• What Keeps You Awake at Night

    Posted Posted by Mike Britt in WBN News & Events     Comments 6 comments

    (Editor’s Note: Here is the final entry in Mike Britt’s three-part series on trying to find a job with an M.F.A. in Writing. Read Parts One and Two. And check back next week, because he might just keep writing this shit for us. DD)



    I wanted to write to tell you that we have offered the Web Content Editor position and it was accepted. I was very glad to meet you and would like to keep you on file for other positions as they arise here at M— C—. Best of luck in your job search.


    There it is; short, sweet and to the point. I considered drawing this post out with more descriptions of follow-up emails, ass-kissing and then at the end dropping it on you that I hadn’t gotten the job, but I just don’t have it in me anymore. I don’t understand why they didn’t just write, “Dear Michael, Suck it!” It would have communicated the point faster, and I would have been forced to respect the brevity. Instead all this email accomplished was to tell me to fuck off and force me to respond with another simpering, “Oh I also appreciated meeting you, yes, please, oh please think of me in the future for other opportunities that don’t interest me and have nothing to do with my skills or education.”

    I’m just happy it’s over. I applied for this job the first week of January and I just got this email last week. That’s a long time to wait and wonder.

    I could have used that time to write, but I can’t write.

    I can’t write because I’m preoccupied with trying to find a job. Every time I sit down at my computer to write something–a few lines I thought of as I was falling asleep, something I’d seen that I thought might be a nice moment in a short story–all I can think of is how I need a job, and then, then I’ll write. But I probably won’t write then either. I look back at the two years I was in my M.F.A. program and I could pound out a 20-page short story once a week, and now I don’t even have an idea.

    What keeps me awake at night is the story. Everyone has one great story in them, but what is it? How do you come to it? Here are some ideas I’ve had, and the reasons I’ve discarded them:

    1) Alcohol

    It helps, sure, but the amount of editing you have to do after the fact just ruins the whole ebb and flow of intoxicated writing.

    2) Pot

    Always an option, but then you get hungry and totally forget you were even writing as you make a Magic Bullet 10-second chicken quesadilla and press play-all on the disc of Delocated. By the time you get back to your computer all you’ve written is, “Did you know Clint Eastwood is an anagram for Old West Action?” That’s not a story and never will be.

    3) Methamphetamines

    I read that Bret Easton Ellis wrote Less Than Zero over Christmas break his junior year of college on a meth binge, but I live in upstate New York. I’ve seen the people who gravitate toward meth and they are not the most creative people I know. Almost any night of the week you can go down to the bar and see them smiling their baked bean teeth smile at nothing in particular. I ran into a guy who was a year behind me in high school: his hair had turned gray, his lips were cracked like Tom Hanks in Joe vs. the Volcano and his skin was bee’s wax yellow. He asked what I’d been up to while looking furtively over each of my shoulders. I told him, “Nothing much.” To which he nodded and then walked off to grab his girlfriend by the ponytail for some reason which never became clear to me. Yeah I don’t think that’s my ticket to the muse.

    4) Cocaine

    Is too expensive to waste sitting home alone.

    I guess I could be sober to write, but that doesn’t really fit the Hemingwayesque writing life I’ve imagined for myself.

    Any book you read or class you take about writing, the author/teacher will tell you, “Write every day.” They tell you to make a schedule and write for a set amount of time; make it your job to write. That might work for some people but not for me. I have to wait for something to tickle at the back of my mind until it has to come out. And even then most of the time it peters out after the first paragraph or two. They will also tell you to write outlines, work out of the movements of the piece before you start writing. But I like to be surprised where my characters take me; I’m always waiting to see what is going to happen next. Maybe mystery writing is the way to go? You know, start at the end and work backward. It turns out the guy with the mustache did it.

    It’s funny: everyone I’ve told about not getting the job immediately asked me “Who got it?” I don’t know who got the job. Why would I know? How could I know? Shit, if I knew I’d be leaving dog turds in his mailbox just to make myself feel better. But I do like to imagine this person walking into the place and all the people I’d solicited to put in a good word for me giving them the evil eye. I can’t wait to read the next catalog and criticize every product description.

    The thing that really hurt is when I had to tell my 91-year-old grandmother that I didn’t get the job, and she said, “I’ll keep praying for you.”

    And all I wanted to tell her is not to waste her breath. I’m only qualified to wait tables, and I couldn’t even get Applebee’s to call me for an interview.


    Mike Britt is a writer and aspiring villain. He is a master of Krav Maga, diabolical plots and loves turtlenecks. Follow his twitter feed @TheNathanFiles for updates on his plans for world domination.

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    6 Comments to “What Keeps You Awake at Night”

    • Brother, I know the feeling. Nothing worse than having your time wasted by the endless pursuit of an ongoing source of paychecks. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that the best writers survived struggles of their own. I highly doubt I will ever be one of these alleged “best writers”. I just have some stories I want to get down on paper that I think other people might find interesting.

      As for the endless wait, I got a reply the other day from a company I sent a resume to 8 months ago. Seriously?

      On the bright side, this was a great post and decreases my urge to slam my head into the wall for the remainder of my morning. Knowing that other writers (and far more qualified ones at that) are experiencing the same difficulties I am. Not that that’s any comfort to you. Sorry.

    • Who has time to write when you’re looking for a job?

      Who has time to write when you have a job?

      It might help to ingest nos. 1-4 at the same time and see if anything comes out. On the computer, I mean. Because obviously, vomit, blood, et cetera will come out.

    • Two things:

      1. 3-Day Novel Contest
      2. Male stripper

      All your problems will be solved. Especially if you keep the eye patch on while stripping. Trust me.

    • A neighbor of mine commented the other day that a bachelor’s degree is no longer “good enough” to compete in the job market. A master’s degree, he said, is the necessary level of attainment, as a bachelor’s degree used to be, for securing job opportunities. (This asshole neighbor of mine has an MBA and I quietly, secretly hate his effing guts, as I blame MBA’s for all our manifold societal woes.)

      My take on this claim for the need for ever higher educational achievement–including the vaunted MFA–is that we’ve become credentials crazy. Especially writers.

      To “become” a writer–a lameass idea to begin with–you have to, first, rack up 30K worth of education loans. (Really? Becoming a writer is that cheap?) And then you “market” yourself to the ivory tower crowd, applying for fellowships, which, once awarded, allow you to publish your work almost exclusively to other “fellows.” (I’d rather have a fucking railroad spike through my head.) Yes, MFA programs fill seats to bolster revenue and the self-serving profiles of the institutions they represent. But, as you seem to understand, that has nothing to do whatsoever with 1) becoming a writer or 2) finding a career path. (Those two ideas, I’ve found, never intersect or mesh, unless you’re willing to sell a body part or your mortal soul.)

      The drug-induced approach to becoming a writer, though–now that has promise. First, let the drugs and alcohol utterly destroy you. (Just forget about writing for a while, and give yourself over to unhinged substance abuse.) Then, once utterly destroyed, ressurect yourself from the ashes of addiction by making a public proclamation of your rehabilitated status. Trust me, becoming a writer at that point is a cinch. Everybody will love you, whether you write like a dipshit MFA or not, because you’ve gone through the crucible and paid your dues. Shortly after your spiritual renewal, Oprah’s staff calls, of course, and you’re well on your way to becoming a writer.

    • […] Leah Kaminsky writes a three-part series on what to do after you get that seemingly-useless MFA in writing; Mike Britt offers his own amusing three-part response. […]

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