Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Still Alive...

Have Portal Gun Will Travel
Despite the long break since my last posting, I am still alive. I managed to have a brief reprieve from absolute destitution in the form of a job. I worked for four months as a car salesman for a local car dealership before the franchise was sold to a competitor and I was laid off, having been a recent hire with no established sales track record. It happens, although I wish that I had been able to keep the job a little bit longer, for no other reason than I was finally able to eat regularly. I even went out to eat at The Raleigh Times a few times. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend their burgers, and the Blatherskite Scottish Ale from the Raleigh Brewing Company. It sort of tastes like the perfect blend of Red Stripe and Stella Artois, my two favorite beers. I would say that it has the clean taste of Stella without the astringent quality, and the deep flavor of Red Stripe without the bitter aftertaste.

Now that I'm back to being unemployed, I am largely in the same position as I was during the first five months of the year. I desperately search the online job postings every day in search of some job which would serve my needs, hoping that I get callbacks for the jobs I want, and feel vaguely qualified for, rather than the jobs which I would only accept based on pure desperation for a steady paycheck. And, as before, I don't seem to get called for the good paying office gigs I would like, nor the low paying grocery store/fast food/convenience store jobs which I would take to benefit my survival. With unemployment in the city still hovering around 6-7%, I don't have a lot of expectations that things will improve quickly. And, with the recent government shutdown adding pressure to social safety nets which were already in a precarious state thanks to the inconsistent moral values of our elected "leaders", I am stuck wondering when my hopes for a better future will ever be realized.

Since I still don't have Internet access at my home, during my downtime from connectivity I have been amusing myself with the single player games Portal 1 and 2. If you haven't played them, I highly recommend the games. Basically, the Portal series is a first person puzzle based game where you navigate elaborate test chambers trying to get to an exit using a gun that creates portals on surfaces that you can use to move from point to point. One of the things which strikes me is how well the developers were able to craft a story for the main character, Chell, and the test facility, Aperture Science, using such minimal gameplay and storytelling elements. It is one of the reasons that I've been getting back into the mood to write again, lately. As someone who has never been a big fan of long tedious novels spanning 500+ pages, I like that Valve Software was able to craft a story which elicits an emotional response with such minimalism, and which has gained such a large fan base withing the gaming community. It gives me hope that I could complete a novel with less than 400 pages that might resonate with people on some level. Perhaps my writing will never reach the worldwide popularity of Portal, but it would be nice to have more than a handful of people actually read something which I wrote. Currently, I have around 130 pages written on my most completed novel, with bits and pieces of a ten book series already mapped out.

I have also been considering doing some freelance writing for blogs or news sites. I have tried to contact a few websites, but without an already established portfolio of professional writing online, it has been difficult to break through. I believe I have the talent to succeed as a writer, as I have long read published work from others whom I felt were not as skilled as I; although being able to convince others of this doesn't seem so easy. The main catch, of course, is would I be able to succeed enough to actually eek out a living as a writer? Freelance gigs don't typically pay very well, usually only a hundred dollars at best per article, with typical bounties being more in the $20-50 range. And it could take a year or more for me to make money from a novel, considering time to complete the writing, editing, revising, and then deciding whether to contract with an agent or go the self-publishing route through Amazon. And since I need money now, that seems like more of a longer term pipe dream, even though I have been putting off completing a novel for twenty years. That's the problem with those pipe dreams... they are really easy to keep putting off until later.

I feel like I am grasping at air to figure out what I should do or how I should survive. What makes all of these possibilities even more stressful to choose among is the fact that it is once again Graduate School Application Season, I am still holding on to my dream of getting a PhD and becoming a professor. Unfortunately, without any current income, I cannot afford to pay for the hundreds of dollars I would need to apply to several programs in the hopes of gaining an acceptance. So, in a way, I suppose that realization should make things a bit easier for me. Graduate school is the one choice I cannot make right now. Once again, having a dream is a luxury which I cannot afford to have.

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