On Being a Struggling Writer.
January 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
First things first. By ‘struggling’, I do not mean to portray that I have no money. I don’t, obviously, but that is not the point. What I mean is I’m lost, caught up in a world of clever words, job advertisements, brutal shorthand and, let’s face it, people who write much better than myself. To remedy this, and in a desperate attempt to steer myself in some sort of positive direction that isn’t cocaine addiction or becoming a 70 stone Internet model, I have been undertaking some work experience at the Edinburgh Evening News. Below is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (with occasional interventions of extreme exaggeration.)
Day 1: Nervous, nervous, nervous, nervous. That’s all I feel. So nervous that I arrive 40 minutes too early and have to go for a completely aimless walk around the Parliament in my new and rather painful shoes. By the time I finally go inside the building (two circuits later) my feet are aching, I’ve already burnt more calories than I’d planned to that day and I can no longer feel my hands or my nose. So what is my first task then? Oh, just to go back outside and walk around for another hour and a half to collect vox pops! Typical.
I have to get 7. One man offers me his number instead, which I kindly decline. Another tells me he doesn’t mind walking alone in Edinburgh City Centre at night because he’s 6”6 and ‘no one’s gonna mess with me, are they?’.
On my way back inside (now on the verge of a serious case of frost bite) I trip and spill my coffee most of the way down the newly cleaned stairs. I try nonsensically to mop it up with the sleeve of my coat. This, of course, fails tremendously so I scuttle away and hope no one downstairs has noticed, their fictitious laughter ringing in my ears.
I’ve never had an office job. I’ve heard the rumours of ceaseless boredom and listlessness oozing from quiet pub corners, but I’ve never actually witnessed it right in front of my face. I’ve never felt it seep so completely into my (frozen) bones. The others in the office look astounded when I return so soon from my harrowing mission. “That’s a new record!” they exclaim, while relaying the tale of one boy for whom the task took 8 hours. They were actually phoning hospitals to try to locate him. Their surprise, however, slowly turns to panic. You can see it forming in their eyes. “Now what can we make her do?”…
So they give me a story! A real story! To write, all by myself! My boredom evaporates. The only thing that remains is to ask lots of annoying questions to the people around me as I have no idea how to work their computer systems/phones/dictaphones. And so that is exactly what I do until 5.30pm.
Day 2: It is not nervousness that I feel today when my alarm goes off. It is dread. A dread that I cannot shake off. The few hours of nothingness before they gave me yesterday’s story haunt me as I lay in the space somewhere between sleep and waking. What if I experience that adamant office boredom again? What if I drop my coffee on someone’s head today?
I shut myself up and get on the bus. (The later one this time). Jim is waiting to greet me, flapping a piece of paper with today’s vox pops question: ‘Should the Scottish government and local councils be supportive of fracking?’. I head back out into the sub zero Edinburgh temperatures, this time armed with a scarf.
As it turns out, not one single person on the streets of Edinburgh gives a shit about fracking. Or if they do, they certainly don’t want to discuss it with me. It’s been over an hour and I’ve only got 2 responses! I’m on the verge of tears. I call my friend in despair. She is close by… She is with 2 friends… The temptation is too much.
I return to the office where I am given some tasks, which I dutifully complete. And then, into my inbox comes another story! All about hybrid baking as it turns out, and Waitrose Morningside’s new line of ‘yumdoughs’. (That’s right, that is a yum yum and doughnut hybrid, and yes, I also thought they were pretty much the same thing.)
I proceed with my article. Half way in, an Evening News worker approaches. “You’re doing the article on the weird doughnut things, aren’t you?” he says, “Can I just make a quick film of you eating one?”. I pray he’s joking. But he is not.
Flashforward 15 minutes and I find myself, mouth open, doughnut in hand, posing for a photographer who is suggesting some rather unseemly things, such as “bite down on it harder”. They then film me taking a bite, and get me to give my overall opinion on the yumdough, while my mouth is still full of it. Excuse the pun, but I have never felt more as though I was in a porno.
Tomorrow it will be a different kind of nerves. The waking-up-and-praying-there-isn’t-a-picture-of-me-eating-a-doughnut-in-the-local-news kind of nerves. You never know, maybe it’ll be my big break… If it gets me a job, I’ll eat a thousand more yumdoughs. And if this fails, then I can always resort back to the aforementioned plan of becoming a 70 stone Internet model.