I go to a lot of meetings. Most of them aren't my idea, but I go to them anyway. In my working life I'd estimate I've sat through about 2,000 hours of corporate tete-a-tetes. That's basically an entire year of all-day meetings. If the thought of that doesn't make your skin crawl, you're either very young or the asshole who schedules them.
Like everyone else, I try and find ways to make the time pass a little faster. I started off doodling until I could sketch out an invisible cube with the best of them. Next, I tried holding my breath. That ended when I more-or-less blacked out at a conference table after setting a personal best*. No one noticed.
I tried everything to entertain myself. I imagined myself and my co-workers as wild animals having a business meeting. I would make myself little mental dares that I never actually did. If I took this empty soda bottle under the table and peed in it, would anyone notice?
Regardless of what I tried, the tedium eventually began to wear me down. To borrow a phrase from a better writer, I felt thin, stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I wasn't unhappy with my job, but I also wasn't thrilled with the idea of thirty more years of this.
Then the journal happened. Initially, it was just another time-occupying activity for the endless parade of sit-downs. To the casual observer, I figured it would just look like I was a diligent note-taker. Initially my efforts were sporadic, once or twice a week at most. Although I felt like a twelve-year-old girl, I took to it surprisingly quickly. The frequency of my entries increased as did their scope: daily recounting of events and my inner thoughts were soon supplemented by actual ideas, future plans, hopes, dreams. Ironically, writing about the miscellany of my life rejuvenated my interest in science. Work - or at least the meetings - got better.
This all happened several years ago. Gradually, it dawned on me that I enjoyed writing enough to maybe make a career of it. Not as a scientific- or technical writer, but as a novelist or storyteller.
It was a far-fetched notion, I'll admit, but the nascent idea stubbornly resisted quashing and wore me down until I found myself asking, "What if?"
Realistically, though, there were two things holding me back:
(1) I needed to have confidence that I have the ability to write something people want to read. Writing isn't exactly new to me. I've written scads of scientific articles, pieces of patents, lab notebooks and the like. I've even published a book and a few articles of the non-scientific variety. However, I've never published a novel and feel I need some work honing my voice as a storyteller.
(2) Financial and career risk. I have an advanced degree in biomedical science and I've spent decades cramming a very specific set of skills into my brain. Currently I make a very comfortable living as a scientist in a pharmaceutical company. It's doubtful I'll ever do better financially than I do right now. That said, this is the smaller of my two concerns. When this idea took hold, I made some changes in my life that - I hope - will allow me to pursue this. I'll get into these later, but for now, let's just say that the fear of losing out may not be an insurmountable obstacle.
What finally happened was the realization that I didn't need to make the grand gesture of quitting my job and moving to a cabin in the woods. Writing can be done anywhere in any form. The important thing is to Just Do It (TM).
And that's where this comes in. Of Mice and Molecules is my foray into the rarely-used right hemisphere of my brain. It's an exploration of whether or not I have the capability and/or determination make it as a storyteller, whatever form that takes. Finally, it's a documentation of the process for anyone else who has a 9-to-5 but is still passionate about chasing a dream.
*Two minutes, thirty-six seconds.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.