara, the Production Designer, is coming with me to &Now, and our registrations are in and our room is set thanks (forever and ever and ever) to ISMs author Tantra Bensko. And the time is reserved from work. And I am finally prepared to get some elementary design happening on the website. Because I have a job. And I really put my life on hold in all ways and just held my breath waiting for that to happen with utter conviction that I wasn't going to die doing that. Or that I would annihilate myself in a conflation of my desire to pay off my student debt (that is not of unfathomable immensity but is real and finite and all ready a year behind me, a year during which I got so many other things accomplished so I can do this) with my desire to develop as a professional in a less-than-traditional manner, with my disdain for "professional" where art is concern where I'd prefer there be ardency, longing, obsessive enthusiasm and adrenaline-slicked, relentless work writing, editing, designing, printing, and my tendency to mix up "conflation" with "conflagration." Immolate my determination with my desire, and vice-versa.

I don't pit these necessities against each other. What I do for money right now is not my foremost concern. What I do with it comes in just behind what I can accomplish during my waking hours and that is what is important to me now. Shamefully under several other things is where I rank the getting of sufficient sleep (I am actively reshuffling).

I don't see why I would pit these necessities against each other to claim my place on the plateau of having professionalized my writing/attained the safety of a well-paying career. No one's making me pit these necessities against each other, either. I have spent a lot of time lately trying to locate that pressure. Part of it comes from my education. I think I got an incredible education at an extremely reasonable rate. I feel amazing every week setting that money aside to pay for it because I really feel daily the tremendous effects of it, how worth it it was, even the parts that I can't communicate efficiently on a CV, like my failing of Chaucer. I failed it. I'd fail it again. I want to excel and go back and tell the small people who made the strange decision to study writing in the kind of place that can kick off a Shining-esque psychotic break with all its isolation and dreariness what kinds of skills they are equipping themselves with, what kinds of things they can do with them. I don't want to reassure. Reassurance is poisonous. Any amount of firing-up, ignition, conflagration goes so far there. It's closed, it's small, it's far from everything. So I feel that.

This interview with Carole Maso, during whose keynote speech at &Now I will cry forever, which I read the day I got my new job, made me feel exponentially better, so amazing, not only because MOTHER & CHILD will be out in the spring. I always wrote and always strictly with the utmost irritating seriousness to myself, for myself, because I wanted to be good, I wanted to impress myself and make work I wanted to read, and that was all. To study it didn't occur to me until I liked it, I saw how it helped me, not as a writer alone but as a student and I felt proud of myself and learned how to place and achieve goals (time-wise, particularly) and that was, I think, the most important thing I've ever learned. To finish things. And she says: I also understood right from the start that it would take everything. I felt this. When I talk about writing, studying writing doesn't make one a writer, but tuition is a serious investment, and I knew if I did that, whatever I studied, I had to love it, I had to live up to it, and I knew I wasn't giving up writing anyway so I didn't go to it immediately. It felt more right than anything to go to it. It wasn't a lifelong dream...I had no romantic notions about it. I love it all - all the weird and terrible things. To become familiar with her and her work has been the foremost inspiring thing for me since finding Dennis Cooper when I was in middle school. Her total adherence to it at the expense of looking like the standard college-graduate success - commit to it, stick to it, love it. And Sing Heavenly Muse! That is the best.

I feel good about everything. Everything makes me feel good.

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