The following Timbits exclusive interview with Timbits creator, founder, Chief Inspector, Grand Admiral, Junior Vice-Commissioner, and writer Tim Schaffer was conducted in Tim’s apartment in rural Massachusetts.
Timbits Blog: Good afternoon, Tim – thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions today. I consider this interview the capstone of my career.
Tim Schaffer: And thank you, Tim, for meeting in my home and in off hours to accommodate my schedule. Your professionalism astounds me. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
TBB: Well, let’s cut right to it. You spent the better part of a year creating Timbits. You said it was part of becoming a freelance writer. Yet you haven’t posted anything since last September. People are beginning to notice! Recently you’ve received a deluge of inquiries on Facebook – by my count [rummages papers] two – wondering what you’re doing these days. So, both your friends want to know: What’s happened?
TS: In short, I got a job.
TBB: A job? Surely you jest – you had a job as a freelance writer!
TS: Ah, but this new job is one I’m actually getting paid for.
TBB: Zounds and double zounds! So you’re a real, grown-up, nine-to-five workin’ man now, huh?
TS [shifts awkwardly in seat]: Well, not exactly. Two months of the year it’s full time, but for the rest it’s 20-25 hours a week. But if you remember I had a smattering of part time jobs already. When you add this new one to those the result is 30-35 hours a week – so pretty close to full time.
TBB: But you’re still not quite a grown-up, are you?
TS: Is this a bad thing?
TBB [laughs heartily at this hilarious witticism]: So what do you do?
TS: I work for The Experimentory at Deerfield Academy. It’s a summer educational enrichment program for middle school students.
TBB: “The Experimentory,” – that sounds familiar… but where would I have heard of that before…?
TS: Ha-ha. Jill is the head of the program – it’s the reason why we moved to Massachusetts in 2014.
TBB [grins]: Yes, of course. So do you work with Jill or for Jill?
TS: For Jill.
TBB: How do you like working for Jill?
TS [laughing]: It’s rough: I can’t complain about my wife at work and I can’t complain about work at home!
TBB: You realize that many Timbits readers are friends and family that have heard that tired joke probably dozens of times before.
TS: Is it getting old? People usually laugh.
TBB: Am I laughing?
TS: Well, I was, a little. Doesn’t that mean…? I mean, we’re the same person, right? I’m losing track of how this multiple-personas gag works…
TBB: Let’s return to my original serious question – how do you like working for Jill?
TS: It’s actually great! Although we met briefly in college, our adult friendship started when we were coworkers in Christian ministry in Potsdam, NY. So we have a long history of working together.
TBB: Is it a different dynamic working for Jill rather than with her?
TS: Yes, but not much. When we were coworkers we shared general responsibilities, but our individual roles reflected our different skillsets. Since planning and directing are two of her strongest gifts, I’d often be following her direction – and I’m glad to do it now. It’s deeply satisfying to be helping Jill practically in her life’s work rather than just cheering her on from the sidelines.
TBB: And I suppose after working for Jill for twelve years, it’s nice to get paid for it! Ha-ha!!
TS: Hey!! After your snooty remarks about tired old jokes, I purposely skipped that one!
TBB [haughtily]: The Fourth Estate can’t shy from even the worst of jokes.
TS: Um, okay.
TBB: I have to say you seem very enthusiastic about this position. What excites you about the work?
TS: On the most fundamental level, the goals of the program resonate with me. The Experimentory’s primary educational goals are to expose kids to the essential skills of creativity and innovation that often don’t fit neatly into school curricula – namely pursuing curiosity, combining disciplines, refining ideas, and working collaboratively. These are the things I’ve always loved about learning and teaching.
TBB: But you work in the office – you’re not a teacher.
TS: Though I long ago realized I’m not cut out to be a teacher, I still enjoy kids and value education. A support staff role reconnects me with those passions without risking the pitfalls.
TBB: And those passions make you excited about… paperwork?
TS [slightly embarrassed]: Oddly enough, yes. But the job is more than just handling paperwork. Eight years of customer service taught me how much I genuinely enjoy helping people, and much of what I do falls under that purview. I also get to –
TBB: What is your title?
TS: Was it really necessary to interrupt me?
TBB: That’s part of Timbits’ hard-hitting brand of journalism.
TS: Asking my title is “hard-hitting?” It seems like –
TBB: Just answer the question.
TS: I am “Program Coordinator.”
TBB [makes “Baby Shark” motion with arms]: You’ve been Tim-Bitten™!
TBB: Please, go on.
TS: Okay… Well, as I was saying, I also get to write quite a bit, which is satisfying.
TBB: What do you write?
TS: I’m daily composing emails to students and parents, social media posts, and form letters. I wrote most of the text on our website when we revamped it at the beginning of the year. And I’ve had a hand in writing some short articles and promotional materials.
TBB: Social media posts?
TS: Yes! I manage the program’s social media presence. Most days it’s so much fun it hardly feels like work at all.
TBB: Has your experience creating Timbits helped in that role?
TS: To an extent. I certainly draw on my blogging voice, rather than my business writing voice, when composing social media posts. Although we post program information and announcements, more than half of our posts are links to videos, podcasts, and articles that fit into our themes. Anyone who has enjoyed my non-fiction Timbits will find an echo in the Experimentory Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds.
TBB: That sort of plug is inappropriate, thank you.
TBB [“Baby Shark” motion]: Tim Bitten™!
TS: I feel like you’re using that phrase in a different way than you used it before. What exactly is it supposed to signify?
TBB: The concept is still under development. Are there any other things you’d like to say about your new job?
TS: It’s been full of unexpected joys and blessings. For example, the transition into this job has been remarkably smooth – the most natural of my career. I often suffer from the Imposter Syndrome when starting a new position. In this case, however, I already knew so much about the job and my new boss knew so much about my strengths and weaknesses that those insecurities couldn’t take hold.
TS: Lastly – and this is something I hadn’t anticipated – I love the control I have over my responsibilities and schedule. In all my previous positions, I’ve had to operate within a framework designed by my predecessors, my boss, or my company. But thanks to the newness of the program and the small size of our office, I have the autonomy to create systems and strategies that work best for me. It’s bizarrely satisfying.
TBB: So does this mean you’re done with Timbits?
TS: I don’t think so… My long break these past few months has been largely unplanned. I had originally intended to just scale back to posting once a month or so.
TBB: What’s happened, then?
TS: Two things. First, Jill and I have had some matters in our personal life that have taken up some extra time and energy.
TBB: Are you really going to leave it at that?
TS: Yes. That’s good enough for the interwebs – for now anyway. Second, since freelance writing is no longer my primary focus, I’ve been feeling more freedom to write whatever-the-heck-I-feel-like rather than specifically blog content.
TBB: So you are still writing, then?
TS: Absolutely! As my career path has changed, I’ve begun seeing my writing year as a sort of sabbatical to regroup and develop professionally. I may not have ended up as a fulltime paid writer, but writing is now an established part of my creative life. And who knows what may come of that in the future?
TBB: What have you been writing?
TS: A longer piece of speculative fiction, actually.
TBB: A book?
TS: Possibly. I’ve been writing a series of pieces about a set of interrelated characters. I could envision combining them to form chapters of a novel, or episodes in a blog series, or short stories in a collection.
TBB: Why haven’t you been sharing them on Timbits?
TS: For one, I’ve been writing them out of order. But more importantly, since this is the first time I’ve tried something long like this, I want to take things slowly. I don’t want to be driven to “get the next part out” and I want the freedom to adjust early episodes as my characters develop.
TBB: So nothing more until that’s done?
TS [shrugs]: I have probably two dozen blog posts partially started that I might pick up and finish one of these days. You never know.
TBB: Well, thanks for sharing, Tim. You’ve been Tim Bitten™.
TS: Again, you can’t trademark something if you’re not consistent with wha –
[TBB abruptly makes “Baby Shark” motion and ends the scene]