working and writing


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.


2 thoughts on “working and writing

  1. I’m a librarian, which is a job I love, but even a job you love gets old. I’d love to have the luxury of writing full-time, and I find it very difficult to eke out enough writing time, between my responsibilities to my job and my family (and I only work twenty hours a week!) I started my blog, and I access literary websites, so I can feel a part of the literary world, but the best communication is face to face. Maybe you could join a writer’s group? There’s one in my area I’m thinking of joining, and I’ve begun participating in an online poet’s group. Starting your own salon sounds wonderful!

    No matter what, here’s my advice: try to find a job you love, because it’s what you do all day, and what we do all day is our life. If I had it to do again, I’d have found a job in writing (or I’d be an archaeologist or a museum curator!), but believe me, being a librarian is working in a great environment. (Before that, I worked in a number of social service positions, and I was miserable.)

    I wouldn’t hesitate to take the library test again, if they offer it. Now you’ve taken it once, you know the kinds of questions they ask. When I “broke” into the library world, as a library associate, with a bachelor’s degree, and no experience in libraries, I got a bunch of library science textbooks out of the library, to familiarize myself with terminology, principles and reference sources, before I took the test. (I’m assuming there was a written test, along with evaluation of education and experience.) There may even be other library jobs that would give you a start, and you’ll want to check the public libraries in your area.

    Michaels is a good choice for a temporary job, so you’ve found a place you can enjoy for awhile. I love browsing the shelves and thinking about all the projects I’d never have time to do. I can see it being a fun place to work, especially at Christmas time. So, Good Luck! You’ll find the right job soon.

  2. I have been one of those people who has always had positions of ‘convenience’ (right time, place, etc. for my schedule or personal life) and many were lucrative, but I have never had a job that I absolutely loved. I thought that quitting the corporate environment and going back to school would have helped me find a job I really liked (at least ‘liked’) rather than one I loathed or felt trapped in. Education did not provide me this alternative; nor do I think it will. However, I do consider myself a more ‘qualified’ person for a wider spectrum of positions. When I consider great writers who did not make full-time jobs of writing (Stevens, William Carlos Williams; my man, Henry Green) or the academic route considered most convenient for writers, I have come to the conclusion that I would be happy doing anything for a living that allowed me to have time to also write and spend time with other writers. I am now considering doing any job that pays the bills and doesn’t require me to take work home or to be on-call. Start the ‘salon’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s