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Burn Down the Mission

April 10, 2008 | Category: In My Life

An amazing offer fell from the sky recently to do some corporate ghostwriting. Just as we were feeling pressed against the wall, teeth bared against the wolves - well, it was like a little, happy miracle.

So I installed a new version of Word, sharpened all my pencils.


Turns out that I suck.

First of all, I have utterly forgotten how to play corporate politics.

I flopped about like a carp in the bottom of the boat. Interviewees gave information grudgingly, passing me about like a frisbee. Every time I'd string together a nugget of information, flares were sent up demanding its inspection for the corporate party line. The teacupped tempests that followed drove me under my desk in confusion.

Oh, I miss THOSE so much! (Only, not.)

Second of all, Blogging KILLS writing.

No, really. My grammar has become so sloppy that a new word needs to be invented for what I'm doing to the English language. The poor editor had to re-write my first attempt to the extent that when I opened it up in Word - it looked like one big long RED LINE.

I figured, after tortuous weeks, that I was fired.

For 3 days, I waited to hear if anything I'd submitted was even remotely usable.

And then, a call. A mixed signal. Nothing cut and dried. "You sucked, but with promise. Here's another assignment. Try again."

Don't wanna, I thought, utterly embarrassed.

It was humiliating how poorly I'd done. Like watching a video of me attempting to ice skate for the first time in 10 years. "And she's up! And look at those arms spin, ladies and gentlemen! I haven't seen windmilling like that since the toddlers took the ice last Saturday! Oh, and here she goes! Clear the space, people...she's...she's...DOWN!"

Suck it up, Elizabeth.

So I took a deep breath and began working, again. With lots of loud replaying of Elton John's Live in Australia CD. And lots of ginger candies for nausea.

Guy on the other side of the world, being interviewed by me one sunny afternoon, said "You HAVE to have some harder questions in that bag of yours?"

Oh, HELL no, I thought. Burned and timid.

And then, at one point, he jokingly repeated the famous Nelson signal: England expects that every man will do his duty.

I laughed, right on cue.

But it reminded me a of different Napoleonic quote. John Jervis, First Lord of the Admiralty, who was so sure of the British Navy that he stood in front of the House of Lords and said "I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea."

Commitment and confidence will win any battle. You just can't walk into an assignment believing that the result will be anything less than a success.

Of course, starting from an emotional humbled puddle on the floor... it wasn't easy to rebuild my enthusiasm.

Eventually I began crawling, walking, and finally really working.

CD watched me tap away at the keyboard one night not long after. He crossed his arms, and smiled down at me. "You found a line to hold?"

I nodded, not pausing. "Maybe I'll still get fired," I told him. "but if I do, I'm gonna leave an Elizabeth-shaped hole in the wall. I'm going to give it everything I got and see what happens. So, I suck. But I used to be a good writer, it's got to be in me somewhere."

"Never give up, never surrender?"

"By Grabthor's hammer," I agreed.

Burn down the mission, indeed.

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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life
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Love the quote about the French. Go get 'em, Tiger!

Posted by: R P on April 10, 2008 02:03 PM