Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I just finished writing the most boring report ever

Very few people will ever take the time to plow through all 61 pages of text, figures, and tables, which is longer than my Master's thesis was. It will never get published in a professional journal. My laborious hours of data entry, analysis, and fighting with Microsoft Word (WHY does it insist on applying formats to everything?) will probably not add much to the body of knowledge or change the course of recreational fisheries management history. Do I care? Hell no! It's all behind me now, at least until my boss reads it and finds something he thinks should be said differently. Which he will.

The reports I write are results of creel surveys, which measure recreational fishing effort, catch, harvest, and various demographics of anglers on lakes or rivers. I have been analyzing similar data (with the same 1995 DOS-based software!) and writing similar reports for the greater part of ten years now. It should be easy, almost automatic, but for some reason this whole project has taken much longer and come along with more difficulty than any other. Not that the subject matter is any more difficult to deal with; in fact it may be the similarity, the repetition, that makes it more difficult. I'm the kind of writer who wants to be creative, I want to write new, interesting stuff, but even my writing guidelines for this type of report seem to specifically discourage any creativity whatsoever. I'm just burned out on this gig.

What's more, there is no incentive to do a particularly good job on these reports. My inner perfectionist editor gets picky about typos, wording, and table layout, but as long as the basic information is there, in a somewhat clear, readable manner (and I am better at doing this than many of my colleagues) the report gets signed, I get a satisfactory performance review, and I get my paycheck. My job does not operate under a real economy, such as gardening, where my yield is proportional to the effort and expertise I put into it.

So for now, blogging and music will have to be my outlets for creativity.


Laura said...

Creel surveys. Takes me back to when I worked on a creel census at Opeongo Lake in Algonquin Park, Ontario. Got the job by being recommended by an influential friend of my mother. We interviewed people coming off the lake, and in exchange for information, we cleaned their fish (and measured them, weighed them, and took samples of scales and sometimes otoliths and stomach contents). I wonder if my hands still remember how to clean a fish.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

This reminds me so much of my days when I worked for the university in California. Sure, I wrote the reports, analyzed the data, summarized, tabulated, and bullshitted. It did not spark my creativity in the least. But, when they left me alone with time on my hands, out came Photoshop and I could goof off happily for hours!

Your blog, flute, and mandolin are good balance to the work-day world.

Deb said...

Laura- a real live blogging former creel clerk! Amazing, it's not like the most common job in the world. Our clerks don't go as far as cleaning fish for people, but they do have to load boats (or snowmobiles in winter) and go out on the lake to interview people. I could not do that; I just don't have what it takes to interrupt strangers while they are fishing and start a conversation.

RD- I do have Photoshop on my work computer, which I haven't even had the chance to sit down and play with, and since I got this report done I just might have some free time tomorrow...:)

Floridacracker said...

I think that's why I envy people who can make a living off their artistry or craftsmanship. The freedom to be creative and be paid for it...the holy grail.
My creativity on the job is crimped by the fauning devotion of the education establishment to standardized testing. The test rules all! All hail the test!

As for free time during the workday...I'm on stage from start to finish.
The frantic pace does make the day fly by.

clairesgarden said...

a job is a necessary part of life , it has to be done and sometimes you enjoy it, but I take great pleasure in my own time and having a job is what makes it possible