At The Office: Muzak

Okay, I know I was writing weekly office posts, but man, not enough happens for that to be a thing. So now they’re just random At The Office posts.

Everybody knows about muzak, right? It’s that weird pseudo jazz music that’s also called “elevator music”. The word comes from a company that was called Muzak whose name came to stand in for all such musical stylings. Except that they never actually made music for elevators. So perhaps that’s why I have NEVER heard music of ANY kind in ANY elevator EVER.

Maybe I’m just not in the right kind of elevator? What elevator do I need to ride to experience elevator music? I don’t know.

What I do know is where I have heard muzak, often and for long periods of time.

While I have occasionally heard it in retail stores, most of the places I find myself in these days play some kind of radio.

However, I recently encountered the more common location of muzak: being on hold.

The printer I always use at the office ran out of ink. Instead of putting more in ourselves, we have to call the printer people and have them send out an ink changing dude to do it for us. I can only assume this is because changing the ink in those printers is impossible without the correct training and/or tools.

So I called the number. And I got to listen to muzak. For twelve minutes.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the recorded lady voice didn’t keep coming on to say ALL REPRESENTATIVES ARE CURRENTLY BUSY PLEASE STAY ON THE LINE FOR THE NEXT AVAILABLE REPRESENTATIVE. Every time the muzak cut out to deliver this message, I got excited because I thought someone was finally answering my call. It took at least five minutes of this message happening every thirty seconds for me to stop getting excited.

What I’d really like to know is whyyyyyy??

I don’t understand the reasoning behind the horror that is hold music (this is the only exception).

I think it’s some kind of creepy, subliminal reason. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that people buy more stuff when listening to music of some kind. Mostly I just want to hang up the phone to spare myself the continued agony.

Unfortunately, I had to stay on the line because we print stuff all day every day and we need that sweet sweet toner. (I don’t know why they call it toner instead of ink. It’s another thing I could Google if I cared at all. But I don’t. So I won’t.)

I think I’ll try to take the elevator as often as possible and maybe one day I’ll find one that plays muzak. However, if I go to my grave having never experienced elevator music, I will neither care nor be surprised.

I Am Not Tolkien

Anyone who knows me can tell you how Tolkien obsessed I am. I know all the weird little details. I get annoyed by inaccurate Tolkien memes. I have read the books and seen the movies multiple times.

However, when it comes to writing, I avoid Tolkien like the plague.

Lemme explain.

Tolkien was a linguist and a historian. He was an academic. This is why he was able to create his own languages, his own detailed world history, even his own religious mythos. He was already an expert in these areas.

I’ve seen a lot of memes that poke fun at Tolkien for starting his story by creating an entire language for his elves. (By the way, there are fifteen elven languages and dialects. The language of the dwarves was based on Old Norse and for men I think it was Old English, so not entirely made up, but still requiring years of previous study.)

So now fantasy writers feel like they have to do all that junk and that’s why we end up with fantasy stories that are all based in a made-up-but-medieval setting with fake words and usually at least one of the fantasy races (i.e. elves, dwarves, hobbits, etc.).

It actually really irritates me when people do this. Lemme tell y’all a secret… you do NOT have to create a new language in order to write a believable fantasy setting. In fact, you probably shouldn’t do that unless you, like Tolkien, are a linguist and have intensely studied how languages work. There are many ways of indicating language without actually writing the language. (Names of countries and such like are obviously the only exception.)

I would continue to argue against elaborate languages by saying that it pulls readers out of the story and mostly annoys them. Think about it. What do you, as a reader, do when you come across a word or name that you can’t pronounce? You skip it. You don’t try to sound it out in your head. You just skip right over it.

History is a little different in that I don’t believe you need to be a historian to create a backstory for your world. However, I do think that instead of actually trying to do this, people just go with the Tolkien Template. Medieval-era swords & sorcery, a past struggle against the Darkness, and general animosity between obvious races (i.e. elves & dwarves).

Anyway, my point here is that I found it very intriguing that I’m such a huge Tolkien fan, but when it comes to my writing, I tend to do nothing the way he did. There is no doubt that everything I’ve ever read, seen, or done subconsciously influences what I write. So Tolkien may be lurking in my writing without my knowledge. But I am not Tolkien. I do not try to write like him.

Which I suppose is not all that unusual, when I take a moment to think about it. The truth is that I am not any of the writers that I read and admire. When I sit down to that blank screen, all those writers and their works may be behind me. They may be the foundation from which I built my understanding of the craft. But in the end, the words that I put together to create stories are my own. When I write, I try to write like me.

Body Positivity: Truth, Fear, & Judgment

I’ve written about being fat before. I was angry because I had only just learned that I don’t have to hate myself or my body for being fat. I was angry because I felt like the world had been feeding me lies for my entire life.

I’m still a little angry, but not as angry as I was. I want to talk about how body image is more than just “love your flaws”.

Here’s a question: why does it matter what our bodies look like? What is the function of our bodies? Our bodies do not exist for the viewing pleasure of other people. That is not why we have bodies. We have bodies because we need something to hold our souls and our minds. We need a vehicle to move through this world in. We don’t have bodies so they can look nice for people. I really think if that was the case, we would’ve been created with eyestalks so that we could look at ourselves easier. (Not that I think snails or crabs have eyestalks for this reason, but you get my drift.)

Here is something else: it is not easy to start loving something you have been taught to hate. You don’t just wake up one morning and say, “You know what? I love my fat! I love my acne! I love my crooked nose!” It doesn’t work like that. You have to be honest with yourself. These things are so ingrained in us, I think most of us don’t realize we’re even doing it.

The first step is realizing that you don’t have to hate your body. The first step is to realize that your body was designed to take care of you. And everything it does, it’s doing it because it’s trying to keep you alive. That’s what our bodies were made to do. They have programming left over from when food was hard to come by. Nowadays, food is everywhere if you live in America. But our bodies are still afraid of famine, so they hold onto it, just in case. They’re trying to protect us.

The second step is doing all those things that you’re afraid of. This goes for more than just body image, of course. If you don’t like the way you look in shorts, wear shorts. Wear the hell out of those shorts. And when it doesn’t kill you, when it actually makes you feel more comfortable in hot weather, when it makes you feel free, then you will have the confidence to do it again. You can’t build confidence by doing nothing or just by thinking about it. You have to do the thing you fear.

The third step is to stop judging. I see a lot of “who cares what other people think!” type of stuff and while that’s really a great sentiment, let’s be real. We obviously care. If we didn’t, it wouldn’t be an issue. The real problem is that other people are making judgments about you and most of the time, they are uninformed. Most of the time, they don’t even know your name. They look at you and they judge you based on appearance alone. And usually, their judgments come from a place of shame and fear.

So start with you. Don’t judge people. Easier said than done, right? We judge people instantly and this, too, is left over from our bodies not keeping up with our changing world. We’re made to do this kind of thing in order to survive. But you have to train yourself to stop. Because guess what? That fat girl standing a couple feet from you is not a threat. You don’t need to protect yourself from her, so there’s no reason to judge her at all.

I’ve been trying really hard to do this in many ways. I used to judge myself by saying, “Why can’t I do *this thing*? Everybody else has no problem doing *this thing*!” And then I’d stop and say, “Wait. How do I know that? Do I know everybody else? Do I know anything about how everybody else handles *this thing*? No.” Another situation I’ve been doing this with is in the car. When someone does something stupid, my instant reaction is, “Idiot! What a jerk!!” Then I stop and say, “Wait. I’ve done that totally by accident. That person probably didn’t mean to do it.”

Everybody makes mistakes. Ain’t nobody perfect. And I’m dang grateful for that ’cause how booooooring would we all be if we all had the same perfect bodies and lived the same perfect lives. SNORE.

In summary, your body is trying to keep you alive, do the things you fear, and stop judging peeps. Loving yourself is not easy. It’s not going to just click one day and then BAM SELF LOVE ALL OVER DA PLACE. It’s a journey. Just like everything else in life. So I’m gonna leave you with my favorite quote ever, from my favorite haiku poet:

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Matsuo Basho

Also here are some amazing body image related Ted Talks:

This Week At the Office: The Frigid North and Tiny Earthquakes

Let me begin by saying my lanyard is officially broken. You can read all about that in one of my previous posts. My last attempt to keep it together lasted for two weeks, which isn’t horrible, but isn’t good, either.

Now, here’s the weird part. I found another lanyard that I’ve never used in the backseat of my car. You see, my car happens to have been recalled by Nissan due to dangerous airbags that basically shoot shrapnel into you when they expand. So I had to take my car to the Nissan dealer to get them replaced. I wasn’t sure if it was going to take an hour or a couple days or a few weeks, so I decided to at least get all the trash out of my car, in case they needed to keep it for a bit. Turns out it took about an hour. But at least my car is somewhat clean and if I hadn’t done that, I never would have found this other lanyard!

The Rule at the Office is that you must be wearing your badge around your neck. This is why the lanyard is so important. If left to my own devices, I would just clip my badge reel on my pocket, like I used to do when I worked for the Post Office.

Today’s title is brought to you by Air Conditioning and Construction.

I have no explanation for why it feels like the Frigid North in this place. I’m always cold here, so I keep a blanket in my cubicle. I use it on my lap daily. However, the last couple of days have been freeeeeezing. I spent most of this morning with the blanket over my shoulders and wrapped around me. It’s a little bit better this afternoon, but still way too cold.

The rest of today’s title is brought to you by Construction.

They are building a parking structure across the street. It has at least one lower floor, but it feels more like fifty lower floors. I don’t know how exactly they’re drilling or whatever, but it rattles our entire building. Every few minutes, it’s like I’m getting a mini massage. And all the tchotchkes on my computer tower move just a little bit each time. The shaking has been likened to small earthquakes.

When I was around seven, I was in a major earthquake. We lived in Southern California, so it’s not like it was surprising. In L.A., where the earthquake hit, freeways were broken in half, buildings were falling down, and people were suffering from general mayhem. Where we were, which was much farther from the epicenter, a couple plates fell over and all the water splashed out of our pool, but we were unhurt and our house didn’t fall apart. It happened in the middle of the night. I would have slept through it, but my mom actually came up the stairs to get me because she was afraid the top floor would fall. All the power went out, so we listened to a battery powered radio for news.

The power came back on and we all went to school and work as usual. And there were about abijillion aftershocks. SO MANY. They happened at home, at school, in the car, on the toilet, and I’m not even joking. You just never knew when one would rumble through.

Earthquakes are less like everything is shaking due to nearby jackhammering and more like the ground has suddenly decided it wants to be like the ocean. There are waves.

However, this feels more like the aftershocks because they’re small and random.

In conclusion, I wish someone would turn down the a/c.

Embrace the Audiobooks, Friends

Since absolutely nothing of interest happened At The Office this week, I decided I’m going to write about audiobooks instead. It’s related because I listen to them… at the office.

I happen to be blessed with a job that is mostly mindless. Since that is the case, I get to listen to stuff while I work. Sometimes I listen to music, but mostly I listen to audiobooks. Do you have any idea how many audiobooks I go through in a month? My best guess is an average of five.

As a Book Person, this fills me with joy.

I also listen to audiobooks when I’m crocheting. I listened to the Complete Sherlock Holmes while crocheting various things. It was like 58 hours and some change. Read by Simon Vance, who is one of my favorite audiobook narrators.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks at work for about six years. I’ve had this job for five years, but before that, I had a job where I could listen to audiobooks, too.

It used to be, back when I first started listening, that people would consider listening to an audiobook “cheating”. I was always cautious about telling other book people that I had listened to the audiobook of whatever book we were talking about. They either didn’t care or they considered it cheating. I would say that it is likely these people never actually listened to an audiobook. If they had, they would know there is no cheating involved. My mind is just as active, just as engaged with the story, sometimes even more so. When I read, I live the story. I see the settings and the characters. The same thing happens when I listen to an audiobook. So as far as I’m concerned, if you listened to the audiobook version of the latest bestseller, you have still read the book. It’s the same story, just received differently.

Nowadays, people don’t say that as much. At least not to me and not lately. So I’ve become less cautious about it. I think this is because online streaming has made audiobooks more accessible. You no longer have to carry around a million cassette tapes or a thousand CDs. All you need is your phone. Or a web browser.

I would actually describe myself as a poly-book-formatist. Yeah, okay, I obviously made that up, but what I’m trying to say is that I don’t limit myself to any one format. I listen to audiobooks, I buy books on my Kindle, and I have at least a couple hundred paper books on my shelves at home. I love them all.

I would recommend audiobooks to anybody. Since I get to listen to so many, it really helps me keep my love of reading and books alive while still working a full-time job. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me want to scream in frustration, just like all books do.

“But wait,” I hear you saying. “If you’re such a book person, why don’t you just read more?”

If you were real, I would slap you. Fool!

I work eight hours a day. When I get home, I write. Haven’t you been reading this blog at all?? I’m a writer! I can’t write and work at the same time! I only get to write at work when I have no work to do. That happens sometimes, but not very often.

The thing is, I do read at home. I read all the books I have that aren’t in audio format. It takes me a lot longer because I don’t get to read for four hours. At work, I get to listen to about four hours of audio each day between answering phone calls and sending out faxes. At home, I get maybe a half an hour – an hour tops – unless it’s the weekend.

This is because I write. I’m working on my dang novel, yo. The thing about writing while also having a full-time job is that it doesn’t leave you very much time to read. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to work on my story. I’m just dang lucky that I can use audiobooks to offset that a little bit.

In conclusion, I love audiobooks, I recommend them to one and all, and if anybody says it’s cheating, I will be sure to inform them that they are wrong.

What My Novel Is About

There is a question that I get asked every time someone is told that I’m writing a novel. It is always, “What’s your novel about?”

I used to have very strong feelings about this question. Basically, I hated it.

I have been working on a novel of some kind since I was fourteen. I’m going to be thirty-two in a couple weeks. For a large chunk of that time, I suffered from social phobia. It was a dark, horrible place. Talking to people at all was a struggle, let alone trying to answer that question of horror.

The reality is that novels are complex beasts and since I’m always in process and never finished, it’s actually really difficult for me to summarize what I’m working on.

This is probably different for every writer, but for me, it’s practically impossible to tell you what my novel is about. It’s not because I don’t want to share it with you. It’s because I don’t actually know.

The trick is usually trying to figure out if the person I’m talking to is someone I can trust with the information that I don’t know what my own novel is about.

When I was young and terrified, nobody could be trusted with that information. I wouldn’t willingly hand it out. So what did I do? I usually tried to get away with saying what genre I was writing. “Oh, it’s a fantasy novel.” If that didn’t work, I tried to summarize. And I failed. And then I felt like an idiot. And then I probably resolved never to talk to that person again out of shame.

So I think you can see why I hated this question back then.

Nowadays, I’m not as scared of people or what they think, so I find in most cases I can go ahead and tell them that I don’t know what my novel is about. It’s actually the perfect mechanism to change the subject from what my book is about to how I write. Since the next obvious question is something like, “How can you not know?” or “Are you some kind of idiot?” Then I can answer, no, not exactly, I’m just a discovery writer. I find my story as I go along. See? Now we’re talking about my process and I no longer have to attempt to summarize the slush that is currently my novel.

loooove talking about my writing process. I could talk about that mess all day long.

And since I no longer hate and fear the dreaded question, I can instead appreciate the person who asked for being interested in my writing at all.

I find in most cases, gratitude can change your outlook on anything. Something I used to hate is now something I can be grateful for. I know that people who ask aren’t trying to make me feel anxious or stupid. I know that they simply want to get to know me. So instead of telling them what my story is about, I tell them why I don’t know what it’s about.

So if you ever ask me what my novel is about, you can be sure that I won’t give you a direct answer. Even if I had some kind of summary to provide, it would be meaningless. If you asked me the same question a week later, the entire summary would be different. This is how I work. My creative process is a mess. It works, but that means my story is also a mess and thus summary is impossible.

In conclusion, I am grateful to anyone who expresses genuine interest in my writing, no matter what questions they ask. Just remember that I’m dodgy and don’t be offended if I don’t actually attempt to summarize my novel for you. I’m still happy you asked about it.