I was laid off on a Wednesday.  The next day, I woke up at my usual hour which, quite frankly, would have gotten me to work ten minutes late.  I savored the quiet luxury of laying awake in bed with my thoughts.  Downstairs, the coffee maker began to whisper sweet promises and inspired me to stir myself.

The day stretched in front of me blank and white like an empty field full of freshly fallen snow.  When I looked out the window, everything really was covered with snow.  The as-yet unshoveled sidewalks, the angled rooftops of neighboring houses and each individual bare branch of every tree that I could see, to the very smallest capillary branches which looked more like thin pencil lines drawn in the sky.  Everything was draped in a thick down comforter of snowfall.  It was the perfect day to be unemployed.

Written in my planner for that evening, though, was a free screenplay class.  I was tempted to skip it and spend my day writing.  And by writing, I meant commenting on friends’ Facebook status updates.  But then Serendipity reared its pretty head and shook me gently.  In my email was an announcement for a year-long writing fellowship.  To apply, I had to submit an original script for a 30 minute comedy.  Really?  The coincidence would be unbelievable if this were a movie.  Since I had decided to listen to what the world told me to do, and the world wasn’t being very subtle, I knew I had to attend the class and write the script utilizing what I would learn from that one hour of education.

Outside, giant snow bunnies fell from the sky and collected into Wouldn’t You Rather Stay In? piles.

“Yes,” I told them.  “I would much rather stay in.  But a lifetime of speaking to imaginary weather condition friends stretches before me if I do that.  So I’m sorry, floofy bunnies, but I’m going.”

I nodded decisively and climbed out of the couch which clung to me like a needy lover.  I shook it off and cooed “I’ll be back, baby.”  Thank goodness I was leaving the house.

The screenwriting class was amazing.  (Michael Eldridge, Gotham Writers Workshop)  So amazing that it made writing my first script within 2 days to meet the fellowship deadline seem possible.  I engaged in 14-hour writing sessions all weekend long.  By the end of it, I smelled like ink and bourbon, but I met the deadline.  The Chan Plan was underway.


What’s the Plan, Chan?

A full 45 minutes after my latest layoff, I am running through a list of options with The Scientist.

“I should find a job right away.  Any job.”

“No wait, I should find two jobs right away.  Have a backup.  I should work two jobs and make up for losing two jobs!”

“I should go back to school and make my parents happy.”

“I should make a list of everything I have ever done wrong so that I never ever repeat my mistakes!!”

Ok, stop.  The Scientist hands me a glass of wine and reminds me gently to take some time for myself.  “Every sentence about your future begins with the words ‘I should,” she says.  “This is your life.  Nobody is making you do anything.  So what do you want to do?”

Well that’s a new one.  I have never thought about my career in terms of what I want to do.  I’ve just been good at whatever job I’ve fallen into.  Work is work and that is why people are paid for it.  My life outside of work is for the things I want to do.  The hours of writing before, after and during the lunch break of my work day are repaid many times over with the joy of expressing emotions and thoughts that heretofore had no voice.  The pinpricks and back pains from nights bent over a mobile I was sewing or a pop-up book I was constructing disappear in the satisfaction of each completed project.  The memories of creations past float through my mind like a personal art parade.  I devote time and energy to all those things without being asked or told or paid.

“Work does not have to be just work.  People find ways of working within what they love.”  The Scientist pours me another glass of wine as I let her point sink in.  I decide to find a way to make a living doing what I love.  Not because I should, but because I finally realize the possibilities open to me.  I thoughtfully take a sip (ok fine, a gulp) and begin to plan.

The Plan

Since the world has been kicking me in the balls this past year, the plan is based on letting it tell me what I should do.  I will simply work hard and remain open to the possibilities.

1. Write in every style, genre and format possible, no matter how unfamiliar.

2. Submit my writing to every contest, website and publication that will have me.

3. Continue creating and volunteering to work on art projects.

4. Apply to any and all jobs which could lead to the ultimate goal of Doing What I Love (DWIL).

5. Research university programs which could lead to the ultimate goal of DWIL’ing.

6. Create acronyms and instantly use them as different parts of speech.

Ok, I’m kidding about the last one.  I can’t help myself.  But you know me and you know that and that’s really why you’re here anyway.  None of that deep soul-searching crap.

My plan involves a lot, and it already has me working very hard.  But I figure if I’m pushing towards a life that I want then it behooves me to push with everything I’ve got.  I’m just glad I have good company.  Yes, this means you.  Don’t be coy.

Coming up: The Script-tease Club (not as sexy as it sounds) and Of Pride and Prejudice and Porn (an obvious rip-off of the popular zombie book by a hopefully non-litigious author).

Dr. Strangeblog or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Be a Bum

Well ok, not really a bum.  I have been busier during my unemployment than before.  That is one of the main reasons for this blog.  I am taking on so many new and exciting projects about which I want to tell my friends!  However, said projects have completely consumed the time I need in order to tell my friends.  To quote Alanis, ironic (can I still use that reference in this century?).

Chances are, you’re here because you know me and received my shameless self-plug (that sounds wrong but you know what I mean so stop thinking something else, pervert).  Great!  Advertising works.  I am planning to update this blog regularly with Shirley-news to provide a hub for information.  As adorable as all the recent Wu-Tang Chan (sic) status updates have been, Facebook simply does not suffice.

Call it egotistical (what blog isn’t?), lazy (how dare I try to avoid telling the same stories over and over again?) and a thinly veiled attempt to become the next blog-to-published-novel success story (is it working?).  I fully agree.  I also think that the time I get to see my friends is better used actually interacting instead of running through a laundry list of what I’ve been up to.  Hope you enjoy.  The first fix is free.  If you get hooked, I’ll make you pay through the nose.