The most difficult thing for me about writing fiction (other than the time constraints, the interruptions, the laptop-induced carpal tunnel, the unfamiliar and horrifyingly pervasive sense of writer’s block, and the gaping black hole in my brain where things like “grammar” and “punctuation” are supposed to live, that is) is the realization that my memory isn’t just bad, it’s terrible. It seems to me that one of the key elements in being a really good writer is the ability to draw upon past experiences with clarity and intensity, that even if you’re writing pure fiction describing events that never actually happened it’s immensely helpful if you can remember certain aspects of life you’ve experienced firsthand in order to create a believable, solid framework for your story.

Take The Glass Castle, for instance. I mean, even if it turned out that Walls’ book was not based on fact, you’ve got to hand it to her for creating a fully authentic, exquisitely detailed account of someone’s childhood, and a lot of that has to come from remembering what it’s like to be young, right? And if it’s all true, well what the FUCK, how does a person have such a phenomenal memory that they can vividly describe conversations and emotions that happened thirty years ago or more?

I wonder if spending 7+ years writing online has had an effect on how I think about that stuff. When you’re so used to writing down things that are happening at the moment, maybe it becomes harder to dig deeper for the things that require a different access method, you know? It’s certainly affected my patience; I feel like I’m trying to switch from having short conversations to carrying out a terribly long-winded monologue where my voice just drones on and on and ON and oh my god, self, shut UP. Plus, there’s this entirely different concept of having to keep coming back to the story, whether I want to or not—I can’t just merrily toss it out to sea like all the little bobbing bottles saved on this website.

In short, this whole writing endeavor is about a thousand times harder than I had guessed it would be, and dude, I was already operating under the assumption that it would be really damn hard. As for a progress report, I completely scrapped the first 3000 or so words of the story I was starting to write and went back to the drawing board so now I have, like, four paragraphs of this so-called book and it starts with someone with a gun in their mouth. Yeah, I’m not sure either.

Anyway, I have some ideas for where I’d maybe like to take the story and I could use some help from you guys, if you’re willing. I’m looking to talk with people who have worked interesting jobs and wouldn’t mind describing them to me. Anything that’s a little out of the ordinary but recognizable—like, say, a dog groomer, floral arranger, bike mechanic, rafting guide . . . that kind of thing. If you’re so inclined, hit me up in the comments or via email, I’d love to hear from you.

In non-writing news, we’re heading back down to Oregon this weekend for a long holiday at the cabin. I predict lots of whining about the drive, a complete disregard for eating healthfully, and the familiar epiphany that no matter how good of a time you’re having, if the kids are there, it’s not really a vacation.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, may your fingers be fireworks-injury-free, your crappy food be plentiful, and your family not drive you completely batshit. See you next week!

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Bianca
Bianca
15 years ago

I drove a city bus to put myself through college. Don’t know if that’s interesting. I still have my Class B license though!

Jenny
Jenny
15 years ago

This isn’t exactly fascinating, but I worked at a wallpaper store for two summers in college. And now I’m the very liberal administrator at a very conservative church.

Kate
15 years ago

Seriously, hit up your mortician bro-in-law for details. I know you already know a bunch of them, but that’s a job not many people have!

I’ve working in various positions in hospitals for the last 17 years. I’ve done admitting, insurance stuff, worked in both the lab and xray departments, been a unit secretary in the ER, ICU and now a medical floor. Some of the things I’ve seen I wish I could unsee, let me tell ya.

Kate
15 years ago

p.s. LOVED The Glass Castle. Amazing book, and even more amazing that it was her life!

Buffy
15 years ago

Wow, okay.

I worked at a flower shop for about a year-and-a-half, and it was NUTS. This particular place also sold stationery, like wedding invites and birth announcements. This place is considered one of the top florists in Alabama for event flowers, stuff for weddings, birthdays, business events, etcetera. While there I learned some basic flower arranging, as well as how to make boutonnieres and corsages.

Working in stationery is high stress, let me tell you, because we sold high quality, expensive stuff and you had to go through proof after proof to get things just the way the customer wanted, and if it ended up with any mistakes (a misspelling, for example) SOMEONE had to pay for it, usually hundreds of dollars.

The flower shop itself was really high-intensity and high-stress, as people who drop that kind of money on something perishable are INCREDIBLY picky. I got the rich ladies, business men who knew nothing about flowers but knew their wives/girlfriends did, guys sending flowers to hotel rooms, young men and women ordering corsages for prom, women ordering flowers for their baby showers or bridal teas or for their weddings.

On top of all of that the owner of the shop was also my supervisor, and she was AWFUL. She was really into micromanaging, and she would mess stuff up and then blame it on other people, and she’d scream obsenities (“SON of a BITCH!”). She also once threw a box at me. She was the scariest, worst boss I’ve ever had.

Then the event coordinator/head designer there was loud and obnoxious. He once showed a picture of his boyfriend’s bare ass to a client, an old, rich, tottering lady, and she just thought it was the cutest thing ever. He also once asked me how big my husband’s penis is; I was not so amused.

The other designers there were mean, ornery, and quick to blame anything bad that happened to those of us who answered phones and took delivery orders. If they didn’t like the way you described an order, they’d yell at you. If they didn’t like the amount of money you charged for an arrangement, they’d yell at you. If you didn’t replenish their supplies at their stations fast enough, they’d yell at you.

I also worked for a dating service for a while that did telemarketing, calling random lists of people to ask if they needed help getting a date. It was pretty terrible. I quit after I got a handicapped and ill woman on the phone who was desperate to find a way to get to our offices so we could help her find a man. It was too much.

Courtney
15 years ago

I’d say the most interesting job I’ve had is a summer camp counselor for a mostly Jewish summer camp in New York. I’m from Montana. And Catholic. And of German heritage. Yeah, it lead to some awkward conversations…

jonniker
15 years ago

My most interesting job was as a small-town newspaper reporter. Carl Hiassen’s got nothing on me, Florida-wise.

The rest of what I have to say involves book-writing, and consists of only, I KNOW, RIGHT? Frackin’ hard. I was such a smug ass thinking if I made the time, it would be so EASY. I mean, after all, I’ve had a book swirling around my head for YEARS!

And then … oh yes. Hard. So hard. Damn damn damn.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

Two pretty interesting jobs:
1) Housecleaner for VERY rich folks’ vacation homes in Aspen, CO (very rich as in the Estee Lauder family, among others).

2) Teacher in the County Jail.

Jenny
15 years ago

Not sure how many of these qualify as interesting, but here goes: cashier at an oceanfront pharmacy, gift-wrapper for Williams-Sonoma, receptionist at a dental office, operator at a food delivery service, arts instructor for kids, photo lab rat (processed & printed film…oh, fun stories there!), paper pusher at a now-defunct ISP in DC (more fun stories, most involving sleazy salesmen, cocaine, and vomiting on the Metro), tech support rep for a big camera company (was once told “YOU MEAN LADY! YOU LIKE HITLER!” by an insane Asian woman), and most recently, went from barista to store manager and back again at the green apron empire.

Jenny
15 years ago

Oh, and I also worked briefly as a massage therapist. Forgot that one.

And “The Glass Castle” was one of the best books I’ve read in a long, looooong time. Another good memoir is “Crazy for the Storm” by Norman Ollestad.

Shelly T.
Shelly T.
15 years ago

My most interesting job to date was an administrative manager for a non-profit organization (based here in the US) that trained doctors and nurses in Africa. Had never been to Africa before I got this job (basically a desk job doing stuff like writing reports, paying the bills, organizing vendors), but I had to travel to several countries in Africa to attend some meetings and conferences. The travel thing to that little nook of the world was, well, let’s just say I have some stories. I would never have been able to go there if it wasn’t for that job, so I’m really grateful for that perk, so to speak.

Other jobs included: bartender, cashier at drugstore, beer cart girl at a golfcourse, and secretary.

Marivic Valencia
15 years ago

I was a host for Match.com events. Their “speed-dating” things? Yah, that was me with the whistle and stopwatch.

I was also legal assistant to a Republican Governor. I’m not Republican.

Kelley
Kelley
15 years ago

I made caviar for 3 summers in Alaska – from robbing the eggs out of the fish to shipping the product to Japan. Good times!

audrey
audrey
15 years ago

I repaired Oriental Carpets. I loved it, my favorite job and WORST BOSS ever. I wish I still did it. Shoot me an email if you wanna know more!

Kate
15 years ago

I work at a city hostel in Australia… ostensibly a ‘backpackers’ hostel but in reality we get all sorts, from the migrants trying to get their lives together here, the drifters and other local people who are essentially homeless, international students who are paying top dollar to study at Australian university but skimping on accommodation costs, visiting sports groups and bands, etc. I don’t know how interesting the job itself is but the people who pass through here (or… stay longer because they have nowhere else to go) are often interesting characters.

Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake
15 years ago

Good lord, lemme see. My memory ain’t so great either. Jobs I’ve had:

*office clerk in my Pappaw’s gutter business in Texas, which meant I was paid to play around with CAD and design my dream house

*receptionist/secretary for a crazy Jewish podiatrist in Dallas who cried all the time and thought that when she meditated, alpha waves from her brain went up to God

*one day stint in a food processing plant in Wisconsin where I stood at a conveyor belt and shoved off bad-looking diced potato pieces, all while wearing a hideous hairnet, no makeup, being ogled by creapy men who probably had never had a girlfriend

*valet for a very posh wedding at a rich Texan’s ranch (got to park some very nice cars)

*caricature artist for big parties

Laura Porras
Laura Porras
15 years ago

Let’s see…
Currently a golf pro (the teaching kind, not the kind you see on TV)
Worked in a day camp on a military base in Germany in 1992
Lived and worked in Brazil for 3 years
Worked as a student secretary/gopher for a pediatric heart surgeon at the University of Minnesota – my greatest accomplishment was successfully acquiring the t-shirt from the following request…he walked into the office one Monday morning and said, “hey, I was in New York last weekend and I ate at a restaurant near 47th and ?, I can’t remember the name of it, but the wait staff had the coolest t-shirt. Could you get one for me?” – I found the effing t-shirt, they wouldn’t let me order one, but the manager of the restaurant I talked to on the phone happened to grow up in the same town that I did (in Minnesota) and I knew her!

I have no idea if that’s interesting to you, but I still get smile when I think about that story. Good luck with the book and I can’t wait to read it and give it to all my friends.

RachaelRossman
15 years ago

I was a dog groomer. For real. It was my high school job and my boss would call me AT SCHOOL (before cell phones) to fire me about every other week. Usually because she’d found A HAIR in one of the kennels I had to clean every night. Then she’d call back a few days later like nothing happened and be all, “See you at 3?”

I still can’t stand the smell of Pine-Sol.

Shannon
15 years ago

My job is not very interesting per se, but my sister’s is! Well, it’s more her volunteer job that she does once or twice a week. Heather volunteers/works at the Wolf Hollow wildlife rehabilitation center on San Juan Island. Absolutely fascinating and I’ve gone to help her a few times. Her blog about it is full of the cutest baby animal photos you’ve ever seen, as well as graphic surgery descriptions. I know she wouldn’t mind talking about it with you! Here’s her blog:

http://hollowhappenings.blogspot.com/

Alison
Alison
15 years ago

I’m currently an archives grad assistant, and in the past, I’ve worked at a small, local toy store and with horses as the barn manager/show groom. Lots of stories of dealing with wealthy people from both of those. As a kid, I was my dad’s assistant – he’s an electrician who runs his own business.

dani
15 years ago

I was a flower arranger at a these small stands – the kind in parking lots – in college. I also worked as a courtesy clerk in a grocery store, a waitress on the wharf in Santa Barbara and a tutor at school. Hit me up if you need somefun stories – hopefully I remember them all.

PS – love your writing and will absolutely buy your book *when* it gets published.

Carmen
Carmen
15 years ago

I’m a scientist; I did my PhD in molecular biology. I’ve spent most of my years in research doing cancer research, with a couple of years of work on E. coli (hamburger disease) tossed in. Is that recognizable but out of the ordinary?

Melissa
Melissa
15 years ago

Interesting jobs I’ve held:
-fed/raised baby/orphaned birds at a Wildlife Care Center
-worked a horrific job in retail for a summer
– nannied for a family where I was asked to fold their laundry and to go grocery shopping, in addition to taking care of their kids
-taught deaf children at a school which shall remain nameless
-worked weekends supervising pool birthday parties at a recreation center (it involved LOTS of time out of the pool due to “fecal matter” in the pool…ewwww)

And on that note, a Happy 4th of July to you!

babelbabe
babelbabe
15 years ago

don’t know if it will help but if so here goes:

I used to paint scenery for theatre productions. And then for a company who built newsroom sets. In past lives have also been a technical writer (medical software), a reference librarian, and now edit dissertations for a living.

email if anything strikes your fancy and/or is useful:
babelbabe(at)comcast(dot)net

I am sure your book will be great, looking forward to someday buying it at B&N and reading it.

Jake
Jake
15 years ago

So, first thing. If short-form blog posts are your thing, make your long-form fiction out of short posts. David Sedaris’ books are made up of chapters that are longer than blog posts, but could really be viewed as three or four semi-related posts mashed together. It’d be harder to string a whole story out of that, but certainly possible, and it would play to your (perceived) strengths. Personally, having been a lurker here for 8 or so years, I’ve always thought that some of your longer, more thoughtful posts were without a doubt your best works. Maybe storyboard it out like a graphic novel, then narrate your way through a page at a time.

Also, I (personally feel that I) have an interesting job in the medical field that includes a fair bit of cleaning up after people do bad things to other people – and I love talking about it. It’d be a gas if there was anything I could do to help out.

deannagabriel
15 years ago

i know ive mentioned some of this here before, but:

[1] currently i am a night nurse in a VERY busy pediatric icu in nyc. its intense. some days i save kids lives, other days i hope i help them die as graceful a death as possible. while maybe not what you’re looking for in terms of exotic, ive got some interesting stories for sure.

[2] prior to that i worked as a night nurse in the same children’s hospital as i do now, on the hematology-oncology-bone marrow transplant floor. my bald-headed cancer babies! i LOVE them. equally intense, but also some interesting stories. lots of family dynamics here.

[3] before THAT i worked as a home health nurse in the tenements of east harlem. i worked young pregnant moms, new mexican immigrant moms and some classic nyc characters that managed to hold onto to their east harlem roots, despite the neighborhood changing around them. great window into the city. also, pregnant teens are equal parts sad and hilarious.

[4] im an almost pediatric nurse practitioner who has seen her fair share of interesting things in pediatric ERs, adolescent clinics, schools, long-term care facilities and what not here in nyc.

[5] in my “spare time” [the, oh, 30 seconds i have a week to myself…] i teach at a local gym–spinning, pilates, dance, etc. weird people go to gyms in nyc, let me tell you.

[6] i spent one summer working in a restaurant…kinda “standard.” i spent another summer calling schools around the country to update a data base for a educational supply company. [man those school secretaries in those little po-dunk middle-of-nowhere towns can sure talk some east coast chick’s ear off about nothing and everything all at the same time…]

AND…oh i was an RA when i was in undergrad as well. college kids are really stupid, sometimes.

Liz Baker
15 years ago

I’ve had two interesting jobs…

1. I’ve sold french fries at fairs and festivals every summer for the last 13 years or so. Family business.

2. For a summer, I sold surfboards and skateboards in Myrtle Beach. I hadn’t (and still have not) either surfed or rode a skateboard.

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

I know you’ve written before that you are a fan of Anne Lammott. Have you read her book on writing called “Bird by Bird?” I’m in the middle of it right now and, omg – inspiring! And, of course, funny! If you haven’t read it yet, check it out. It’s great for writers trying to figure it out.

As for cool jobs, my favorite ever was as a camp counselor for a couple summers near Yosemite. What a blast. Past experiences as telemarketer and waitress are about as boring as you can get — can’t help you out more!

Karen
Karen
15 years ago

I agree with Jake about your longer posts making great book material.

A) RA in the dorms at a large state school in the midwest. Whoever said it was right – college kids are stupid most of the time.

B) Proofread the phonebook. No lie. World’s most mind-numbing job.

C) assistant to a one-woman business owner. I did all kinds of weird stuff including catering a NASCAR event for the drivers at a race, creating her company logo, and manning the audiotape booth at The National Funeral Home Directors Convention. Maybe your brother-in-law was there? :) The boss lady ended up being so shady that she had me handing out rubber paychecks to illegal workers who didn’t speak English. I quit after being diagnosed with an ulcer. She never filed
my W-2 or my insurance!! Awesomely, I was at a training event for work about 2 years ago and the same woman was part of the hotel wait staff. She poured me some tea and refused to look me in the eye.

laura
laura
15 years ago

i currently work at an auction house, run by a delusional boob. at times its like an episode, or even a full season, of survivor. would be happy to chat with you if thats of interest.

you’re way ahead of me in the writing department, if i had any balls i’d do a writing class, but i don’t, yet. we’ll see. good luck. i do love to read your blog, i hope you keep that going regardless of how your career as a novelist goes.

Jillian
15 years ago

Yes x1000.

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

Cleaned up horse shit once.

Lindsay
15 years ago

dishwasher to cook to server in a restaurant, did the McD’s thing, RA at college plus worked at the campus diner, varsity college athlete, hippy tree planter for a week but quit b/c too destructive lifestyle, cushy overpaid summer job with school district cutting grass and hanging out in crawlspaces under the schools.

Good luck to ya!

Amanda
15 years ago

I can’t agree with you more that for a blogger writing fiction for the first time is PAINFUL. SO SO PAINFUL. Like giving birth painful! It was about a billion times harder than I expected it to be.

But…

You totally love it, right? I mean, I KNOW you love it. You just have to love it. Don’t you?

Joslyn
Joslyn
15 years ago

I have had two interesting jobs. I was a parade performer at Disneyland for 3 years, and for the last 8 years, I have taught jazz, tap, and ballet to toddlers as young as two.

sooboo
sooboo
15 years ago

I have been a standardized test grader (the essay portion), a flood map reader for an insurance company, and I packaged rat and mouse RNA and DNA for a research company. Oh, I was also a process server, briefly. I’ve also worked in a major art museum, and a vegan deli that served hippies as well as prostitutes at the ranches outside of Reno. I also sold football tickets for a college team over the phone. The first day I had to learn where the 50 yard line was and why everyone was so interested in it.

I hear you on the writing tip. I just started my first ever paid writing gig (partly inspired by you) and it’s only a matter of time before I’m revealed as a total fraud!

Dynamita
15 years ago

Open your cupboard or go to the supermarket and it’s full of food products right? Doritos and ho-hos and frosties and caramel crunch and 100’s of different flavoured yoghurt… Have you ever stopped to think SOMEONE had to come up with them? I mean someone actually sat in an office thinking, ‘I wonder what a chai latte would taste like as a yoghurt?’ Yup. I do that for a living. It’s called New Product Development.

I am currently trialling granola to make sure it stays crunchy when added to yoghurt. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do this.

PS. It’s harder than one would think too. Hope it helps!

Penny
15 years ago

I am a Assistant Pastor and a Youth Pastor (head over the youth and children’s ministries) at my church. Not sure if that could remotely fit into your novel, unless you want a Pastor following up on all the scenes for moral support or whatever.

I have also worked as a hotel manager/auditor.
I have 5 children (1 adopted) and been a foster mother for troubled teen girls.

If any of my life choices interests or can help you, feel free to drop me a note.

clare
clare
15 years ago

ahhhh…
counsellor at a mental health drop in clinic, servicing mainly OCD clients and presently a mortuary worker for a coroners court in australia.

Heather
Heather
15 years ago

Now I am a fourth grade teacher. During and right after college I was a toll collector. Lots of crazy stories from the supervisors and collectors I worked with to the CRAZY people who drove through the tolls. It was strange to still stand for 8 hours while people fly past you.

Haley
Haley
15 years ago

I figure you’ve got the mortician angle covered with your brother in law. I used to do that, but now I’m working in the anatomy lab in a medical school.

marion
marion
15 years ago

Past jobs that might be of interest – security guard at 1984 Olympics.
Career for last 20+ years – 911 dispacher/supervisor/manager. Fairly out of the ordinary.Drop me a line if interested :)

Beth
Beth
15 years ago

It’s called DVD player in car.

Andrea
Andrea
15 years ago

I worked at a science museum doing public demonstrations/experiments for kids and adults (look! i can make your hair stand on end!). Also, I worked in a few provincial parks doing canoe trips and guided hikes, and wayyyy up in the north of Canada as a junior architectural designer on buildings that can withstand -50 C extreme temperatures and permafrost. Email if any of those would be helpful!

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

I’m an opera singer (now doing more jazz and musical theatre) but I have some funny stories that I actually wrote about on my old online journal (remember Diaryland?. I could pull some of that up if you want. I was actually going to start posting some of that on my new wordpress blog.

jen
jen
15 years ago

You already have a bazillion comments about “how about THIS for an interesting job” so I’m not sure if I can contribute or not, but just throwin it out there – I’ve worked retail (book sales, clothing sales, interior decor, custom picture framing, blahhh) but now I’m a Sustainability Coordinator (aka: tree-hugging green girl in charge of a manufacturer’s environmental baloney). Hubby has spent the past 10+ years in the Army (Infantry, then Psychological Operations) and is just now finishing up his bachelors, but he’s also worked as a snowmaker at a small ski resort, which makes for some interesting tales that he’s always willing to share.

Ang
Ang
15 years ago

I work as an analyst for a company that monitors the internet for brand / IP infringements, conunterfeiting and piracy. My monthly reports for a given brand often include screenshots of porn sites where I’ve had to add little black boxes to protect the reader’s delicate eyes.

Lauren
Lauren
15 years ago

psychological research for the US military…surrounded by circle-jerking PhDs who look down on us single (or double) degree-ers as complete dumbasses (who know way more about what’s going on behind those closed doors than they give us credit for)

probably not what you’re looking for, but regardless, boy do I have some stories to tell my grandkids some day

Tia
Tia
15 years ago

I’m a trucking dispatcher. God, I never in a million years thought I would be doing this. I also do office stuff. Not that thrilling but I thought I would share.
Have fun this weekend!! Drive safe!

Deb
Deb
15 years ago

Lunar Seismologist? I must know more about this. And so disapointed to not see a link to her personal blog.

I don’t have anything very interesting – was a civil engineer before I quit to be a SAHM. My husband, however, was a computer network consultant for small businesses in Seattle. Even though his job was not that fascinating to me, hearing about all the places he went and what other people did for a living was very interesting. Some places I can think of…

The place where they manufacture all the espresso machines that Starbucks uses. A coffee bean roaster. A really high end appointment only-jeweler – one time some young rich dot-com dude in shorts and birkenstocks came in and bought 30k worth of jewelry. A high end chocolatier. The shipping company that ships something like 80% of all goods to Alaska on container ships.

It is amazing the things people do to make a living. Things I never though of before. Also, most people keep porn on their work computers.