Monday, December 16, 2013

A Writing Geek Anecdote

Over the years I've realized that I write best when I'm well fed, well rested, and bored.  Normally this means that my ideal writing time is in the middle of Sunday afternoon, but there are some interesting exceptions.

Back in August of 1997 I took a week-long seminar on the configuration of the Materials Management module for the SAP/R3 database software.  No, it's actually a lot more interesting than it sounds.  Well ... OK, maybe not.  What it meant was that I spent a week in downtown Cleveland with someone else paying the dinner bill, and given my introvert nature my evenings' entertainment was sitting in my hotel room reading and ignoring the TV.  Exciting, I know.

Well fed?  Check!
Well rested?  Check!
Bored?  Oooh, look!  Another commercial for Sham-Wow!

Now that you have that background, I want you to imagine the following.  After a section of the course on adding products to the system, the instructor tells everyone to create an entry for a picture frame.  It has to have a search key, as well as a short, medium, and long description.  This is about 30 seconds of work.  Maybe 45 if you've never done it before and have to rely on a cheat-sheet.  Then she goes on to say that there will be a prize for the most creative entry.

She told the class to take a few minutes and then we'd have a 15 minute break.  Plenty of time considering that my mind started racing at 9000 miles an hour the moment she said the word "prize".

I wasted about 10 seconds brainstorming and the phrase "lead frame" popped into my head.  The result was a flash-fiction piece - probably around 500 words - written in the style of Raymond Chandler.  The title (as well as the product's short description) was "All Lead Frame", and it was a first person narrative of a detective looking down at a bullet-riddled corpse as he realized the blond in the red dress had set him up.

The words flowed like melted butter over lobster.  I took about twice the amount of time as anyone else in the class - I did get a couple of odd looks because I was typing so much.  I proofread it a couple of times, saved it, and went off to find some coffee (the break room at the Cleveland training center was fantastic at that time - fully stocked with an amazing variety of drinks and snacks ... which goes back to that whole "well fed" thing).

When I got back to the room at the end of the break, the prize was sitting at my workstation (I think it was a t-shirt or coffee mug or some such).  The instructor gave a funny smile and said, "You win.  No question about it."  From the facial expressions and shaking heads among the others in the class, I'm pretty sure she'd read it out loud while I was out of the room.

Sadly, that little story is probably lost.  There are a couple of places I might still have it, printed out and stuck in a folder somewhere, but I doubt I'll find it.  Too bad, too.  It was a fun bit to write.