Monday, January 24, 2011

Fiction 101: Revising Your Resume

I have already adumbrated the pitfalls of fiction writing as the primary means of reinventing oneself as a self-respecting and productive ne'er-do-well in the post- or inter-employment daily routine. Why anyone might choose the well documented psychic perils of the blank page or the open and unsullied Word.doc is beyond my most febrile speculation. The tribulations of the novelist or the writer of short stories are made palpable in their portraits - a few years of willful and deliberate fiction writing and you will inevitably look like this:
Kilgore Trout

Even poetry can turn you into this:

A Pound of flesh

The perils of fiction writing are, like the alleged consequences of self-abuse, never to be trifled with. It's not something you can practice only to the point of needing spectacles. It alters the practitioner's behavior in unpredictable and often unattractive ways as well:
"Pray God, I shall never remarry, sir."

Or like this:
In Cold Blood, or a Dewey Young Truman

Strange then that I should turn my thoughts to job-seeking, knowing as I do that this will require revisions to my resume. And knowing further as I do that revising one's resume must lead to fiction writing as surely as the day must the night or as sex (in the Baptist catechism) must to dancing. Revising a resume is just another way to dirty dance, it invites the sinner to transgress in an equal degree and severity. Still, as Cheever probably said to Updike or Updike to Cheever, one must do what one must do. Or vice versa.

I was apprised, by a friend or enabler or accomplice, of a position with an influential policy nonprofit in a capacity tangentially related to my previous career track (here "tangentially related" means the same as "the free association of any two vastly distinct ideas"). So it was that, as some Victorian journalist or penny dreadful writer must have said of Dr. Crippen, naught could stay his hand. Out came the resume, a few modest edits seemed in order, a nip here and a tuck there, and then the serious work of novel phrase-making commenced.

The way it's done most simply (I feel as though I'm posting instructions for making a simple fertilizer bomb on a clandestine website) is to copy and paste the fine points of the job description for easy reference, go into a dark, quiet room and think of anything you might have ever heard about or imagined doing - or even just imagined - that might fill the bill. Admittedly that is a very general account of the technique. And I am not entirely sanguine about my prospects. For example, when the job description asks for "sound judgment and instincts, good analytical, conceptual and strategic thinking skills, the ability to develop and manage projects independently, the ability to adapt and respond quickly to change," I'm assured by those who know that "no problem" is no more an appropriate answer, even in casual conversation with an interviewer, than is "depends what you mean by 'thinking'." 

My guess is that when this is all over, I'll still be retired but you'll no longer recognize me on account of this foray into fictional prose. I will have aged as badly as Kilgore Trout, my health will be shattered, I'll be stalking the neighbors' pets, collecting coupons and dressing exclusively from the Cabela catalog.

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