Monday, March 03, 2008

To Summarize

Where have I been? Let me count the ways.

I'm going to relate a story about work. Hang with me, there are other subjects below.

Remember when I waxed poetic about the boss and how he respects me? That theory was tested sorely. There is a genre (if you will) of computer programming dealing with what is called multi-threading. What this means is that there are two (or more!) "things" going on at the same time that sometimes need to synchronize with the other. This can be a nightmare, and has been mine for the last three weeks. We have a software release coming up to a major customer, so now there is a team of quality assurance folks that have been telling me about problems without providing much more detail than that. The longer these problems persist, the more my credibility slips. So all that goodwill I built up--remember?--took a shot in the gut.

My boss put it to me like this: I had until last Monday to fix it or we had to "punt." Meaning that if the problem couldn't be fixed, I had to back off everything I had been working on to the last functional state.

I worked through the weekend. My wife and kids had to take a backseat for the first time in I can't remember when. Daddy was a bear.

Come Monday evening I was forced to make the call. I was frustrated. Totally defeated. How close are you my boss asked me? Very close, but I've felt like I've been very close for a week now but it keeps coming back. Ok, he told me, send me a list of everything you've done and I'll take a look.

So this is what I did. In that process I saw something very odd in what I had done. Without explaining, I simply took it out. Voila. Problem fixed. For good. There was one other item that had persisted and I found that too. The quality assurance folks tested again and I was exhonerrated for all of it.

I tell you this: I was on the brink of despair. My job was still secure, but come April I will have to negotiate a salary, as I am a contractor now, and this situation wouldn't have helped. At least now I can say I was able to work through a hard issue.


We're not broke, but we're not rich. We went a little crazy on Saturday and outfitted our four-person family in skis. Except for me. I got a snowboard. On Sunday we all went to the bunny slopes.

Jackson is one of those kids that doesn't have much patience for trial and error. If it is hard, he might not make it past the rookie stage of the game. We rented snowboards a month ago and he didn't like it. I tried to talk him into a new snowboard, but he opted for skis.

Good choice.

I could not get him off the hill yesterday. He was a natural.

Emmett is four years his junior. I held Emmett's hand and scooted him across the base while he learned to just keep his balance. After a while I gave him a push and ran after him while he slid on his own, screaming, "I'm skiing!" We went up the conveyer belt and I pointed him in a safe direction and let him go. Somehow he always managed to point right at a clump of trees or some obstacle, so Daddy was running like hell the whole time. Next time I think I'll get him in a lesson. If he could only learn to stop and turn we could all go at the same time.

As for me, I learned to turn on my front edge without falling every single time. Backwards is still a problem, but in my defense I only got about six or eight runs on the slope before it was my turn with Emmett again. I landed on my tail bone three or four times, each being worse than the previous. I couldn't bend over or pick up so much as the tv remote that night, and today I am like Christopher Pike at Kirk's trial in the Menagerie.

In other news, I am totally addicted to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. This might offend some of my liberal friends, as this is game is about nothing but killing and killing again. To me this is cartoon violence, however graphic. I've been playing this multi-player, against snot-nosed kids that aren't even old enough to drive a car, and getting my butt handed to me. I'm getting better at it, but still, there are so many people out there to whom the game controls are second nature.

As for writing, well, that's the thing. I've put too much pressure on myself, and now I have to take a break. For a simple western short story I have researched and read and pondered and speculated and stressed. I'm sick of it. I need a break. I bitched about not being recognized in Jason's contests and now I've marked myself as a baby--and rightfully so. If I want to be a writer I have to handle rejection, and I'm not very good at it. Maybe I'm not cut out for it. I'm not giving up, but I see some of my co-bloggers having success and I can't even place in a contest. I've managed to exclude myself from even being invited and lost a few blog-friends in the process. And it all goes back to handling rejection badly.

So, it's time to hang up the pen, take a sabatical and come back fresh when I'm ready.


Alan said...

Knowing that you're taking up snowboarding makes me smile from ear to ear. Not because I can do it or anything, but because I can see you doing it.

And did you hear me clapping just now as I read your story about work? I totally thought of my Hero friend in Cali who does the same thing you do, and how he too stresses out on the brink of failure, only to have some hidden genius peek through and find the solution at the last picosecond. It's a rollercoaster ride, I'm sure, but I love a happy ending, and I'm stoked that they're happening to you. Because why not? LOL! Somebody's got to have successes and victories in the misery factory we call Earth!

And so this probably pertains to writing as well. Write for yourself, man. Forget everybody else. Write because you do it so damn good. Write because you have beautiful stories to tell, and because I, and many more before I ever showed up, love them. Write because you have the ability to take me out of myself and help me live a life that I may never have. Write because your heart, as expressed through your pen, is beyond the worth of awards, or gold, or anything.

Write because you are who you are, and I happen to think that you are fantastic.

mr. schprock said...

I really like how you fought through your problem. I can only imagine the elation you felt when you spotted that one simple thing that fixed everything. Glad it had a happy ending, amigo.

Beth said...

I've never actually been on skiis, Scott. I'm terrified of it actually.
I just wanted to say I think your new attitude and reflection about writing sounds very good. I remember conversations we've had and e-mails where I thought you really needed to back away and take a less intense approach to criticism, placing, etc.
For example, I didn't place in this last contest for the first time ever, YET I loved the story more than any other and I also received more comments/more feedback than any other contest ... more than double. I realize mistakes I made and I realize the growth I've made. I don't feel I need Jason to tell me I'm a good writer. Writing is not technical. To me, it's like breathing, you don't think about it and if you have to think about it, you're not going to do it well. Anyhow, I think this realization is a good one for you. Well done!

Scott said...

Alan - Thank you for your encouragement as always.

Mr. Schprock - The elation was more like an intense relief, like pausing for a moment at the curb and watching a car zoom by where I would have been standing.

Beth - You're right of course. I don't think you can exactly relate to what I'm saying though. You might not think you need it, but you do get it and have gotten it with everything you've written. It's tough when you continually don't. Eventually you have to question if it is even worth doing it anymore.

Alan said...

Scott, do tell me if I'm turning into a one-trick pony, but you know I'm for you, guy.

Have you checked out the site of My Other Hero, Alex?

He's got pages and pages of lessons to learn about submissions and rejections. He even catalogues his submissions, acceptances, and rejections. Especially notable is that you can see how he struggles with it, as opposed to sailing merrily over it, but how he continues to plug away like a pit bull. His successes are few, and there's a lot of space between them, but one of those was published in Asimov's last year. ASIMOV'S.

And he is clearly a good writer which deserves steady publication, but for some reason, be it industry politics, the zeitgeist of the decade, or whatever, he's not getting the recognition he deserves. I'd even like you to drop him a private e-mail and ask if he can spare some inspiration.

But as Beth points out, you're making a perceptional shift and not giving up writing, and maybe too, I'm just overcompensating the case.

But there it is.

Kathleen said...

Good for you finding the issue in the project. I guess it's kind of like proofreading writing - you have to READ what you actually wrote, as opposed to seeing what you think you wrote. I totally get it.

Good for the kids and skiing. I did it once and I totally sucked at it, and I didn't find it fun in the least. Of course, it was -40F that day, but what the heck.

I'm so sorry, I didn't check in on you after reading Beth's entry. I should know better and look for your entry as well.

I think a break is a good idea. Give your brain time to relax.

Kathleen said...

Oh, I just looked at your sidebar. I read the Thomas Perry book a couple of months ago. Loved it, but then again, I love everything I've read of his.

Kathleen said...

You didn't post to your entry...why?

Scott said...

Beth - I thought of a good analogy. A couple months ago a friend of mine from college visited me here in Boston. In school he could point to a woman in the crowd and that's who he would go home with. He never worried for a minute about being lonely. I found myself competing with him for attention, relying on my limited supply of wit to overcome his obvious advantage over me. Meeting girls to him was like going to the sink for a glass of water; for me it was like hunting bear with a Bowie knife. The one time a girl chose me over him he nearly had a heart attack, and slept with her later just to show me that he could.

I thought I was making a point, but I got a bit carried away.

Alan - By all means, Alan, I appreciate that you think so highly of me. And I will take a look at your buddy's blog, because he does indeed sound like an inspiration. I guess I just wanted it to be easy, and it's turning out to be work.

Kat - I didn't enter because friends got invited by email to enter and I didn't get that email. The point I was making is that I got what I deserved for being such a baby about it. But you are right, my brain does need a rest. That's a good way to put it. As for Mr. Perry, I believe I picked up that very title because you recommended it. How about that? It was very entertaining. I'm reading Wicked right now. McGuire is a brilliant writer.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Pick up your guitar instead...

Scott said...

Sounds like a Cougar-Mellencamp song, Toast!

Anonymous said...

Scott, regarding my promotion email, no disrespect was intended. At one point, I was only sending the emails to folks with active blogs and pared down my list. Around the time of my last contest, which I don't think you entered, your blog was on hiatus, which explains the change. For this contest, I decided to send the emails more widely based on the last contest's entrants. I would be happy to add you onto my current list.

Please feel free to enter and participate with or without the email! You've always been a good blog friend.

Scott said...

Thanks for saying so, Jason. It's reassuring to know that I wasn't omitted on purpose. Beth comments in another thread that I haven't been judged unfairly, and I definitely never said (wrote) or intended to imply otherwise.

Moni said...

Nice to hear form you again Scott. And congrats on finding that agonizing solution to your problem at work. You've probably upped your value at work three fold.

Snowboarding? Wow, you're brave. :)

And it's good that you took a break from writing, sometimes that's what it takes to gain a fresh perspective.

Toni Anderson said...

So glad you found the solution--I can only imagine your frustration levels! Rejection isn't easy. Never gets any easier either so if you aren't up for it it is important to recognize that. Every great writer has been rejected many times--so the rest of us will have to double/quadruple that :) And how important is a contest anyway? Really? All contests are nice if you win--end of story. Forget it if you lose. I hope you get back into it for the fun of it :)