Friday, June 10, 2011

I Have to Remember



Now, more than ever, I have to remind myself that everything is going to be okay. It's not that I've been hurt here. It's just that this city is so big, its humanity so vast, and in that impersonal expanse I've gotten a sense of a world that is overwhelming. There is so much out there, so much more than anyone could ever fully know, and it seems that it would be so easy to get lost in the hugeness of it all and find that you've somehow become separated from yourself.

That's all.

My life was unsettled when I started this blog, but the immediate future has become even more unstable since then. I will graduate in six months. I can't tell you where I'll be in seven.

I've been conscious of this uncertainty for some time, but now I've brought it with me to this volatile metropolis of raw humanity where people are constantly pressed together but talk surprisingly little. You'd think that they'd talk more. Squeezed against each other in underground trains, compressed on street corners and in grocery stores, it really is odd that they don't acknowledge each other or make some effort to reach out. I guess I've always felt that way, though.



Whenever I am too awed by all the possibilities that lay before me--by prospective peaks of success and lurking pits of failure--I remind myself that I am doing the best thing I could possibly be doing. Interning here was a wise move and the experience I am receiving under Literary Agent a valuable asset.

The internship is going well, by the way.

Since starting it several weeks ago (via computer in Southern State) I've solidly confirmed my suspicions that publishing is likely the only industry where I'd be able to find professional satisfaction. I never achieved that in journalism, even though I have quite a knack for reporting.

A good contrast between this job and the others I've held is to look at my work ethic. For the longest time I thought I was just lazy.

As a journalist I'd be chronically careless with deadlines, unresponsive to superiors' comments and requests, unreachable by phone for days at a time (which in the world of online news is essentially a request for unemployment), and notoriously bad at responding to e-mails. If I'm being honest about it I probably should have been fired several times over this year alone and likely only kept my position as an editor because of a skill level that far surpassed my peers'.

That's another thing that bothered me about journalism: I put in astonishingly little effort but always managed to coast on talent. It made me feel like less of a person.

My work in publishing has served to redeem me in my own eyes.

Certainly, natural ability plays a part--as Literary Agent told me when we first started out, "You either have the instincts or you don't"--but now that ability is going hand in hand with genuine dedication.

"Literary Agent," I said in an e-mail sent around midnight last night. "I just finished the manuscript you gave me. I'm attaching a reader's report with my notes. Since I have Monday off and my schedule on Wednesday is going to be restricted, I'd appreciate your giving me some things to work on over the weekend. Thanks."

That was me, requesting extra work for the weekend. That's insane. If my boss at Student Website had asked me to put in more hours on a Saturday I would have given him a tongue-lashing followed by a lecture on the virtues of boundaries.

This morning Literary Agent called me with news that my weekend might not be as productive as I would have liked.

"Listen, BB," he said. "I think it's great that you're working so hard, but we honestly only account for you being available a few days a week. I literally don't have any assignments for you."

When several hours later he e-mailed me a manuscript he'd forgotten about, I was actually happy.

Of course, not everything has been daisies and sunshine. Literary Agent has a propensity for brusqueness online that, whether borne of an unfamiliarity with Internet etiquette or a sincere lack of caring, can be disarming. Today, per my request for more work (which I still can't believe happened), he told me to send him links to pictures of furniture for our new office. When I quipped (jokingly) that I was a horrible interior designer, he told me that I "wouldn't make it in publishing" if I was only willing to do the things I loved and refused to "chip in" on more mundane tasks.

I can be pretty chilly when I want to, and the message I sent back was succinct: "Literary Agent: I assume that any assignment you give me is important. You gave me this assignment. I will send the links."

Another minor annoyance is Self-Important, a literary agent at Book Agency who doesn't look a day older than our youngest intern. Everyone knows a person like this. In her twenties, with ironic black-rimmed glasses, a hugely annoying up-do, and a permanent scowl on her face, Self Important has decided that as a recent college graduate with a marginally prestigious job she and everything she does is of such significance that anything outside of it is simply not worth her time.

It's all very serious.

We interns learned this last week, when Self Important sent one of our number, a young woman, to the post office with a package bound for Serbia. Just in case you've never seen it, the post office in the City of Fate is gigantic, a great marble and bronze colossus inside of which could comfortably fit any other city's largest museum.



When the intern, inevitably, given the incomplete instructions Self Important provided, sent the item using the wrong priority, the four-eyed twit was quick to express her annoyance.

"That's why I told you to ask if you had any questions," she said, not looking directly at the girl but employing a tone of voice that implied the intern's error was an incredible act of stupidity.

"Self Important, no," said another agent, one just as young but apparently not infected with the inflated ego that is endemic in professional youth. "That's not even a question you would think to ask. That wasn't her fault at all."

So at least the others aren't blind to it.

Any slight negatives aside, I love the job and the more I learn about it the truer that love becomes. Did you know that a huge portion of our professional energy is spent getting editors tanked while asking them to buy books? How awesome is that? Any occupation where you get to read manuscripts all day and go out for regular dinner dates is a winner in my book.

In light of our need to wine and dine, Self Important's apparent displeasure at the socializing in the office seems misplaced. Does she not get that we're cultivating important skills?

My biggest remaining concerns are finding friends, finding a job, and finding a gig, and I believe that the first will come with the last two.

I have a busy few days ahead of me; tomorrow I'll read a manuscript, Sunday I'll head to an audition, and Wednesday I'll have a job interview. Those things, along with what this household is like, can all be detailed later, though, as this post has been long enough.

This is the city I now call home. Hopefully by the time I leave it will feel that way in more than just name.

5 comments:

Anonymously Me said...

You should definitely write more about your time there. :)

When I moved to Australia it seemed really big and overwhelming and way too hot. And I didn't know a single person. But now that I've been here awhile, I'm starting to think of it as home, even though I'll be leaving soon...

What I'm trying to say is, it takes time to make friends and settle in. And then once you do, things seem less big and overwhelming. But I'm sure you knew that already.

laura b. said...

I've lived in a very populous place all of my life. I can only imagine how it would seem coming from somewhere with a more intimate sort of feel.
Sounds like you are taking to the publishing business like a duck to water. I know that all the uncertainties you are dealing with at this stage in your life will work themselves out in, no doubt, wonderful ways :-)

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

I'm just catching up on all of your posts. It sounds as if you have made some big changes in the past weeks. I think it is great that you stepped out of your comfort zone to go to the big city. I love to visit, but wouldn't want to live in such a place. As for the "deception" I get why you had to do it. Would have been fun to watch you on Idol...I'm an addict since the first season.

I haven't been here much lately. We lost both of my in-laws within 5 1/2 weeks of each other. That was 3 parents within a year and to say that we are feeling the stress and sadness of it all...is an understatement. Today is the first day in 6 weeks we haven't had someone in our guest room, but we are now dealing with a house full of antiques 75 miles away to get rid of. The auction is July 9...so lots of work ahead. So...enjoy your time now, the stresses just get bigger the older you get!

silly rabbit said...

Sound like your field is a perfect fit! Doing what gives you satisfaction is a wonderful thing.

I moved from a tiny town to a city. Making my own friends was tough.
But now, a year later, I have several. You will make those connections and it will expand your world more while giving you anchors.

Unfortunately I've found no hope of self important people changing.

secret agent woman said...

I'm glad you've found a field that feels like a good fit to you. It's tough to deal with difficult bosses but absolutely essential that you learn how to - it's too easy to be fired or not promoted.