Writing, Getting Fired and Resume-Building


“I would be lying of course if I didn’t admit I fell harder than I initially may have thought. The days and weeks following my firing were the first time I admitted to myself that instead of building a Blakeian ladder to the moon that could hold my weight, maybe I have been building one bound to collapse, constructed from toothpicks all along. When I build again I want it to be with real wood and nails, and maybe propped this time against a new and different moon.”

Rumpus contributor Nell Boeschenstein has a lovely essay at The Millions about writing, day jobs, getting fired and the eternal disparity between salable skills and authentic interests.

I have yet to get fired, despite having had close to two dozen jobs, and the only reason I haven’t is that I always quit before the axe fell.

Which was probably stupid on my part, a move dictated by pride, by the fear of failure even in the face of failure’s obvious tyranny, or by lingering parental indoctrinations that I figured I’d have worked through by now.  I have, however quit in ways that guaranteed my employers were cursing my name for months afterward to the point that, running into a former boss years later at an airport in New York all he could do was murder me with his eyes from a safe distance while I pretended not to notice him.

But now I think of all the places I would have loved to have been fired from and topping this list is a failing brokerage firm I did admin work at six years ago, in which I had to answer a phone in an asylum-white room entirely cut off from any other human being, and an environmental construction company I also did secretarial work at while swiping away the rad turds on my keyboard.  In hindsight those egregious positions provided moments of high comedy as well as episodes of the darkest philosophical slapstick.

I think the great adventure of writing hinges on all the time when you’re not writing but probably wish you were.  And at the very least day jobs can provide excellent material, notwithstanding a terrible writing teacher I once had who told us to never, ever write about our jobs.

Needless to say I quickly dropped out of that class.

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →