Monday, January 29, 2007

Writers Who Work

This is my second blog posting, and it's taken me almost three weeks to get to it. Unlike my friends, I don't have one of those jobs where I can sit around posting on Internet chat rooms all day. Quite the opposite - I've always been stuck with the type of job where I'm expected to actually work. I have no time, or even access, to this blog during regular working hours (although today is an exception - I took today off to look after my sick wife), and at night I just want to relax with a glass of cola and an episode of Dr. Who. Plus, being a novelist, I have to squeeze some writing into my day, too. So these posts might have long stretches in-between them. Unless I get a job where I can goof off all day. Like my friends.

But therein is a good subject; what do you do if you're a writer who also has to work a day job? If generating cool stories doesn't yet pay the bills, what are you supposed to do?

I have chosen the path of the Temp. It is not a particularly glamorous path - you are basically given the kind of menial or degrading assignments that real employees either don't have time for or consider beneath them. Photocopying, filing, putting the ink and paper into the printers, and lying down on a dirty floor so you can reach the pen your boss dropped under her desk are all the types of work you can look forward to in this less-than-stellar profession. Not fun. Hardly challenging. But I can do it, I get paid for it, and I can squeeze my writing time around it. The worse the job, the greater the incentive to write a bestseller to get me out of there.

Other writers get jobs that actually involve writing. I'd like to get me some of that. Technical writing, movie reviewing, copywriting for ad agencies and so on are the types of work I have so far failed to get. Then there are jobs within the industry: editor for a publishing house, proofreader at a magazine, key grip on a movie set. I've avoided that kind of work for two reasons: one, I fear I'll learn exactly how unlikely it will be to live my dream if I work inside the beast; and two, I'm spectacularly unqualified for that kind of work.

Some writers come at it from the opposite angle - they get a job they love, then write about it. Lawyers write legal thrillers, doctors medical dramas. Maybe I should write about temping.

So what is the perfect job for the aspiring writer? Wish I knew. I've been trying to figure that one out for a long time. I've just never had any interest in a 'real' career, nor have I found a job that excites or drives me. Most kinds of work leave me frustrated and depressed.

But it's not all bad. Each job I've had has built upon the one thing that gets me out of bed at 6:30 every morning - the burning desire to create stories and get them out into the world. Each boring temp job motivates me to keep at it and not give up, because one day my writing talent will pay off. It's not a perfect life, but it is a good one. This summer I will have four published novels to my credit, and I will have been married to the perfect woman for two years. As things go, that's not bad, not at all. If boring temp jobs are the price I must pay, then I'll pay it a little longer.

Now if you will all excuse me, my perfect woman is ill, and needs attending to.

- Timothy Carter


Little sausage said...

How about... a temp who finds a magic portal in the photocopier one day and winds up in the Cretaceous period or something? That's probably a bit too similar to CS Lewis though.

jackpayne said...

Ideal job for a would-be writer is advertising copywriter, advertising agency preferred.

That's how I got my start. Now, 55 business books and 1,100,000 sales later, I came out of retirement to write my first novel, Six Hours Past Thursday, as a sort of "Last Hurrah."

--Jack Payne