The 2012 Christmas Letter

From: Aaron Simon
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 4:00 PM
To: _EVERYONE
Subject: Christmas Letter 2012

Dear Coworkers,

It’s that time of the year. We look back upon the artificial construct known as the calendar and consider all that we have lost, accomplished, and put up with over the past year. You may be struck by this e-mail, as this is one of the few I have sent this year. There are many reasons for that, but chief among them was that the detestable Ted Hayward (hello, Ted), upon hiring a new IT guy, had that IT guy block Microsoft Word on my computer. Well, I bypassed the block – you prick – so now you’re all getting an e-mail.

I’ve read your Christmas letters. All of them. How you all have so much to write about, especially since “fluff” would be an overgenerous description of the contents of the missives, is beyond me. I have spoken to most of you over the course of this year, and I can safely say that there is nothing redeeming about 90% of you. Despite my best efforts, though, none of you have yet broken. This may be because of your antiquated faith, or some reserve of willpower that I did not think you possessed, but rest assured, in 2013, you will be reduced to a mindless husk.

But Christmas is not a time for threats, it is a time for joy! Sadly, I do not have much in the way of joy. Our agency is fraught with infighting and strife. And, though our Great Director has his own methods of salvaging the remnants of good cheer that may still be found in dark corners of utility closets, know that, were I in his position, it would go differently. Every time the lot of you complain about some miniscule thing, you would be moved from offices to cubicles. The windows would be shuttered, and the light of day would never again be seen in this building.

Over the past year, I have had much time to reflect upon my station in life. I am still alive and – despite my best efforts to the contrary – my liver still functions. I briefly considered krokodil as a method of making the days go by in a more interesting way, but decided that my aim with a needle was not precise enough to indulge. I would most likely miss a vein and wind up with half of my flesh disintegrated. And, while I have plenty of sick leave saved up, I am not certain it would be enough to allow everything to regrow.

But it is not all negative! I read one good novel. I would tell you what it is, but I sincerely doubt that you would bother to pick up even the audiobook. Very well. It was Camus. L’Etranger. It spoke to my soul. And no. While I have read more contemporary novels, not one of them was worth the paper on which they were printed. Acres of forest were destroyed for this garbage, hastening not only the demise of our culture, but our planet.

And, just last month, as I sat in our department meeting, looking up at the ceiling and wishing upon all that I once held dear that the roof of the building would collapse, I came to a rather freeing revelation: Nihilism, in all of its dead-end philosophy and soul-crushing miasmic power, is the only true ethos. Consider even the greatest of our scientists and thinkers. In three generations’ time, all of their hard work will be obsolete and their names will be erased from everything but their tombstones. So, then, why do we insist upon this repetitive life we call reality?

I realized, then, that there is no reason to do so. Thus, I pledged to break free from the chains of “optimism,” that con. Further, because I believe in all of you, I will do the same for you, whether or not you wish it to happen. The light you believe to be life shall be extinguished and you shall see that the dark oblivion of the future is the only Truth.

Merry Christmas,

Aaron

P.S. I note that many of you are bringing in baked goods. As is custom, I shall bring in a jar of store-bought, cold, beet borscht.

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The December Post

Hi! Hi.

It’s been a while since I’ve graced your computer monitors with incessant rambling. I heartily apologize, but the people in my office have, by and large, stopped sending out absurd e-mails for me to mock and, since that makes up the bulk of the posts on this site, that means I have nothing to post.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have. I made it through National Novel Writing Month again this year, and that’s, essentially, what I’d like to talk about today. Be warned: This is going to be more of a rant than anything else. I will come across as a jerk, because my filter has been worn down to nothing after the last couple of weeks. And, further, I can’t guarantee that you’ll get anything from this.

First of all, definitions for people who may not know: National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo) is an Internet Thing where people decide to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in one month – November. This translates to around 1,700 words a day. There’s no monetary commitment for this (though the home site of the contest does run off of donations), and you don’t get anything except a little print-at-home certificate after you verify your word count on the website.

Now, I fully understand that I have been writing for a while, and really pushing myself to write a significant amount per day for a couple of years now. This means that, generally speaking, my personal goal of 2,200 words a day is only about twice as much as I usually hit.

I recognize that amount is staggering to people who are just starting out, and to people who look at writing as more a hobby than something they really want to do with their life, and I respect that. Writing’s a shitty gig with shitty pay and shitty benefits. Unless you a) know people, b) are very lucky, or c) are the reincarnation of a past literary great, you’re not going to get very far. That’s just a fact of the matter.

But, the thing that gets me about the community is the general ruckus that’s built up about the word count. I get it. It’s a hefty amount for a pretty short time. But don’t you think that daily posts in the forum about “OMG I’M GOING CRAZY LOL!” are a little bit overkill-y?

You signed up for this thing, and, in my mind, you should be willing to either sit down, shut up, and write/type/key/whatever, or back out and try again next year. That’s just the way it is. You’re not getting anything out of this aside from the knowledge that, yes, you made it, and by virtue of making it, you can probably do the same next year. Thus, to me, taking the time to make those posts on forums displays a really annoying tendency I like to call “The Attention-Grabbing Writer.”

The Attention-Grabbing Writer makes cutesy writer jokes, does something flaky and goes, “LOL that’s because I’m a writer!” They will most often be seen sitting in a Starbucks with a syrupy coffee drink, distracting themselves by posting on deviantArt or something of that nature, and, by and large not writing.

I was once an Attention-Grabbing Writer. I still have my days when I am. However, to those of you who may be AGWs, I’d like to make this plea: When your literary heroes talk about how necessary it is to write in solitude, and without distraction, take their advice.

That’s not to say that you can’t go to a coffee house. Hell, I wrote a good portion of my book this year at Barista Parlor in East Nashville, surrounded by kids, gorgeous hipster girls, and listening to their great music. But, there’s a difference between doing that and going with a group of people who you know are doing the same thing as you, and if you do that, you – I think, unless you’re a very outgoing person and would do this with utter strangers – will be more tempted to make in-jokes about your work.

See, you do need a lot of concentration and quietness to get any writing done at all. Narratives are twitchy beasts and will skedaddle at the first sign that they’re not being watched—much like toddlers. And, like toddlers, they need coaxing and a firm, guiding hand to go anywhere in life. You won’t be able to give them that direction if you’re spending time shooting the shit with other people. The narrative, after a brief while, will totally escape you, and you’ll return to your Word document with a newfound feeling of panic, realizing that you botched it.

Which then brings me to another point of confusion I have with this thing: The anxiety. This isn’t your job, man. If you’re seriously worried about it, then leave it. Take your time. Not everyone can get over a thousand words a day. It’s rough, and it takes a lot of work to hit even that at first.

But, most importantly, don’t work yourself into such a fit that you can’t get any work done because you’re focused on what you can’t do. In other words, if you’re looking at, say, 800 more words to do that day, and you just can’t manage it, don’t freak out. Call it a day, start it tomorrow. One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re working on a story or novel, and you hit a point where you have just a little bit of an idea where to go next with it, that’s the sweet spot. Stop there. You’ll give your brain more time to work out the details of the upcoming plot and, more importantly, more time to refresh itself.

Because writing is work. It’s mostly low-paid work that’s only rewarding if you think of it as rewarding, but it is work. And just as some people need to unwind after a day at the office, some people need some time to unwind after churning out a few pages of material.

But seriously, leave off the quirk-writer jokes. It’s obnoxious.