The Job Interview--Part Two

Sunday, January 24, 2010

***If you haven't read Part One, you can find it here.***

Jon inserted the new tape into the tape recorder and pressed the record button.  "Testing? Testing?"
JP looked on with concern.  "I have to say this is very odd, Mr. Paul."
"Excuse me one moment, Mr. P.  I must make sure the tape recorder is working properly.  Testing.  One, two, three."
"But I'd rather we not record this conversation."
"Not record it?"
"Yes."
"It's standard procedure."
"I don't care."
"I told you: no one will hear it."
"No one?"
"Not a soul."
"Because I don't want to embarrass myself."
"Too late for that, I think."
"What does that mean?"
"Oh, nothing.  Let's get back to it then, shall we?"
"OK."
"We were discussing your qualifications."
"Yes."
"What other work have you completed besides this 'novella' we discussed."
"Not much, really.  In previous years, I wrote a few short stories, and I started probably eight novels."
"Let me guess: ten pages in and you quit."
"Yeah, something like that."
"What else?"
"I wrote a play.  Several, actually.  But one in particular got some attention."
"Some attention?"
"Yes.  A reading.  With actors."
"And you want to write fiction?"
"Yes."
"Hmm."
"Have you been published?"
"No."
"Have you submitted anything to a publisher?"
"No."
Jon frowned.  "Hmm."
"I know it doesn't make sense, but...well...that's how it is."
"I'm sorry, Mr. P., but I don't think you're qualified.  Let me speak plainly.  Being a helicopter pilot does not in any way qualify you to be a writer.  These other works you speak of--"
"I know."
"You know?"
"Yes.  I mean, that's the point, isn't it?  I'm a helicopter pilot.  I want to be a writer.  It's the craziest idea in the world.  It doesn't make any sense."
"I think you're on to something there, Mr. P."
"I am?"
"Yes.  If you've no qualifications for the job and if you've already quit then--"
"But I didn't quit!"
"What?"
"I didn't quit.  I almost quit, but I didn't."
Jon blinked at JP.  "We discussed this at length, did we not?"
"Yes.  I thought it was clear."
"You said you quit."
"I almost quit.  But I didn't in the end."
"I'm quite certain you said--"
"Remember when I said "I almost quit" and you said "what was I doing before I almost quit?" and I said "not writing" and you said "let me get this straight" and wondered how I could quit when I hadn't even been writing?"
"No."
"Well that's what we discussed and I clearly said I didn't quit."
"OK.  I'll take your word for it, shall I?"
"Thank you."
"So, what did this "not quitting" look like?"
"I've been writing."
"That's a good place to start."
"A lot.  At least by my standards.  I've started over fourteen short stories."
"Let me guess, you got about ten pages in and--"
"I know, I know!  But I am working at it.  It feels like progress.  Maybe from where you sit, Mr. Paul, it doesn't look like progress, but it feels like it.  I feel like I'm actually getting somewhere."
"But it sounds like you start things and never finish them, Mr. P."
"Yes, I know.  I have to work on that.  I have to get better organized, and I'm writing a novel too, so--"
"Another novel?"
"Yes.  I have about 25 pages of a treatment, but that counts as progress too.  And I understand how I tend to start new things and not finish, so I have to focus on that.  The endings I mean.  I'm good at beginnings but I need to work at endings.  But nobody' perfect."
"Indeed."
"I don't think you're taking me seriously, Mr. Paul."
"How can I?"
"It's all different now.  I've been working so very hard!"
"Oh really?  How much have you written since you quit?"
"Almost quit."
Almost quit.  How much have you written since you almost quit?"
"Nearly 20,000 words in the last six weeks!"
"You can't be serious!"
"I am.  I don't know what's gotten in to me, but being a writer is what I want to be.  More than anything.  It's always been my dream, truly, but I stumbled somewhere along the way.  I lost track of what was most important to me.  I lost that feeling I get when--"
"Don't get all sentimental on me, Mr. P."
"You're right.  I'm sorry.  But I really want this job.  I know I don't have all the qualifications.  I know you must think this is some kind of joke, but I am serious.  I can work hard.  I can put the time in.  I promise you that if you give me this one chance, you won't be sorry."
"I see."  Jon flipped through the pages in the file, looking up at JP from time to time, frowning, looking down, shaking his head ever so slightly.
When he finally spoke, it was almost a whisper.  "Are you any good?"
JP looked at his dress shoes.
"Mr. P., are you any good?"
"No."
"You're not?"
"No."
Jon closed his file.
JP stood up.  "But I could be.  If I work at it--I mean really slave over it, day in, day out--I really could be!"
"Sit down, Mr. P."
"But this isn't fair.  I came here--"
"SIT DOWN!"
JP froze, stunned, then sat down, afraid to look Jon in the face.
Jon cleared his throat.  "If you had given me a second to explain, I was going to say that that's very good."
"What is?"
"The fact that you said that you are not a good writer."
"What?  Why?"
"You can tell the truth, Mr. P.  And you don't seem afraid to tell the truth.  Above all other qualities, that is the one most sought after in fiction writers."
"How do you know that?"
"I read it in a fortune cookie."
"Oh."
"But it happens to be true."
"I'm not sure I can always tell the truth."
"Perhaps not."
"I just want this job."
"Can you do something for me, Mr. P.?"
"Yes?"
"I want you to imagine ten thousand people out there, as if you were standing in a darkened stadium."
JP looked around, gazing hard into the darkness.
Jon continued.  "These people are looking at you, looking at nothing but you."
"OK."
"Do you have that picture in your mind?"
"Yes."
"Can you see those people, make out their individual details, the color of their eyes, the roundness of their faces?"
"Yes.  I think so."
"Now you have to write like they aren't there, even though you know they are."
JP looked confused.  "What do you mean?"
"Even though those tens of thousands are out there, you can't write for them.  You have to write for yourself."
"I have to write for myself."
"Yes."
"So I have to imagine that the people I'm imagining are not real, and pretend that they're not there even though they really are?"
"Exactly."
"This is a very confusing conversation, Mr. Paul." 
"That may be so, but do you think you can do it?"
"I don't know.  I guess I could try."
"Good."  Jon stood up, closed his file and started walking off across the concrete floor.
"Where are you going?"
Jon stopped and looked back.  "The interview is over, Mr. P."
"It is?"
"Yes."
"But............did I get the job?"
"We'll see."
"What does that mean?"
"We'll start you on a full-time, probationary basis.  We won't pay you anything.  More like an intern actually."
"Oh.  But I got the job."
"I guess you could say that."
"Really?"
"Good luck, Mr. P."  Jon turned and walked away.
JP stood with one hand on the back of his chair, watching Jon disappear into the darkness.  He looked around, a new light dancing in his eyes.  A tentative grin started at the corners of his mouth.
Then he yelled into the darkness: "Look out world.  Here I come!"

6 bolts from the blue:

Bailey McKay Clement said...

Nice post

Jon Paul said...

Thanks for reading, Bailey!

Helen Ginger said...

Fun post. It's true. Writers don't get paid to write. They get paid, hopefully, for having written. And so many want this job!

Incidentally, I linked over from Middle Passages.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Jon Paul said...

Thanks Helen. I think you're comment is spot on. And having not yet "written," I have plenty of work to do! :D

sue said...

Jon Paul, I've just come over from Middle Passages. I just love this pair of posts! I help people with resumes and interview techniques, and I might just refer a few of my clients to read these.

Jon Paul said...

Sue--Great! I'm happy to hear you liked them, and also happy some of my writing can be of service.

Thanks for stopping by!

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