Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dream job

So it's pretty obvious that my "dream job" would involve getting paid to do what I do anyway.

I write novels, short stories, and articles (which sometimes turn into passionate rants) about asexuality. (And one time, that ranting became long enough and organized enough that I could sell it as a book.) Sometimes, people like the things I write enough to buy them, display them, or offer to represent them to publishers, but so far, it does not happen often enough or to a great enough extent that I can support myself on the money it makes. And sure, it would be ideal if I did not have to go to another job to make ends meet. It would be ideal if the thing I love to do most in the world also resulted in people throwing money at me and making it possible for me to keep doing it without distraction.

(Actual tweet I got once.)
However, I've noticed that we as a culture are obsessed with this idea of getting paid for your passion. Our norms in society encourage you to feel ashamed of yourself if you do a job that isn't fulfilling--or at least we're supposed to consider those jobs temporary. They're a means to an end, and that end should be to spend most or all of your life acquiring monetary rewards for engaging in your passion.

I doubt anyone reading this has failed to notice that not all passions are equally likely to be lucrative.

It's actually really hard to make a living as an author. It's also really rare that someone's entire income is from writing, even if they are fairly successful and have managed to sell some of their work. Often an author needs a secondary income--either their own day job/side job, or a partner's job sharing the load of running a household, or both. And for some reason, I've noticed people expecting authors to regard all forms of writing as created equal; they seem to think just about every type of writing is interconnected in every way, from the craft basics to the interpersonal connections, from the skills and education needed to the creative and professional needs satisfied.


Think about the difference between picking up a book you personally wanted to read and picking up the book you were assigned to read for school reading or book club. Sure, you might unexpectedly enjoy the assigned book, and you may just be the type of person who devours everything. But for many (probably most) people, reading isn't really the same if it's something someone else made you read. Especially if the kinds of books you're assigned to read are fundamentally different from the type you'd choose.

That's why I always shake my head and feel irritated when someone tells me I should have a "writing job." Yeah, I will be a full-time writer if my books sell so well that I can do so. But I have no desire to run out and get a job writing in a field I'm not attached to--writing for a magazine, chasing stories for newspapers, authoring how-to manuals on things I ostensibly know how to do--just to be able to say I make a living at writing. I have less inclination to work on the things I am driven to write if I have to use my creative skills on something I'm assigned to do. Collecting money for it is not what makes it less appealing. Having to produce words in an inorganic atmosphere would.

Some authors straddle those worlds. They enjoy their journalism career or their movie novelization–writing career or their ghostwriting. But me? I don't. So I'm 100% happy working as a part-time administrative assistant, where I sometimes use my editing skills on others' documents but rarely have to produce anything creative. That way, I remain in a support position, collecting a paycheck and making others' careers doable, and when I go home, the "real" work begins. Furthermore, nobody at my office expects me to be personally, emotionally, or spiritually satisfied by my work as an admin. They know it's just a job, and they don't demand that their secretary has some kind of passion for admin-ing. (Though I must say I do really enjoy stamping documents with the invoicing stamp.) My job lets me do my job.

Quitting my admin job to become a full-time author is not the endgame. It's not some kind of means to an end, though of course it would be nice to have those 28 hours a week to work on writing or other creative projects and be able to perform all of my paycheck-earning work while wearing my star-printed sweatpants. But if that happens, it happens. In the meantime, I will continue doing what I was doing already: writing what I love, and showing it to the people who want to read it.

Though I won't object if one day this IS my official work uniform. . . .

1 comment:

  1. I recently met with this woman who writes for our local newspaper. She doesn't do the hard-nose reporting, but more of the lifestyle stuff. And she's written one novel and wants to do more.

    She said that when she tells her fellow journalists at the paper she wants to write fiction, they look at her weird. And wonder why she wants to write when she's off duty too.

    I thought that was interesting.