When It Matters

Apologies all around for the multi-day hiatus.

Since I work for an online retailer I’ve been working like crazy to ensure that the correct products had the proper marketing copy in place in time for the big sales push – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I’d actually never heard of Cyber Monday until working hear and when I was told about it I thought it was just a bit of branding on my company’s part. From the little news blurb that cycles on my RSS feed rotator widget docked on my Windows Vista Widget Bar, it seems like Cyber Monday is a well-known phrase in the online retailer industry.

So what did that mean for me? Well, let me just say that November was a bad month to shift particular duties to me. With little to no preamble and certainly no training as to workflow or proprietary systems, I was given the job of ensuring that all of the “product tours” were completed in time. As you can imagine, my company gets an overwhelming amount of product that needs some marketing to sell them online. We need someone to write the copy. Unfortunately, we don’t have an in-house writing team to produce that content – at least not stateside. Instead, our writing team is in China. They are not native English speakers.

Let me just say now that I have all the respect in the world for these people. It’s a fantastic accomplishment to speak English in and of itself. I can barely manage to do it myself on a daily basis. It’s quite a heroic feat to communicate in “marketing” English, with its silly little slogans and calls to action. Nevertheless, the Chinese writers rarely get it right 100% on any one product. That means I have to step in and edit. More importantly, since I am a faster writer (for obvious reasons) I pick up the slack when I see we’re not going to meet a deadline. The week leading up to Black Friday I was staying up until after midnight, writing product descriptions at home and uploading them via VPN. Then I would crash for a few hours and get up again at 6 a.m. to be at work by 7 a.m. to repeat the process. You could say I was burning out.

The good news is that I’m getting into the swing of things and I’m feeling comfortable enough with the process and workflow to suggest changes and request personnel in order to streamline the process and increase productivity. I’m just waiting to see what kind of madness ensues for Christmas. Currently, I can feel the fatigue setting into every part of my body. Bags have formed underneath my eyes and getting out of bed requires a Herculean effort. Thank goodness for hour-long lunches or else I don’t know when I’d catch up on my sleep.

On a related note, I’m also feeling a little burned out on the whole entertainment journalist thing too. I’m fighting off the temptation to preface the following sentences with declarations of gratitude for being where I am and blah, blah, blah. The truth is I’ve worked very hard to be where I am and to get to do the things I can. It’s not everyone who can keep these hours, sit in freeway construction traffic at 1 a.m.  and also turn in quality work on top of that. I’m just saying. What I’m not saying is that I’m going to quit. I still think that entertainment journalism is my path to becoming a professional screenwriter. I’m just starting to feel burned out, because I can’t see the progress being made. I’m very goal oriented and it’s difficult for me to keep doing something without understanding how my actions get me closer to the goal.

I think I had the first twinge of this feeling when I was waiting for the 2009 Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards to start. I had covered the event last year and the experience was still very vivid in my mind so it was a good milestone. In one year, I don’t feel like I’ve moved much as a journalist or as an aspiring screenwriter. Of course now that I’m looking back I have to confess that that last sentence is simply an emotional affectation borne from impatience, because I know intellectually that I’ve made progress – especially in the way of industry contacts. It’s just that I’m starting to tangibly feel the shelf life of my dream decreasing with each passing day – I can’t be a forty-year-old aspiring screenwriter, now can I? Well, I suppose I can, but that’s all I’ll be. I feel like I need to make some big moves, but I don’t know how. The prospect of missing my window of opportunity is frightening. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’ll survive doing something, but it won’t be satisfying and I’ll exist in a perpetual state of regret.

So, with my tolerance for physical and mental fatigue at its limit and self-doubt creeping in, a publicist I’m working with put me contact with a new publisher. I don’t think I’m quite ready to discuss this new prospect yet, but let me just say that it looks really good. Well, maybe I’m overstating things here. Things actually look pretty meager, but the potential looks really good. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work. So now I have to summon the strength (from somewhere) to bring my A-game to this new venture.

I guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead.