I’m a fraud. I have been posing as a writer for 20 years and somehow, so far, nobody has caught onto the fact that I simply fake my so called writing talent—that is until the waning months of my last job.
When applying for work I’m often asked the question “What’s your greatest strength?” I always reply “My writing. If you ask about me, anyone who knows me will invariably say ‘He’s a good writer; wears a lot of black.’”
Yet, what these well meaning souls (precious though they are to me) don’t know is the deceit in my heart. Even as I attempt to fool everyone in my presence—including myself—into thinking that I am a talented writer with no equal, in the evening, at my bar, under the initial influence of beer and whiskey the voices whisper what I know deep in my heart and try desperately to ignore. I believe the phrase is vino veritas, which is to say “In the wine there is truth.” It’s just one more reason I don’t stop at two rounds. Soon after the vino liberates the voices of veritas they begin to taunt me, and another dose is required to quiet them.
This brings me to the second major and recent event in my life, which I mentioned in my last entry. I’m now gainfully employed, finally closing this latest chapter of my life. It all began in July 2011 when I announced to the company that employed me at the time that I was leaving to promote my book in an attempt to seduce a publisher. In the meantime I planned to restart my formerly lucrative freelance business.
Now this announcement was true in the sense that I was, in fact, planning to do exactly that and, so far, the promotional part has been happening in the form of my column in the local paper and my blog, which you are now reading. What is not true is the part where I intentionally deceived my colleagues by suggesting that I had a say in the matter of my departure. I did not. What follows is a more accurate telling of the tale, or said another way, the whole truth.
I remember very clearly collecting my laptop and following my friend and manager, Karoline, into one of the team rooms on a Tuesday for our weekly one-on-one. Our new VP of Marketing, Bob, was sitting on the other side of the room, with his typical goofy grin watching the two of us find a place at the table. As I set my laptop down Karoline said “Bob would like to sit in on our meeting.” “OK; hi Bob.” I quipped glibly.
I was about to close the door when our HR manager also slipped in behind me, holding some forms, a note pad, and a pen. I sat down in front of my laptop, and Karoline looked at me and said “Cindy will also be joining us.” Unfazed I simply closed my laptop and said “Well I guess I won’t be needing this, will I?” Bob looked at me, the grin abating, and uttered a single syllable: “No.”
It’s funny. These conversations are never quite as direct as I would prefer. Karoline sat silently, avoiding eye contact with me as Bob talked for about seven minutes regarding the need for a change on the team, without ever really coming to the point. When there was a pause I smiled knowingly and said “What kind of change did you have in mind Bob?” Bob returned the smile and said “Here’s what we can do for you: two weeks notice, two weeks severance, and you can announce your own departure.”
“Well that’s very generous Bob.” I said trying to hide the sarcasm.
“Thank you.” Bob replied disingenuously.
I continued: “Last Friday you pulled me aside and thanked me for graciously accepting the new role you had carved out for me when you hired someone to replace me as the team writer. You said I was the only one that could operate in this new position you created for me, Assistant Campaign Manager. That was two business days ago. What’s changed?”
Raising his voice he emphatically shot back “I meant that you were the only one who might be able to do that job assuming that you actually could do that job.” Karoline and I simply stared at Bob in silence while he took a breath and regained his composure. Softening slightly, he continued “You’re not that guy. You’ve never been that guy, and you’ll never be that guy. You’re a writer; that’s what you should be doing.”
My brain immediately leapt to the obvious rhetorical question, “Well if I’m a writer, why did you yank me off the only writing position on the team?” Of course I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. No point in poking the tiger. The truth is Bob hated my business writing and had been complaining about it to Karoline since he arrived. C’est la guerre.
Dutifully, I broadcast my departure by e-mail, wishing everyone well and explaining my plans. Colleagues returned my well-wishes. Karoline offered support. Women actually wept. And all I could think was “If only they knew.” Knew the failure that I was. Knew the fraud I had perpetuated for the last two decades. Knew the depth of my deceit when I presented myself as a writer. My last day came and went and for 252 days I diligently worked on my blog, applied for work, networked, sought out partnerships and clients—all to no avail.
And with each passing day, the voices of doubt grew louder, the self-loathing more intense, and the whiskey more frequent. Until I finally came to be comfortable with the fact that I would never work again. It was, ironically, another Tuesday morning when I embraced this epiphany over morning coffee with my housemates.
I didn’t write that day, and I didn’t apply for work. I simply sat down and began watching Netflix non-stop. Every 30 minutes or so I would find a reason to pause what I was watching and shuffle out of my office with the emotional acquiescence of my new-found career: Professional Time Killer.
Visits to the break room for a cup of coffee and innocuous chit-chat with my colleagues were now officially replaced by trips to the coffee maker and incessant inquiries directed at my wife: “So Heidi; what’s happening?” And then, as if by divine appointment, a miracle occurred. I was returning from the bathroom for the 12th time, thinking about whether to spend happy hour at a sports bar or at my bar, and I decided to check my e-mail.
In my inbox among the meaningless spam, and advertisements for online dating sites and Viagra, was a message inviting me to interview for a position as a technical writer. The company, TOPAZ Technologies, is located right here in Pflugerville, Texas, 4 miles from my home—and they’ve been in business for 30 years and are still privately held.
Think of it: No venture capitalists to push the company around instead of allowing the visionaries to do what they do best. No Company Board to throttle management when we miss a quarter, while we, the common worker bees, tremble as the landslide of proverbial crap rolls downhill. And best of all, no commute.
As you’ve probably surmised, I got the job. It was April 16, 2012: the day the Earth stood still. As I crossed the threshold of my corner office, I thought of Bob and how he discovered the dark secret I had tried so desperately to hide. I wondered almost aloud “How long before they find out this time?”
Let the games begin.