Spooling up…

If anyone has been following along my “official” Facebook page, they’ve probably seen that I’ve spent the last few nights getting my research on. Conveniently, in the modern world it’s easy enough to research from the comfort of my own home. It’s made even easier because the primary sources I’m interested in are all things I wrote between 2008 and the present day.

If there’s anything I’ve noticed while wading through thousands of my own words it’s that some of the writing has been extraordinarily bad. For those of you who have been with me for a while now, I’m sorry about that. Apparently I really do need an editor to follow me around full time. Fortunately, I’m getting the chance to clean some of those issues up as I go along.

The good news is that even though I’m less than two years into the material, there’s also some really good, cheeky stuff in there. Way, way more than enough to build on. Way more than I thought I’d find. When I kicked this off I assumed the research was going to be the hard part. The more I get though I’m realizing that the hardest bit is actually going to be deciding what stays in and what fades back into the mists of the last half decade. Admittedly, that’s not the worst problem I’ve ever faced.

If I had to guess, optimistically I probably have a month’s worth of material left to go through. More realistically it will take me closer to two months after you allow for all manner of what conspires to distract me from making forward progress. After that it’s back to the grind of 300-500 words a night until something that reads like a first draft magically appears on the screen.

Reading back over that last bit, this would be one of those times when I wonder whether I’ve lost every bit of sense I ever had.

Research…

There’s always a fine line when a project starts between wanting to just do the work quietly and wanting to blog about every step along the way. In the interest of not giving away the store before it’s even written, I’ll try to keep my discussion points fairly general in terms of the next product in the jeffreytharp.com pipeline. Suffice to say it’s not going to be quite like any of my previous efforts.

I haven’t set down to a writing effort yet that didn’t start off with research… and that’s where the lion’s share of my self-imposed writing time is allocated at the moment. I’m doing my best to spend an hour a day sourcing background information in the hope that once I have a stack of notes, I’ll actually be ready to sit down and put words on the page.

What I supposed you need to know now is there is a fresh work in progress. What I hope you’re going to see at the end of this trail is a deeply personnel (and intensely sarcastic) look at my relationship with life, work, and social media. It may not be of interest to anyone. It may not sell a single copy. But from the preliminary research I’ve done so far, I’m wholly fascinated by the ground this effort will end up covering.

It’s going to be a doozy…

Hard as it is to admit, my inaugural foray into non-fiction was not met with thunderous applause. I can count on two hands and a foot how many copies of Retribution wandered off the shelves at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’m not saying that with any kind of self pity, although I do think the world is missing out on a fun little short story. Notwithstanding the monumental lack of sales, I enjoyed working in fiction. It’s a refreshing change from the usual 5W’s style professional writing that is one of the many banes of the average cubicle dweller’s existence. Trust me, writing reports, emails, cost estimates, and justifications memoranda does not constitute a rich literary life.

That being said, I think I’ve settled in on my next topic… and it’s one that takes us all back to the future. My bread and butter has always been an apparently bottomless ability to bitch and complain about whatever topic was set in front of me. As often as not, that ability turned itself on peculiarities of working inside the world’s greatest bureaucracy. Time and circumstances have conspired to bring me back around to where it all started.

If Nobody Told Me, was an tribute to a youth lost in service to the machine, I’m starting to flesh out the vaguest idea of the next effort to be more of a deep dive into the mid-career oddities, realizations, and situations that make you really want to consider where it was that your professional life to such a harebrained turn. It’s safe to assume there is plenty to say about those issues and I think I have just the point of view to make them both hilarious and thought provoking.

I haven’t started writing yet. I’ve barely scraped together some notes, a few snippets of outline, and the most ephemeral of notions in my head of where I think this should go, but it feels like the right topic at the right time. It feels like the project that might well keep me on a halfway even keel in increasingly turbulent waters. I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know when I’ll have a draft. I don’t even have a fully formed central thesis. I do have an idea. As dangerous a spark as an idea can be, that’s all it takes to start. The rest will come later.

Stick around folks, I think this next trick is going to be a doozy.

Deception…

In the universe of the bureaucratic underling, few things are more highly sought after than a cubicle next to a window. Generally assigned based on seniority in rank or time in service, it’s one of the small things that can make a cube feel less like a 5×8 coffin and more like an actual productive work area.

Sometimes, of course, appearances are deceiving. When you show up in a new office and there’s a prime window seat with your name on it, tread carefully. In any normal office, this seat would have been fought over and allocated long before you showed up. If it’s sitting empty, consider it a warning sign… Like the beautiful house on the tree lined street never quite seems to stay sold, there’s a fair chance this cube has problems. Someone might have died there in harness and it’s haunted or at a minimum it’s cursed by one or more of the myriad problems that tend plague a cubicle and all those who dwell in them.

If there’s any good news to be had it’s that not much in life is permanent. You’ll probably get a chance to move into something more attuned to your needs (eventually). Of course you’ll be leaving behind the window, but if a career in service has taught me anything, it’s that windows are easy enough to come by, but you only get a finite amount of sanity to shepherd you through 30+ years of toil. If you ever had to pick between the window and some sanity, it’s what you’d call no contest.

For more helpful tips someone really should have mentioned before letting you go to work as an office drone, don’t forget to get your very own copy of Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees.

Jeffreytharp.com is pleased to announce…

Jeffreytharp.com is pleased to announce the arrival of a a bouncing baby book. What Annoys Jeff this Week: 2013 in Review was published in the pre-dawn hours of December 30th and weighs in at WAJTW 2013458 KB and approximately 79 pages long. It’s now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords for the low, low price of $.99.

It’s said that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. After two full years of writing WAJTW, I’m beginning to get an unsettled feeling that there’s nothing to be done against the rising tide of stupid people, awkward situations, and the the general sense that the whole world is going to hell in a handbag. It’s like global warming, except instead of new beach front property, all we get is rising blood pressure and an increased desire to run away and live in a shack in the Montana wilderness.

Still, when life hands you lemons, the only thing to do is try reselling them at a reasonable profit to those who don’t have any citrus of their own. With all new commentary, corrected for spelling and grammar, and jam packed with the snark and sarcasm that you’ve come to know and love, WAJTW: 2013 commiserates over the year that was and looks forward to the inevitable annoyances of the one to come.

On tap…

I know a few weeks ago I promised a new fiction project was in the offing. I haven’t forgotten about that. It’s safe to say the preliminary research and reading have taking a touch longer than I anticipated, but it’s still there on the agenda. I’ll try to make a fresh start of it after the inevitable mayhem and chaos that surrounds the last days of December. I’m not even going to even try putting a date on when that little gem might be ready to see the light of day.

Lest you think I’ve spent the last month dithering about to no good purpose, I do have a touch of good news for what’s on tap in the coming weeks. What Annoys Jeff this Week: 2013 in Review is coming along nicely. With plenty of fresh, snarky commentary, I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking, correcting, and generally updating each post to make it the very best level of vaguely hostile I can manage.

Assuming I don’t fall down and hit my head on something hard or develop the same debilitating sickness that laid me low last Christmas, I expect to deliver up WAJTW:2013IR for your New Year’s Day reading pleasure (plus or minus a few days). My best guess is the final cut will weigh in around 23,000 words and with all of the spelling, grammar, and usage corrections I’ve been making, the whole thing should be downright readable… something that doesn’t matter all that much when you’re blogging, but that paying customers seem to put a premium on for some reason.

All that’s left to do is finish editing October and November, finish writing December, write the intro, design the cover, and then upload everything to the interwebs and hope it all looks good together electronically. Sigh. Maybe I should reconsider that first of the year date.

Free time is for wimps…

After kicking Nobody Told Me: The Cynics Guide for New Employees and What Annoys Jeff this Week: 2012 in Review out the door this summer, I took a break. Or at least I took a break from writing things I wanted published with my name on the masthead. I’ve still been tinkering with other projects, of course, because just sitting around with nothing on my plate makes me nervous and jerky. Still, it was nice to have some breathing room and to not be beating myself repeatedly over self-imposed deadlines.

As much as I’ve enjoyed not laboring under too many of those requirements these last few months, the gears have still been slowly grinding out a few new ideas. Now that the nights are long and the temperatures are getting downright cold, it feels like a good time to start tinkering and see if either of those notions have legs.

The first isn’t so much a fresh ideas as a continuation of the What Annoys Jeff this Week series. I’ve started doing some of the initial leg work to publish 2013 in Review as soon after the new year as possible. I’d love to promise it on January 1st, but creating commentary, editing, and formatting take time. More time than you might think if you’ve never given it the old college try. What that really means is that 2013 in Review is probably best described as “available in January” with a date to be determined. Sure, maybe it’s an exercise in pure ego, but who doesn’t want to start off the year with a blunt reminder of all the stupid shit that happened in the one that just passed? Anyone? Bueller?

In a departure from my usual ranting full of snark and discontent, I’m also gearing up for a first plunge into fiction in almost 20 years. I’m not so ambitious as to think I can take on a novel, but I have been kicking around an idea for a short story. I wish I could take credit for the original idea, but it was actually a passing comment from a friend at work that I haven’t been able to shake for the last few weeks (despite trying very hard to ignore it in hopes that it would go away). I’ve been doing my due diligence and some initial research. It’s still the barest fog of an idea, but I think it could make an interesting 10-20,000 word virgin effort. I won’t even hazard a guess about how long something like that might take me.

I like to think my chops have improved a bit since I wrote a few shorts back in high school, but I suppose we won’t know if that’s true until I sit down and start smacking the keys. Even if it never sees the light of say, I have the feeling it’s going to be a worthwhile mental exercise. So there are the two big bites I want to take off over the winter months. I’d say between those and a few other bits that are percolating, I can manage to keep myself gainfully occupied for the foreseeable future.

Apparently free time is for wimps.