I had a phone interview, I absolutely aced that. I never thought I'd be able to, considering how nervous I was. But when the interviewer says you did 'exceptionally well' and hit every point that they were looking for without even being prompted, you know you've handled it.
They sent me some forms I had to fill in. You know the kind. The ones that want every decision you've ever made in black ink, BLOCK CAPITALS and with about four or five recent references to back up each one. I own novels that were thinner. So they were pretty standard for a job application these days.
But I filled them in. It took me a while, but I got there in the end. When I wasn't filling in forms I was staying up most night researching the company, finding out what they'd already done, what their long term goals were, where my expertise would fit in with them. Facts, figures etc. I drew graphs and quoted their chief executive. I came up with an answer to the question "Where do you see yourself in five years?" This is how badly I wanted this job.
It wasn't just that the job fit me perfectly, the money was fantastic. More than I could ever earn with a clear conscience, I would have to pump some into charity just so I could sleep at night. I've also dreamed about having loads of money so I can justify buying a top hat and a monacle. I could try wearing them now of course, but it'd just look silly if I didn't have a compensatory bank balance backing me up.
£15,000 a year might not seem like a life changing amount of money to some people. But for me it is inconceivable. I cannot even imagine what it'd be like to earn a wage so huge. I wouldn't have to worry about anything ever again, even after taxes.
And again, this was a job that I had already done somewhere else for less money. It wasn't a high powered executive position holding the life and death of the company in my hands -- like the one I'd just left, where I got all the stress of management with absolutely none of the money to make it worthwhile. This was job was something I have done for years in other companies, and even if I had gotten rusty, they were offering two weeks of training before I even got started in the role. There was no way I could fail at this job, absolutely none.
I went to the interview armed with a notebook almost as thick as the application form had been. I paid for a train ticket out of my own hugely diminished pocket. I wore a tie. A tie, for god's sakes!
When they asked me 'how would you feel about working on your own?' I smiled inside because that is exactly how I work best. The best part of my last job was getting to leave everybody else and manage my own area. I can do the teamwork thing, I've been a team supervisor and a lowly minimum wager in a large group and I'm ILM certified in team management, but I think I do my best work on my own with no distractions. This question just reinforced how ideal this job would be for me.
I did a practical exam and you know that feeling when you do a test that you've studied for and you just know that you've answered every question perfectly? I got that. There was no uncertainty whatsoever. Except for the tiniest mistake I made in one question, which I quickly noticed and fixed before the test was over.
I clicked with the interviewers. Any sort of social contact is draining for me, interviews especially so. I pretty much have to be the best Matt Holland I can possibly be for an hour or more and it takes up every ounce of energy I have. But this time there didn't seem to be any effort. I was relaxed, I was friendly and professional. I was on fire. I've never had an interview that went so well, and why should I expect any less? I prepared for it like an obsessive from the moment I finished the phone interview to the day I met them face to face. I had put so much into getting to this point so why shouldn't I feel confident about that?
Well, I didn't get the job.
I was pretty heartbroken about it to be honest. I never thought I would be. I've been rejected from dozens of jobs, usually in some pretty slimy ways. Employers these days will ask for everything about you up front but they're tight lipped when it comes to giving you any information in return. I couldn't fault this particular company for professionalism during any stage of the process, yet even with these guys I had to call them a half dozen times before they sent me one of those dreaded e-mails that starts with the word 'unfortunately.'
It never normally bothers me all that much. I've had enough job rejections to get over it. Usually a rejection comes with some measure of relief as there's nearly always something about the job that I didn't like and I comfort myself knowing that I won't have to deal with it.
But not this one. This one had me sitting in the dark listening to Morrisey wishing that I had enough booze to drink myself into tomorrow.
It was like going through a break-up. Which was pretty frigging stupid, I admit. It was just a job. It wasn't as if it was even a long contract or anything, it was only twelve months. There was a chance that it could get renewed even further than that, but we all know how that goes. I would've probably have been lucky to last nine of those. This wasn't my career that I was losing or anything.
But I think this one hit me so hard because I had done so much work to get there. I had jumped through so many hoops, both the ones that the company imposed on me and the ones that I had built up for myself. I normally do a lot of prep work before an interview, but I'd never done as much as I did before this one. This was the best interview I've ever given, both on the phone and in person. I had caught so many lightening bolts in the tiniest of bottles and I don't think I'll ever emulate that kind of success ever again. This was me trying my absolute hardest to do something and I still failed.
We all know that just because you've worked hard, it doesn't mean you'll succeed. Especially in today's climate. Today employers pick the sort of person they want to hire before they even create the job, then they grill every one of their applicants about all the details of their lives until the find the ones that most closely match the specifications they've set up. They won't even allow themselves the possibility of being pleasantly surprised. So long as we have thousands of people chasing every single job that opens up, this is just how things are going to be.
I was in a depressive emo stage. This was bullshit, the world was bullshit, there was no point to anything so why even bother? *hair flip*
But all that idiotic self-pity vanished the instant I started writing.
I never thought I could write anything before I started. I was in a bad mood and couldn't be bothered. But I had already missed one day due to feeling sorry for myself and I couldn't justify missing another, no matter how shitty I felt. I just had to force myself to get on with it.
It wasn't even a gradual thing. All that misery and foolishness vanished the second I got to work. It was, to borrow a cliche, like someone flicked a switch.
It wasn't like other slow writing days where I have to drag words out of myself one at a time like rib bones. This stuff just exploded onto the page. I've written faster, I've written better but I've never written so much so quickly without sacrificing quality. I've been following a pretty detailed plan in this book, so I knew what was coming next, but I couldn't wait to bring to life and see what it looked like on the page.
By the time I wrote three thousand words, I forgot what I was even upset about. Two thousand more and I felt hopeful about the future. If my future contains some more writing days like that then who cares what else happens? Bring it on.
I plan on having a go at tradional publishing with this book, just to see if my writing has improved since the last time I tried. If I fail there, as is extremely likely, then I know that I can self-publish as a back up. I don't know how successful this book is likely to be. I don't even know if it's going to be any good. I'm only about half way through the first draft right now and I can already see some problems with it. There's every chance this book will end up rotting away at the very back of Amazon somewhere for the next decade and beyond. Or it could be bought by just one single person who despises it enough to write a one star review and kill it forever.
But that doesn't matter. What matters is that no matter how badly this book does, and I'm prepared for it to do quite badly, no job will ever equal it in significance. Even though this job was ideal for me, I couldn't imagine a day where I'd feel as good as the worst day I've ever spent writing. There's no doubt whatsoever that this is what I'm here for. No matter how badly I might screw up sometimes. There's just nothing else in this world that I can do as good as writing.
Well, that might just be because I'm irredeemably bad at pretty much everything else in the world. Have you ever seen me try to draw anything or run? It's ridiculous. As bad as I might be at writing, I'm at least better at this than I am at answering the phone or putting numbers into a spreadsheet.
Succeed or fail, this is what I was born for. This is what deserves most of my time and respect. Maybe I was pretty stupid for assuming I could ever give this level of care and dedication to any job in the world.
Well, except for being the chief beer tester at Wychwood brewery. I would care so much at that job.
We only get so many years in this life and you'd be much better off doing something you love for nothing than trading hours of life to some a job that diminishes you. Some of us are content to be cogs in the corporate machine and are resigned to the fact that that's all there is to life. The rest of us have bigger things on our minds, and we do ourselves and the world a disservice by not chasing them.
Because as bad as things seem, they do get better. If there's one thing to take away from all this, it's that one way or another, things will improve.
Even if the only improvement you get is a day where you write five thousand words instead of one.