Monday, February 1, 2010

Two jobs, one hope

Like the majority of writers out there, I don't make *quite* enough money yet from my craft to make ends meet. (Insert good-natured yet cynical laughter here; the asterisks above are an indicator of sarcasm, friends). Hopefully that'll change one day, but right now I'm stuck having to work two jobs: the one that pays my rent, gas bill, phone bill, and other expenses... and the other, which offers payment on a much more emotionally rewarding scale: when I'm writing, I'm being paid in the totality of imagination. It's my escape, my voice, my therapist, my joy, my secret, my everything.

It's difficult to work a full-time "real world" job and then turn around and be creative. I don't produce as much as I'd like to; there are days when I can't even shift my brain into productive mode, and am lucky if I can do something as creative as cooking a simple dinner. Forget writing, forget tapping into the elemental ribbon of universal truth: I'm tired, dammit, and I want an ice cream sammich. I'm able to push myself into creative movement more and more often; after all, I understand that talent is a muscle and you must exercise it for your endeavors to grow. You must grind to shine, in other words. But that's easier said than done, more often than not.

The "real world" job I have right now involves sales, lots of sales. But it really is kind of a fun job. I have an old journal, one I left behind when I was unceremoniously booted from the poisonously safe refuge of Corporate America, cast out to drift in the vast gray sea of the lower middle class and the service industry which it so warmly embraces. I read a few entries from that journal earlier today, and now I'm filled with one of my favorite emotions, gratitude.

Gratitude and luck... I feel so very lucky to have lost my 40k a year job, and to be leading a totally different life from what I had two years ago. (Now, I bet you're wondering... is there more sarcasm in that remark? Ah, gentle reader, there were no asterisks around that statement, were there?) Yeah, it's tough. My job pays very little (a bit more than a third of what I was making in C.A., I just got my W2 for last year and it was quite the eye-opener), and I've had to implement a rigid budget to make sure bills get paid on time. And they still don't all get paid on time. Money is ridiculously tight, so much so that I applied for state benefits (EBT/food stamps), and was approved the same day I filed my paperwork. I'm not lamenting that, though. It just adds to the gratitude.

And I have another trade-off... I'm not under the backbreaking weight of constant pressure that builds and builds and builds when you're working in a cubicle farm. I'm not tied to a desk, don't have to be in the office at any specific time, and can leave to go out in the sunshine whenever I want to, provided I complete the work I have to do in the time I'm allotted. I was reading back over all those posts from when I worked in a huge office, and over and over I kept saying, "I hate it here. I hate being here. I wanna be out in the sunshine. I wanna be in a place I can have fun." More than that, the constant emotional punishment of living and working a hefty salary white-collar job ate away at my drive to write. "It's all right," I'd say to myself, "I work so hard, and I'm making good money... I'm too tired to write. I don't have time right now. I'll write later."

Well... it's later, kids.

Now I have what I need... money's tight, true. It's hard to spread myself between two ventures, yes. But I'm on the right path (the write path? heh). I'm grateful, so grateful I've been given this chance to honor the Muse. I'm so glad I've been laid low financially. "Prosperity breeds forgetfulness." Sadly, it's the truth. Right now everything makes me grateful, because times are so hard. And because of that, there's a lot of light and love in my life right now.

And hope. Never forget hope.


ggray said...

So well said. Sometimes what we see as loses of status, money or security end up being the kick in the butt we needed to unlatch the clone hinges and let the creative, resourceful (albeit sometimes deperate person) step out. The trade offs aren't worth it when we're cublicled into complacency. I learned the same thing when I left the newspaper. and I've seen it happen to so many other writers. A novel was often completed months after leaving the security of a white collar job.

B. Miller said...

Gail, thank you so much for your comments on my journal. I've really grown in the past year and a half, since I got kicked out of Corporate America, and you've been one of the largest influences on my life. Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you. I was working in McDonald's not so long ago, and I kept saying to myself "God I hate it here, I'm more than this...why am I doing this to myself?". Not only was I tired constantly from working nearly seven days a week, plus evening shifts on the days my husband had off, but my marriage was on the brink of extinction, my son was acting out from having two tired and emotionally inaccesible parents, and depression was weighing down on me. One day my brain started itching, so while I waited to clock in, I started writing. The scribbled sentences became a paragraph, the paragraph became a story line, and suddenly I had the beginnings of a novel. My husband and I talked it over, made a budget, and voila. Nine months later we're poorer then we have ever been, but happier then we could have imagined. Bye bye, packed up suitcases, misery, and constant tiredness (I'd love to say bye bye little kid with a big attitude, but he's three now, so it just gets worse as they get older). The novel is nearly done, and I truely believe it's the best thing I've ever written so far. Having someone who can allow you to follow your dream while they hold down a real job and go to school full time helps obviously, but foodstamps,50 cents to my name, counting water as a meal? been there. I count my blessings. For some crazy reason, someone out there likes me. One chance lead to another, we moved into a bigger place with cheaper rent, got more than we expected in taxes, and somehow things are settling together the way I would have wanted them to be when i was busting my ass seven days a week. We don't have much, and what we do have is already accounted for before it touches our account, but the point is, everything eventually comes together. A positive attitude and a willingness to take a chance in beliving that things can AND WILL get better are the best things you can do for yourself. I see big things in your future ;)