Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's not a day job

All over the bloggosphere, I hear authors (published, pre-published, agented, un-agented) saying that you get so much further in this writing world when you start to think of it as a job.

I'm quite sure that works for them, but I doubt it would work for me.

See, they're assuming that the word day-job means certain things: sticking with it, doing it when you don't feel like, producing a certain output every day...

And day job means none of that for me.

I've been working full and part time for almost 14 years now.

I spent two years, while I was still in school, part-timing on Saturdays and in vacations at the largest department store on the island. Maybe that sounds all responsible to you, but I basically did it to make pocket change and not have to convince my parents of the worthiness of my purchases.

Then I was in the Coast Guard for two years. I got tangled up in that world because it involved a college scholarship, and I figured what the hey. My Mom and Dad met in the military. My godfather was in the military. It's been my lifestyle since before I was born.

Then I spent 2 years full-time and 3 years part-time being a submarine co-pilot/ tour guide. That was quite accidental. I never applied to work on the submarine, but the boss was like, you've been in the Coast Guard, why not? (Because I'm claustrophic, silly! But apparently you can get over phobias. lol) I stuck with that because it's really cool when you're introducing yourself. Everyone else is all, I'm a doctor, I'm a lawyer. And you're like, I'm a submarine co-pilot. And that's just the end of the conversation. lol.

After that I worked in a call centre as a supervisor/language specialist. I was hired for Spanish, but ended up taking the occasional call in Italian and French, and even Farsi (clearly that failed) and I had a blast. They were paying me to do something I'd do for free: walk up and down daydreaming until the opportunity arose to speak Spanish.

The last thing I did before I came out to Japan was teach. I went through temporary posts at 3 secondary schools, teaching English, Social Studies, Maths, Reading (for slow learners), French and Spanish. The kids loved me because I was that teacher. You know the one, the kids come talk to her when they have problems with school and other teachers.

And now, I'm here, teaching English as a foreign language to kids 3-16 and adults up to "many years ago 20".

All of this is why I refuse to think of writing as a day job:

I want writing to be forever. I've been employed by 8 different employers in 5 fields. I can't even stay in a field, far less a specific job for longer than 5 years.

When the going gets tough, I get going. I guess normal people struggle through the hard parts of their jobs in favour of paying the bills. When a job stops being fun, I walk. Sure, I find a legitimate excuse, like going to university or moving to another hemisphere, but the end result is the same.

When I'm not feeling it, I'm not feeling it. There comes a point where I operate at bare minimum. I'm a smart girl. It means I don't have to use much brainpower to get stuff done. So I just need to turn up, put in my time and go home. But writing's not like that. Just turning up isn't good enough.

There may come a day that my creative writing pays the bills. But I doubt I'll ever be the type that writes 5 days a week, or does anything remotely consistent-looking. If I write 25 hours one week and then do nothing for a month, that's fine by me. There will be days when I force myself to write, and days when I couldn't be bothered. Days when I'll have schedules and plots and be all organised and days when I'll go at it with the wild unbridled energy of an escaped filly.

The most important thing is not that this is a job and that I do it according to the rules of job-dom. To my mind, the most important thing is that I do it. And whether that involves a slow steady tortoise-like plod or spending most days faffing about and following up with a faster-than-Bolt sprint is inconsequential.

How is writing a job for you? How is it not?


Shallee said...

Wow, you had some interesting jobs! Submarine co-pilot sounds awesome. :)

Writing isn't a job for me, though I think that's because of how I define "job." I write almost daily, and I'm fully intent on making it a big part of my life (hopefully through publishing). I also blog and tweet and all that jazz. And I love every minute of it (mostly).

But to me, a job is work you do to make money. Yes, it's nice to do a job you love, and I have done that. And yes, I hope to make money with my writing. But with writing...it's just something I love. It's something I'm dedicated to 100%, and it's hard work, but it never really feels like WORK. For me, it's not a job just because of my own definitions.

And it's nice that I don't have to call in sick. :)

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