Sunday, December 19, 2010

Change



Around this time of year, everybody starts thinking about change. There's a new year on the horizon, and we all get a fresh start. Everything's going to be different. Out with the old and in with the new. New calendar. New Congress. New Facebook profile. Because new means better. Change is good. Anything different is an improvement on what we already have. Right?

Not always.

Take Congress for example. We "change" Congress every two years. Has it ever improved? Not a bit. Nobody has ever said, "damn, this new Congress is way better than that crappy old Congress we used to have." And they never will. Because change is not inherently good. Sometimes the crappy Congress we have is the best one we can get. And changing it only makes it worse.

As for Facebook, they have a whole army of people working around the clock whose sole objective is to make unnecessary changes to the system. These so-called "improvements," often known as "upgrades" are actually a continuing series of useless annoyances whose only real purpose is to provide the employees of Facebook with a sense of job security. Currently they are pushing a new profile format. Why? Is there something wrong with the current format? I like my profile the way it is. Some people say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But at Facebook their motto is, "if it ain't broke, be patient, we'll be screwing it up shortly."

Change.

While I accept the inevitability of change, I tend to resist its implementation. Recently, at work, I was asked to relocate to another building to help out with one of our more popular shows. They were gearing up for production and needed a few extra hands on deck, as it were. Now, some might see such a change of assignment as a welcome break to the hum-drum workaday routine. Not me. Once I get settled into my daily routine, I pretty much like to stick with it. I know exactly how long the commute takes. I have my computer set up just the way I like it. Got my favorite chair. I even have a little niche in the hallway fridge for my unsweetened chocolate soy milk. Now they want me to move?

Of course I agreed. I had no choice, really, but it seemed more civilized to pretend that I did. I decided to look at it as an adventure. As it turned out, the commute to the other building wasn't all that much different, just a few minutes longer. And the people over there were nice and all. They stuck me in an editing bay with some headphones and a laptop and basically left me alone. It was pretty damn cold in there, and the chair was kind of uncomfortable. And I couldn't quite get used to the size of the keyboard on the laptop. But, I decided to make a go of it.

After a few hours, I swapped chairs with one that wasn't being used. Then I scrounged around for a full-sized keyboard. The headphones were kind of digging into my skull, but I had to put up with them. I managed to tough it out for the rest of the night. After all, it was an adventure.

The next day, I was moved to another work station with a better chair and more comfortable headphones. Still a little chilly, but I brought a sweater along just in case. I also found a fridge for my soy milk. It was kind of over-crowded, but it would do. Things were looking up. Had to leave home a few minutes early to account for the slightly longer commute, but I was handling it.

I got moved again the next day, and spent the first half-hour setting up my workspace so it was just right. Put a box under the laptop to raise the monitor to eye-level. Switched chairs with one from an empty conference room. Got hold of a new keyboard from the guy in IT. And I was now working in an editing bay that was heated to actual room temperature. There was an editor in there with me who was putting together bits and pieces of video from a vast array of clips for a segment in one of the upcoming shows. I occasionally interrupted him and asked him questions about his process. It was pretty fascinating. I was getting a little bonus OJT out of the deal. This new assignment was turning out all right after all.

By the end of the week, I had settled into my new routine quite nicely. I was making friends with the editor and learning a lot about the nuts and bolts of storytelling from his perspective. I'd learned my way around the building and even found another fridge that had plenty of room for my soy milk and other snack items. I was just beginning to feel at home there. And that's when they told me my assignment was done and I would be moving back to the main building. I was glad to be going back, but I had to admit I had kind of been enjoying my little adventure. Especially now that it was over.

The following weekend, I did a major rewrite of a screenplay I've been working on for several years. They say all good writing is rewriting, but rewriting can be a real pain in the ass. I'd been living with this story for so long, it was hard for me to imagine it any other way. But I'd gotten some pretty clear notes that what I had wasn't working and I needed to make some serious changes. I'd been putting off the rewrite for months and now the deadline was near. I was backed into a corner and the clock was ticking. I dug through the loose pile of notecards and scraps of paper where I'd scribbled some random ideas, and started piecing them together bit by bit. Much like my editor friend had done with his array of video clips. Fortunately, I was working at home, where the chair is comfortable, the monitor is just the right height, and the fridge is stocked with unsweetened chocolate soy milk. In the end, the rewrite turned out pretty damn good. Much better than I'd expected. Much better than the original.

So I guess not all change is bad. Sometimes change can even be fun.

But I'm still not switching to the new Facebook profile.

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