Monday, December 20, 2010

The adventure begins: a little backstory

Just so we get this straight: I basically started this on a dare. So it's all Lynn's fault if it ends in tears. I get the credit if it works, Lynn gets the blame if it explodes in a ball of green flame.

The story began this past May (2010) on a fine Saturday afternoon.

I was chatting with Lynn, whose counsel I appreciate, and I was musing that it was too bad so many of my friends were looking for a job, and they were all sitting around waiting for interviews when they could be out there actually doing something useful. I was a bit upset, and I said "People think they need permission to work! There's loads of work out there to be done that you don't need to get hired to do!".

"Yeah!" I continued. "Someone should write a book like '1,000 jobs you don't have to get hired to do'". Lynn caught the idea, and shoved it right back in my face: "That's a great idea! You should do it!" Ouch. Shoulda seen that coming.

The excuses welled up in my mind immediately: I'm a computer geek, I'm bad with people, who would want to publish my thoughts, that sort of thing.  But she had a point. My father had run his own business for more than a decade, my mom had retired from academia but also had her own art business, and at the time I had invested with a friend in a small martial arts dojo. I did actually know something (however small) about running a small business. And I definitely had a passion for the subject. (Ask any of my friends, I'm always talking about small business ownership)

So I did the decisive, manly thing: I waffled. "Eh", I said cleverly, and waved my hand, in a fashion I hoped would cause the subject to spontaneously change.

Lynn persisted. "How long would it take to do?"

OK, fine. I grabbed a nearby paperback, flipped to the back page and looked at the page number. 140. I thought aloud "Ok, if each job took four pages to describe, I'd need 35 jobs to write the book. Assuming each one took 2 hours to do, it'd take 70 hours to write the jobs and figure that much again to edit and polish, and I could have it done in two, maybe three weeks of full time work." Put that way, it seemed quite doable.

So that very afternoon, I went home and chugged out the first four chapters. I wanted some serious out-of-the-box alternatives to drive the point home that "everyday jobs" aren't the only alternative. I can't remember what the first four were, but I'm pretty sure "traveling massage therapist" and "worm fiddler" were in the first batch. When I had worked for Google earlier on, the on-site masseuse and I had talked about her business one day, and it sounded remarkably fun: book as much as you want, when you want to work. Stop when you don't. I can't remember where worm fiddling came from. I think I read about it in a Schoolastic book long, long ago. Encyclopedia Brown or one of those. With the writing of the first bits, my passion on the subject was mostly expended, and I stopped and went back to my "regular living".

Edit, a week or so later:

Thanks to Google Books. "Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down" by Donald J Sobol (1971) has a reference to worm fiddling. This I remember and I still can't remember my best friend's birthday. Sheesh.

LoC: 77-160147
ISBN: 978-0-14-240951-0

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