Boring But Necessary: My Nonfiction Life

I’ve already got a whole lot of nonfiction in my life, but none of it’s the fun kind.

I am a freelance technical writer by trade, and depending on whether I’m in the feast or famine portion of my employment cycle, I spend large portions of my days working on behalf of companies that build cell phone towers. It involves a lot of research and letter writing and watching the calendar to see if anyone has gone beyond their FCC-mandated response times.

Roughly 90 days after I’ve been assigned a project, I get to cobble together a report that either says “Go for it. No one cares if you build it there” or “Run, don’t walk, from this location. Do it! Do it now!”

Whoever coined the phrase “thrill a minute” obviously had this very specific profession in mind.

Of course, I kid, though there is a grain of truth in every joke. (Especially the hurtful ones.) Even though what I do for a living is not as sordid as my teenage self would have hoped, it’s decent pay when there’s work to be had, so I have very little to complain about.

(Except for the frequency of assignments. I mean damn people. I have worked for you for years. Somebody help a brother out. Put me on staff. Did you not read the previous paragraph? I will do sordid things for a steady paycheck and health insurance. All I’m sayin’ is think about it.)

Anyway, that’s my current relationship with nonfiction. Boring, but necessary.

If I had my choice, though, I’d be writing cool shit, like Annie Jacobsen’s book about Area 51. I love the idea of finding a weird, off-beat topic and researching the hell out of it until I have enough to sketch out a narrative. I want to be the guy who brings together information from all over the map and then uses his literary skillz to help you make sense of it.

That sounds like fun to me, and it seems a hell of a lot less stressful than just making things up on the fly.

When you write a piece of nonfiction, the onus is on you to make it interesting, but at least no one can blame you if the facts are dull. But if the characters and situations originated in your brain, that lame-ass story is totally on you.

Ideally, one day, someone will approach me with an interesting topic and a lucrative offer (because they’re a huge admirer of my fiction, of course), and they’ll send me off for a year or two to research and write and churn out one hell of a good read. Until then, I’ll just keep making it up as I go along. And I’ll begin each new story by whispering the same four semi-encouraging words that have gotten me this far.

Good luck; don’t suck.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.