My Upcoming Job Interview

June 3, 2019

Hey, guys, I’m going on a job interview soon, so would you wish me luck?

If you’re imaging a typical scenario, you’re probably visualizing me walking into a conference room and delivering friendly but firm handshakes as I pass around hard copies of my resume. Next comes my pitch to convince the assembled suits that I can do the job they need to fill. Then I go home and await their judgment. If all goes well, I’ll eventually be shown to my new office, where I’ll begin the work I’ve been assigned.

Except that it doesn’t work that way for me.

Here’s the thing about us creative types: We do the work before applying for the job.

We sit at our computers, or stand at our easels, or strap on our guitars, and write the novel/paint the picture/compose the song that give our souls no rest until we bring them to life. We have no delusions of grandeur. In fact, we’re probably more critical of ourselves than anyone else on earth. Deep down, we fear we’re hacks. Oh, we may allow ourselves the occasional luxury of imagining our witty repartee on the talk-show circuit once we’ve won worldwide acclaim, but this is mainly a coping tool, a carrot, if you will, to justify an outsized investment in what we secretly fear will be a futile effort, or worse, a dismal, even laughable, failure. We’re fated to keep slogging away whether we’re any good or not . . . and we’re pretty sure we’re not. Our inner muse doesn’t care how, or even if, our art will be received by the world at large. She (mine’s a she) just bugs the hell out of us until we produce.

So we dream up a plot, a setting, a protagonist, a supporting cast of characters, a story arc, a conflict and a resolution, then hammer away on our keyboard for a year or so. Even when we despise what we’re doing (and we often do), we are slaves to our muse, obediently returning to our keyboard day after day because, well, we never feel more alive than when our fingers are flying seemingly of their own accord.

Anyhoo, it’s only after that tsunami of effort that we’re in a position to be interviewed for the job. That’s when our quintuple-proofed manuscript is pried from our trembling hands and tossed into cyberspace. Off it goes to an agent (if we’re lucky enough to have one) or the slush pile of a publishing house (if we’re not), where we await an objective assessment of the project that has consumed our lives, our dreams and our psyches for months upon months. Anyone with even a glancing familiarity with the arts knows the rest of the story: The odds of success are staggeringly low.

I share these fun facts now because I’m trepidatiously anticipating (well, dreading) my next “job interview.” It will soon be time to loosen my death grip on my latest manuscript, entrusting it to the person with the power to green-light it . . . or not.

Let me hasten to add here that I’ve been bountifully blessed throughout my career with some of the most skilled and caring people in the publishing business. I never, ever, ever take that for granted.

But that’s not true for other writers/artists/composers/etc., many of whom are undoubtedly more talented than I. Yet the process is just the same for all of us. We pour our hearts and souls onto the page or the canvas not because we can do it, but because we can’t not do it.

And to those who never land a contract, I say: job well done. You pursued your art with no promise that the world, or even a tiny sliver of it, would reward your efforts. To choose otherwise would be as tragic as forgoing exercise unless an Olympic medal loomed in your future. Art lives in the moment, and it defies judgment. It isn’t intended to answer that most banal of interview questions, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” It’s intended to nourish your soul now.

What better use of your time could there be?

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