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October 4, 2013 / ldejong4

Lesson 2: Voice & Viewpoint

One very important thing in writing is to find your voice. It is something that will be unique to you and should not be forced, sound like you are “trying too hard” or “trying to be someone you’re not”. A good way to discover your own style is to practise the free writing technique I outlined in my first lesson below. Here is a short fictional story, where I tried not to think too much about the language hoping it would flow well and sound natural. I’ve also written it in the first person, trying my best to put myself in the character’s shoes. Most of my short stories are written in the third person so it was interesting for me to change the viewpoint here. Enjoy!

Lucky to Have a Job

I sat at my desk clicking through random emails I’d already read that morning. Realising my inbox had become disorganised again, I decided to create some more folders with the hope it would magically organise itself naming one “Other” before pondering whether it should be left as a main folder or made as a subfolder. I wondered how I made it this far without anyone realising I hadn’t the faintest idea what I was doing or what I was supposed to do and couldn’t help but play with the thought that I wasn’t the only one thinking that about themselves. What if everyone in this office didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on but they just all happened to be good at talking the talk. They could sell their way through the interview and in meetings or emails but did they really fully understand how the bank actually worked and how all the departments were connected?

Dave in the row over from me seemed to be very engaged in something intelligent with numbers on a spreadsheet, flicking between that and a page with graphs that changed in real time. I wondered if he knew what he was doing or if that was just a big act. His wife was due with their first in a few weeks so I suppose he didn’t have much choice but to at least pretend to know what was going on. They said they needed creative people on the team and I guess I could label myself as that having spent four years studying Arts. I soon realised they certainly were creative with their language. Every week we had ‘learnings’ and ‘actions items’ or ‘key takeaways’ from meetings where managers talked about taking a ‘deep dive’ into issues and encouraging the team to focus on their ‘core competency’. Scale this and scale that. Was my project going to be impactful this quarter I was supposed to be asking myself?

“Joanne I don’t understand you. You’re really lucky to have a job. Do you not understand the situation we are in in this country? There’s a pile of CVs on every HR desk. It costs us an incredible amount of money to hire and train you and if you leave sooner than what’s on your contract there are going to be serious consequences.”

It was that sentence that stuck in my mind after the call from HR Helen – you’re lucky to have a job. Were all HR departments really talking to their employees like that? Putting pressure on them to stay, to work for less or to work longer hours without overtime? Were they really taking advantage of this recession? And whatever happened to unions in these large corporations?

I waited for my daily instant message from Craig and there it was at 16:07, “break?” We’d meet in the corridor beside the vending machines and try to lift our moods with Kinder Buenos. Ensuring nobody was listening the conversation turned gloomy as we vented and tried to plan some sort of great escape.

“I’m telling you Joanne, it’s all smoke and mirrors here and we’re definitely not the only ones with the same problem but no one else seems to care less. It’s because we’re contractors that they think it’s all ok.”

“Yeah I know, I know. Well if there’s anyone getting away it’s me. You have my word. It’s not the job I thought I was signing up for. I just don’t understand why they want six months out of me? Who do they think I am like Bill Gates or someone? No other company makes people wait that long before leaving.”

“It’s just their way of scaring the rest of the graduates Joanne. You know that. They try to instil some sort of fear from the top down.”

I sat back down at my desk and there it was at the top of my inbox, the only unread message – HR formal warning. I was in for a big fight.

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