9 April, 2002

Turns out it was the shit draft. I don't know why I go on and on the way I do, waxing all self-congratulatory and egocentric. I always feel so sheepish about it later. Oh, well, nobody reads this so I guess it really doesn't matter if I feel embarrassed later. Maybe, it's therapy.

There is this recurring joke in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman about a library made up of every story that was ever dreamed. The librarian picks up a book, winks at the camera, and says the title of the book is The Great American Novel that You are Going to Write Someday Making You Rich and Famous and Everybody will Love You Like a Rock Star and Hang on Your Every Word. I may have gotten the exact wording wrong but you get the idea.

So, this journal is therapy. I can make all kinds of pretty noises here about how swank my writing is. Doesn't make it true but it sure is fun to imagine. Nobody's reading so what do I care?

It's still true what I said before. I was blown away by the first chapter of the prequel to The Magic Flute. I stand by my comments about the schizophrenic Neanderthal or whatever the hell it was I said.

The writing was first rate as far as my writing goes, but it wasn't perfect. I've done a nice little job of editing the first chapter, which surprised me. I think I mentioned before that I hate revising my work. I have a very warts-and-all approach. As soon as it's down on paper, it is done. There is no shit draft. There is only the final draft. That's always been my preference. I hate revising.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to go back over the first chapter and make all kinds of changes. I mean I didn't make major changes to the plot or the story or any of the scenes. I just mean that not a word was sacred, and I was able to slaughter and brutally murder all of my little darlings. Entire sentences were completely wiped out. Nothing was safe.

All the changes were for the good. There were a few sentences that were just bad. What was I thinking? Did I write that? Oh, right, the schizophrenic Neanderthal did that.

Kind of took me by surprise. I mean this never happened with The Magic Flute so either the writing in that book really sucks ass or something else is up, and I remembered when I was thinking about writing this journal entry how long it took to write The Magic Flute.

There were entire months where I was working at the rate of one paragraph a day. You heard me. It would take several hours to get somewhere between three and a dozen sentences done. At the time, I just found it insanely frustrating. Tonight, I am thinking that the microscopic attention to detail may have made for sentences that didn't need to be revised. I mean read the book and decide for yourself, but it is possible.

So, I really did do a shit draft version of the first chapter. Now, I have upgraded it to half-assed.

16 April, 2002

Okay, this is kind of funny. Back in the good old days when I first got out of college, I didn't give much thought to the job I got. I had just gotten my masters degree in music composition, and I was just starting to think about teaching positions. I knew it was too late to find anything for the fall. There probably wouldn't be anything for the spring so I figured I would have to wait at least a year before something turned-up. In that time, I wasn't going to worry about whatever kind of piss-ass job I found to pay the bills. The whole time I was in grad school I told people that I was getting a degree in something that would leave me infinitely qualified to be somebody's secretary. I was suffering no illusions.

I figured it was time to get that damn novel done. The one I had been neglecting for years and years. The Magic Flute had always taken the back burner. It was more important to finish my degree. Maybe, sometimes during the summer months, I would work on it, but the second anything else came up like summer jobs or summer school or working on music, I would put The Magic Flute aside. Well, it was time for that damn novel to take center stage. The world be damned! It was time to make good on an ancient promise to myself.

So, I didn't care that much what kind of job I took during the day as long as it paid my rent and left my enough energy to write at night, which is how I wound-up working for the University of California San Francisco. First as tech support. It was demanding. Kept me on my toes. And, very unpredictable. I liked that part. Never knowing what was going to happen next. The best part was that the job stayed at work. I never thought about it when I went home. Even on days I had to stay late, which would happen, I could still go home and write.

That job ended. The official story was they were making budget cuts and didn't need two tech support people. I think there was more to it than that. I could ramble on about politics and paranoid theories and what-not, but I don't feel like it. You've got to watch out for some of the doctors. They got egos. I'll leave it at that.

So, while I was unemployed, I started my little publishing empire and published The Magic Flute.

So, after that, I discovered that the job market sucked, and I wound-up working at the University of California San Francisco, again. Not so much fun this time. More secretarial work and basic accounting. And, I started fishing around for more interesting employment. By this time, I was about half-way through The Faire Folk of Gideon: Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and I discovered this thing called a tech writer.

Now, I can't say for sure what I thought about writing jobs up to this point. I just had this vague notion that people who wanted to survive purely on their writing. Well. Didn't. They spent all their time fishing for short contract work in an overcrowded and insanely cutthroat market. So, this thing called a technical writer came as something of a revelation. Companies actually hired full-time employees to write.

Well, that sounded good to me. It would combine a couple things I enjoyed. I liked to teach. I liked being helpful and informative. I had gotten quite good at it in my days as a math tutor and then doing tech support. And, I liked to write (which is bullshit but a subject for another day).

Technical writer? Sign me up! So, I spent months and months and months trying to bullshit companies into hiring me as a technical writer. Who cares I got my degree in music? My B.A. is in electronic music. I was the teaching assistant to the electronic music studio. I wrote hand-outs and shit for the kids. I could rock as a technical writer.

So, I finally landed a contract tech writer gig at this dot-com called Netcurrents. They hired me based on one really short phone interview. I'm convinced that if they had done a proper interviewing process they never would have hired me. Well, they could take the chance. I was a contractor. I was getting paid a hell of a lot less than someone with a B.S. in tech writing, which I think had a lot to do with why they chose me. Because they could pay me less.

Anyway, if you want to hear what happened at Netcurrents, I rambled on about it in a previous journal entry. Go look it up if you're interested.

So, I'm back at the University of California San Francisco. My old boss is glad to have me back. There don't seem to be any hard feelings because I skipped out on them the way I did. Of course, going back has left me very depressed.

See, it never mattered before. A shit day job was a shit day job as long as it paid the bills and left me time and energy to write in the evenings. The problem was I found a non-shit day job. I found something I could do to pay the bills that left me able to work at night. I had found a day job that I enjoyed so having it taken away from me really hurt. Having to go back to the shitty secretarial/accounting job really hurt. The job market just sucks right now.

I'm trying to find the balance. On the one hand, I'm lucky as hell to have gotten my old shitty job back. Go back a journal entry or three, and you'll find me begging people to buy my book so I could make rent. On the other hand, the job sucks. It really and truly sucks. I never cared about that before. Now, it matters because I tasted something better. All of which is still affecting my work. I am very very very slowly working on chapter two of the prequel to The Magic Flute.

Working, getting home at night, I can feel the sadness just seeping through my bones and the frustration stinging away at my heart because the prequel isn't progressing. I find myself worrying that I'm going to turn into that lost asshole who stars in The Faire Folk of Gideon, and I try to remind myself how lucky I am. It's a tricky situation, and I haven't found the balance yet. I have to figure out how to break the cycle.

Which brings us to what happened at work today. I promised you a joke. This was supposed to be a short amusing anecdote about something that happened at work today. Sorry.

Anyway, our UPS delivery person runs up to me today and hands me an email. When she isn't delivering packages, she is contributing to the My Two Cents column in the San Francisco Chronicle or something like that. Apparently, someone at the Chronicle wants to do a story on people who left "Traditional Jobs" to work at dot-com companies and then found themselves trying to adjust to life at a "Traditional Company" again after the dot-com failed. The UPS lady is really excited because she knew that had happened to me—UCSF to Netcurrents to UCSF.

So, there is an email address. So, I write something up and send it off to the San Francisco Chronicle. A much shorter version of what I have been blubbering on about here. Late in the afternoon, I get a call from a reporter at the Chronicle, and she proceeds to tell me that she's only interested in people who worked in Silicon Valley. Netcurrents was based in Burlingame, which is on the Peninsula just shy of San Francisco's airport and not part of Silicon Valley. Sorry.

I told my co-workers this story, and they said that looking for failed dot-commies in Silicon Valley is a waste of time because all the really disastrous dot-bombs happened on the Peninsula. All the really big dot-com assholes park their SUVs on San Francisco sidewalks and live in San Francisco apartments driving up rents to the point that us working stiffs can barely afford to live here anymore. Am I the pot calling the kettle black? No, I don't think so. Remember Netcurrents got me dirt cheap because I don't have a B.S. degree. Actually, I'm kind of proud of the fact that I don't have a B.S. degree. Why? Think about it.

Anyway, I hung-up the phone with the reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, and I just laughed and laughed and laughed. It was just so funny. The Chronicle wanted to hear from people who were having trouble adjusting to life at a normal company after leaving a dot-com. Well, I've got a great trouble adjusting story now. The newspaper rejected me. How's that for trouble adjusting? Yeah!

21 April, 2002

I can hardly believe it is over. Yesterday, I drew the final comic for the String Finger Theatre: Attack of the Third Dimension storyline if you can call what I do drawing. The whole thing clocks in at seventy-three comics. I never thought it would carry on for so long. I figured if I was lucky I would get twenty maybe thirty comics out of the idea. I figured I would be way into the second or third storyline by the time I hit number seventy-three. These things always get away from me.

It's nice to know I can sustain a single storyline for so long; however, it does have the drawback of needing to read seventy-three comics in order to understand what is going on. It doesn't help that they are stick figures. There is nothing to tell them apart.

I can't draw worth shit, which is why they are stick figures. I don't know. There are some inherent benefits and drawbacks to stick figures. You can get away with murder. The story is inherently simple. Stick figures are naturally funny. It is hard to convey complex ideas. It is almost impossible to do anything other than the basic side view. I guess it would help if I could draw. Oh, well.

A lot of what is going to happen next should be evident from how Attack of the Third Dimension wraps-up so I'm not going to go into any detail here.

It's been fun and frustrating all at the same time. I've always wanted to do a comic. Of course, I could never draw so that always got in the way. The best part was when I first started, and I was doing all of these drawings with pencil and paper to see how well I could sustain a comic. The problems started to hit when I had to convert them to a graphic format so I could post them on my website. I found this process to be slow and tedious and frustrating. It really sapped the fun out of doing the comic.

I would do the comic in fits and spurts, doing anywhere from one to a half-dozen pencil drawn comics in one night. I would then wait days or weeks before doing them over in Adobe Illustrator. Most of the Illustrator work involved cutting and pasting from old comics to create new ones. If you look, you will find the stick figures have very few poses.

Now, it is over. Seventy-three comics. I can hardly believe it. Of course, I still have to convert them into graphics. Oh, well. I can't say I'm looking forward to that.

copyright © 2002 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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