Preoccupation

Not everything on the Orrery is going to be about writing. As much as this is a writing blog, this is really a showcase for my writing. That means, as long as I’m writing, it’s practice. Also, as much as I love being a creative individual, sometimes things happen that keep me from being able to be creative to the fullest of my ability. Some kinds of stress actually increase my productivity, because putting my characters and my worlds through their paces becomes a vehicle for working on my frustrations. Other times, I can barely concentrate on my writing, or much of anything for that matter.

This has been one of those times.

I have a job in IT, mostly because it pays me better than my writing ever could — and that’s its own post, for another time — and because I like having things like a nice house. However, that means that from time to time, I have to deal with the vagaries of working in IT. At one point, this turned into De Magia, and it might again. I do know where that was going, but I ran into problems wherein anybody in IT didn’t need the translations, and anybody who wasn’t didn’t really get it. I have some thoughts on how to edit that, but in the meantime, I actually live through most of this on a regular basis.

Currently, my job in IT is having some challenges. When I left Amazon, I gave up about ten thousand dollars in stock options because the new company just could not wait a month for me to join them. They’ve told me repeatedly that they’re eager to have me, and they think I’m doing great work. I know exactly where my skill set is in comparison to most of my peers, and I’m generally happy with my level of productivity, when I can be productive. The big problem is that I can’t consistently be productive, for reasons that are quite beyond my control. Specifically, everything that goes to prod has to do so through the QA department, and the QA department is entirely manual.

There are no automated tests of any kind. No unit tests, no integration tests, no functional tests. Every validation is somebody, usually an offshore resource, sitting in front of a console putting commands into a user interface and watching to see whether the system provides the documented output. It takes, at least on the package they hired me to help guide into maintenance mode, three weeks to perform a full testing cycle on the efforts of a two-week sprint. As you might imagine, that leads to incredible backups in the QA department, while the development team has created the term “hot standby” for the time when someone is at work but unable to add more code changes to the system because there aren’t any QA resources available for testing.

I’ve spent three weeks of the last three months on hot standby.

All of this takes place on a backdrop of some very difficult corporate negotiations. I’ve only been a contractor once before in my life, and I simply do not get on well with the whole concept of contract work. There’s another post somewhere in the idea of contract work being the inevitable future of modern employment, but that’s another time. What matters for now is that I’m not interested in being a contractor as long as I can avoid it, but I was given the chance to accept a position at an education company, and I do care about education. So, I said I would take the contract-to-hire position, but only with the understanding that the “to-hire” part was a mere formality. Now, three months into my stint, they’ve told me they just don’t have any full-time positions, and with the loss of a recent contract, they’re not sure that they’re going to get any.

So, as you can see, my day job has me a little preoccupied.

In the meantime, I am still working on the next novel. I have the outline done, but I’m having trouble finding the focus to start it. I have plenty of time, but I can’t consistently use it with the kind of productivity I need, because I can’t keep the thought that I have to “look busy” out of my head, even though the company has to know that this situation exists, and existed before I got there. And at the same time, I’m at least partially occupied with finding a new job, because I’m pretty certain that the arc of my current job just isn’t sustainable. As I can update things, I will, but it’s taking longer than I would like for reasons that seem eminently reasonable.

But your hand’s wet with sweat and your head needs a rest