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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

I used to have a real job once.



For marketing purposes, I’m supposed to be working on my blog – Following the Muse (http://peterdamienmurphy.blogspot.pt/) – but the damn thing has gotten so far ahead of me that I am wandering around in a bit of a daze.

Having recently moved to Lisbon, I have become a bit absorbed in the new life all around me. I’m in “input mood,” I keep reminding myself as each gloriously sunny day fades into another cool, pearly evening.

But I did manage to get back to working on the next novel and it is a struggle. Novels are like lovers in that you are rarely in the mood at the same time and when you are ready, your novel crosses its legs and sulks. At least mine do!

I’m less concerned about that these days and while it might be the effect of the aforementioned glorious sun, or the cool, pearly evenings, or the fact that life in Lisbon has not yet been totally trampled underfoot by what often gets confused with progress, I prefer to think of my work as fruit. It will ripen when the time is right.

Some of my readers will agree and think of lemons—and to them I say: life is grand.
Thinking like this is an adjustment because I once held jobs in the regular sense of the word and I was even good at some of them. I was very focused on things like timelines and deliverables. I understood that in the great clock-likeness of the modern enterprise, each little cog had to play its part; on time and on budget. It became a bit of an obsession with me and I suffered interruption with the grace of a disturbed hippo—particularly when the time wasting came from above.

I masked my disdain with a kind of strained stoicism as some director waffled on about synergies and scalabilities and all the other words they had recently stumbled upon while reading an in-flight magazine. You know the type. They wear their company IDs to the washroom and I can only assume that it is a precaution. If the better parts of their brains fall out, they can still remember their primary purpose which is to assert their importance by interrupting the progress of those they bore for hours with pep-talks about improving productivity and importance of individual accountability in the grand scheme.

Over time my strained stoicism wore thin and I began to garner a reputation for “being a bit abrasive.”

Given what was really going through my mind, I think I should have been awarded medals for tact and diplomacy.

I once worked with a guy who regularly fell asleep at his desk and could be relied upon for nothing—except his uncanny skill at ass kissing. He could do it in his sleep. Naturally he was promoted beyond all usefulness while the rest of us struggled on in relative anonymity. For the most part I kept my comments to a bare minimum—acerbic as they were—and instead just hung signs on his desk!

I was thinking about this the last few afternoons which have been a bit on the hot side -- 35+ which is beyond my operating range. As I sat staring at the end of chapter 3, wondering which of the next story lines to go with, my head would start to nod. No amount of coffee could forestall the inevitable and I gave in and took naps.

There was a time when I would have scolded myself for that and imposed new and stricter deadlines to compensate. Now, not so much. You see all those jobs; carrying bricks up rickety scaffolds, digging holes like redemption was underground, dusting ballot boxes in a government basement, writing yards of computer code, taught me a great many things that have become so much clearer in the rear-view mirror. I now know myself and I know that I know how to get things done.

I should also admit that as I get older, I have become a little more indulgent with myself. I have come to the realisation that “I’m not the worst of them” and that some of the stuff I write—albeit overlooked by the shallow masses—has merit.

Writing books I have become to realise is less about one critical path and more about meandering through myriad possibilities. It is a bit like how we used to learn things before we got packed off to school; we played until we knew.

Fortunately, I work for myself these days as such thinking would be heresy to the bottom-line crowd and their synergies and scalabilities and all the other words they use to mask the sad fact that so very few of us really have any idea what we are doing. I certainly don’t, but that might yet turn out to be my greatest asset.


Anyway, enough chit-chat, time to get back to staring at the computer screen.