When I think about my “ideal” job, there is a list of do’s and don’ts I wish I could meet. I don’t want to be by myself in an office with florescent lighting and no windows. I don’t really want to work 10 hour days, six days a week. It would be nice to be surrounded by books and people who like books, or people who like to write books. It would be great to interact with different people from day to day. I want to enjoy myself at work more often than not. I’d like to flex my creative writing muscle (or at least give it a work out). I don’t want to be in charge of anyone. The problem with having such a demanding wish list is this: In my professional life, I’ve done nothing of such importance that would allow me the luxury of receiving any of the demands on my wish list. I mean, having an office with a window seems like a reasonable wish, but were I offered a full-time job, and my new boss escorted me to a windowless, florescent office (or cubicle), it’s not as if my skills are in such demand that I could declare, “I refuse to work in these conditions!” and the new boss would immediately find me an office overlooking the city skyline.
In fact, in the current economic crisis, I haven’t had any luck at all in my job search. I applied for a library specialist position at the local university, a position I really, really wanted. I thought I would be perfectly qualified for it, since the only absolute requirement was a high school diploma, but the university’s preference was for the candidate to have some higher education courses as well. When human resources asked me for my transcripts, I thought my chances were excellent. I have my B.S. and am nearly done with my MFA! The position was a civil service position, which means the applicants have to take an exam. For this position, the exam score was based on the applicant’s education and experience. My score was 70–a passing score. However, the scale was 1-100, which means a 70 is very, obnoxiously average. The scores dictate where the applicants are listed on the interview register. The department invites the three applicants with the highest scores to interview. My place on the register: 35. How incredibly depressing. And this for a position that didn’t even require a bachelor’s degree!
I’m slowly reconciling myself to the idea that what I do to make money may not be what I love to do. I’ve always thought a person’s time was too important to spend most of it doing something he/she didn’t love. But I’ve also learned that I love (and don’t love) so many different things about daily experience. It’s not like experience has to be compartmentalized into hourly increments, with certain hours intended for “fun” stuff and others intended for “work.” I’m making the effort to merge fun and work as often as possible–I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive (but I guess it depends on who you ask and what they are doing). Anyway, tomorrow I start my seasonal job at Michael’s Art and Crafts. It’s not exactly where I imagined myself, but I’m grateful to have employment at all right now (and I do like the store’s products, which is why I applied…I get an employee discount…woohoo!). I’m going to keep harassing the universities for a job (though an article in today’s paper said the local state university branch is tightening its purse strings), but for now I have a little financial breathing room.
What got me thinking about all this was the realization that I may not end up earning my living as a writer, and whether or not this mattered to me. It does not. What I do to make money does not affect me as a writer, except for the ideas/inspiration the job may foster. What matters is the discipline to write in spite of working 8 hours, or 10 hours, or what have you. What I miss, though, is the writing community–discussing ideas, books, providing feedback on work, etc. with friends and people I trust and admire. That brings me to a blog entry I read this morning that pointed me to an article in Poets & Writers called, “Ways to Create Community Post-MFA.” The first suggestion is to “Start a Salon.” I’ve often joked to my husband that I’d like to start a salon à la Gertrude Stein in Paris, and that all the community hipsters, writers, and artists could come hang at our house at all hours of the night and day. Now that I’ve moved away from my writing community in Florida, I may try to do or find something like this.