Violins and Magic

Beautiful post at Terra Nova about violins as magical items.

I own a violin, but it is only a white-level item, at best.  Certainly mass manufactured, it was purchased for less than $100 when I was in 8th grade.  My mom probably thought the violin was a passing fancy, so didn’t want to invest in a lot of gold toward a green level one.  I did my best to make it sounds like a green violin over the five years that I played.  (I played the viola for a year, too, which I loved even more.)

I skilled up quickly in the beginning, but then plateaued, as always seems to be the case with weapons. As my skill increased, I noted that my DPS went down.  My parents stopped sending me to my room to practice with the door closed.

Eventually, I reached the limits of my available training, given how much gold I had in my bank (not to mention my innate skills as a player), and pursued different skills.  I kept the violin in my inventory (my room) for the next few years, just in case I felt the urge to play.  When I moved away from home, the violin was moved into my permanent bank space (parents’ basement) where it stayed for more than ten years, collecting dust.

On one of my last visits, I decided to bring the violin back home with me.   I can see it in the closet from where I’m sitting in my office right now.  I know I’d have to start leveling the skill from zero again, but some days it’s tempting, especially when I hear one of the more masterful players make magic on one of their epics.  I know these are epics and skills I’ll never have, but a little magic in life is always nice.  I could be a casual player again someday.


Labor vs. Labor of Love


Last December, I did something crazy — I quit my job.  It felt strange to do something so bold in this economic climate and even stranger to tell people about it.  Not only was I ditching a steady paycheck, I was leaving the career path that I’d been on for more than ten years, which included getting a PhD and doing several years of postdoctoral work.

I can’t say that my colleagues were impressed with my decision, except maybe a few that knew how unhappy I’d been.  My misery had begun in graduate school, but I finished the degree and continued with the work anyway.  This is partly because I did love it once and hoped I might find that feeling again.  The rest was pride and stubbornness.  Oh, and fear.  Lots of fear.  I was afraid to venture out because what I really wanted to do instead seemed so impractical, I could hardly admit it to myself, much less anyone else.  I wanted to be a writer.

When I finally reached my breaking point and planned to quit, I decided to seize the opportunity and see if I could make a living as a writer.  To quell the fear (and make the decision seem more legitimate), I took the most practical approach I could think of.  I secured a job as a contractor for an editing company that caters to folks in my old line of work.  In between jobs with them, I arranged to work through freelancing bid sites to supplement my income.

In the 10 months after joining the editing company, they only sent me work three times.  The first time, the topic was far removed enough from my field that I couldn’t do it — I let them pass it along to someone else.  The second time, it was to write a grant (not my cup of tea), again on something completely unrelated to my specific expertise.  (The selling point of the company is that your documents will be edited by experts, not some random schmo filling in their knowledge gaps with Google.)  By the time they sent me the third item, which was relatively close to my expertise, it was too late.  Science is something you need to mentally keep up with and my brain had gotten too rusty.  Besides, I didn’t want to think about that stuff any more.  So, I turned down the work and terminated my contract with them.

I did pick up work through the bid sites, however.  I had plenty to keep me busy during weekdays, mainly through one particular client.  After my first few assignments, they brought me on as a full member of their project team to write web content and promotional materials for their company.  They loved my work, too.  I basked in the positive feedback and wrote whatever they asked me to.  As my other clients trickled off, I didn’t replace them.

As for the content itself … meh.  And the message?  Er… yeah.  Let’s just say I wasn’t a fan of what they were selling.  It was ghostwriting, however, so I assured myself that my reputation was safe.  I did like the people personally, we were just coming from different places.  In writing on their behalf, I did what I could to keep them honest (from my point of view).  Truth be told, most of it was just fine and I was left to my own devices enough of the time that I could write what I felt was right.

The summer marched on.  I was pretty happy.  I enjoyed not dreading Mondays for once in my life.  And then I got a little wake-up call from a surprising place: Jonathan Coulton‘s  How I WoW appearance.  He was asked whether it was a conscious choice to steer his songs toward the geek culture.  He said no, he just wrote what he wrote and didn’t steer his creativity toward any particular mold.  If he wrote what others wanted him to, it would just be like any other job.

And I thought, Damn, he’s right.  I think I did it wrong.

But I kept going.  I was getting paid, right?  Paychecks good.

Fast forward a few months.  My pay had marginally increased, but the client was asking a lot more work from me.  I had enough to do that I could keep myself busy full time, but given the low pay, I worked part time.  Since they were satisfied with my progress each week, I didn’t ask for more or rock the boat.

Then, a few weeks ago, they rocked the boat.  They’d asked me to write some sketchy things in the past, but I usually just let them fall to the bottom of the priority pile. This time, there was a concrete deadline, so I had to do it. Given the particulars of the assignment, I had enough editorial control to express what I really thought about the topic, so I did just that.  I was pretty sure they were going to disregard my work, so my rebellion might not not pay off, but it was worth a try.

About a week later, they gave me an assignment that was even worse.  This one I could not do.  I joked early on in my freelancing career that I’d probably start with high standards that would spiral downward when I found myself in need of money.  It seems it was the opposite.  I hadn’t had a decent paycheck in a year, but for personal, ethical, and philosophical reasons, there was no way I could write what they wanted.  In fact, I realized I didn’t want to write for them at all any more.  It was a tough phone call to make, but I did it.  I was honest, too, and told them exactly why I was leaving the team.  They called a few times after and asked me to reconsider, but I held my ground.  I’m done with them.

Even though I’m now starting from scratch after almost a year in this job, I think it’s been a good year and a great experience.  It certainly crystallized some things for me; I have a much better sense of what I want to be as a writer and what I’m willing to write for others.

I’m going to fully embrace this fresh start, too.  This time, I’ll choose what I write.  Maybe I’ll get hired for regular writing somewhere (web or print), maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll manage to sell a story, an essay, a novel… who knows?  I won’t know until I really buckle down and give this work an honest try.  Besides, if I’m not going to make much money writing, I may as well do it writing about things I care about.

So, the time has come.  Enough with this working-to-live crap.  Life is too short for that.

Onward! 😀

The Calm

Well, the blog has been calm and quiet, anyway.  Real life has been busy and I’ve been playing quite a bit, as well.  It’s hard to believe that we’re just days from Wrath.  I’m looking forward to it, but in a way, it feels a little bit soon to me.  I don’t suppose I could ask Blizz to wait until I feel I’m done with the content, considering the way I dawdled my way to 70. 😉  I know my guild is ready to move on.  I think I’m one of the few that still actually enjoys Karazhan.

The Highlights of In-Game Stuff

– We put together an impromptu ZA run one evening (how awesome is that, that we could casually throw together a 10-man?), and I took my priest.  It was the same healing pair as that last ZA run, and this time, we were able to heal through everything!  Woo!  Bit of redemption there.  My priest has also healed a couple of heroics now.  Whee!

– My hunter spent four days parked in Ironforge in the “secret” fishing spot, hoping to catch Old Ironjaw.  It is a rather sneaky spot (described in the wowhead comments), though I did overlap with a few other Horde fisherman while I was there.  I was only bothered by a couple hunters, but it wasn’t a big deal.  If they seemed to be getting too interested in me, I logged out and came back later.  After about 1200 casts, I finally gave up.  Oh well… at least I maxed my fishing skill.

– My hunter has been leveling her very own gorilladin.  It’s pretty fun.  I still miss my original cat, but taming the raptor has gotten me used to the idea of having multiple pets.  I’m considering taming a fourth pet for PvP, though I don’t do battlegrounds much, so I may save the slot for an exotic when I’m higher level.  Although I’m not too attached to the new pets, I know it would be a little tough to abandon them.

– Part of the reason I pulled my hunter out of Ironforge was that I’d offered her up for a Kara run Sunday night.  This was planned to the be final hurrah there, where we’d go in, mash up the place, doing our very damnedest to speed through and top the damage meters.  The raid leader said that if we had an AoE on cooldown, we should use it, and he even wanted to see the healers trying to top each other.  If we weren’t pulling aggro, we weren’t doing it right.  It was really fun for the tanks and DPS, but I can’t imagine what it was like to heal that run… heheh, nobody complained, but sheesh.  If you stopped to drink, loot, or had to take a bio, you were pretty much left behind.  Nobody wanted to leave their seat, lest they drop on the Damage Done chart.  We ended up clearing the entire place in just 81 minutes.  Fun!!  And my hunter picked up her Tier 4 helm — what a nice surprise!

– My little warrior is making her way toward level 20.  She tanked RFC with a little priest she knows, plus two little up-and-coming DPSers.  It was super-fun.  Tanking is a very different mindset than DPS or healing, and a nice change of pace.  I doubt she’ll ever be my main focus, but she’s a fun vacation alt for when I need a break from the chatter of the guild or the pressure of getting to 80.

Real Life Stuff

– I had a job interview.  Went ok, though I’m no longer 100% certain (or even 75% certain) that this is the job I want.  I may even turn them down if they offer it.

– I found another job listed that sounds even better.  It would put me into the realm of writing/editing, working at home as a freelancer, and what they’re calling for fits my skills and professional background perfectly.  Most of my free time at work has been put toward constructing this cover letter.  As you can imagine, I’m editing the living hell out of it before I send it.

– Our internet connection at home is borked.  We have wildly fluctuating upload and download speeds.  I can’t seem to bypass the router to see if that’s the problem (it never finds the connection), changing the ethernet cables makes no difference, and I can’t seem to predict based on what I’ve got going on on the internet whether it is about to speed up or slow down.  The cable guy is supposedly on his way, time frame closing in about half an hour.  *Peers out the window*  Stupid comcast.  Nice to have a day off, in any case, but whyyyy did it have to be on maintenance day? 🙂