Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clark Kent vs. Superman

I think the most likely question presented in the social song-and-dance of meeting new people is the universal "So, what do you do?"

For a long time I answered that question with reciting whatever my current job title was at whatever company I worked at. The list is extensive (and exhausting). I worked in corporate America for a little over fourteen years before getting the unceremonious boot. I procured important job names: Sales Coordinator, Customer Service Specialist, National Accounts Administrator (please note the all-impressive proper noun status). I equated "what I did" with "what I made", a sad mistake which befalls so many people working in the white-collar industry.

Now I answer the question simply: "I'm a writer." The sound of those words coming out of my mouth are enough to start the butterflies hovering in my stomach, because it's something I've wanted since I was old enough to comprehend what a writer was. And now it's the truth.

An interesting comparison, isn't it? The truth - which was there all along, just waiting for me to finally pick it up and wear it proudly for everyone to see - is much more simple than the proper-noun-status titles of corporate America, but it's so much more broadly exciting. When I tell new acquaintances my profession, I feel a mix of pride and gratitude that's overwhelming.

Like Superman, I have no choice about what I was born into. I could choose not to write, but I'd still be a writer. And believe me, being an artist fucks you up sometimes. I had to learn to roll with it or I'd've been crushed and churned up by the machinery in my head. It's an ever-changing process, one I hope I never stop learning until the day I die. I wouldn't trade it for anything. And like Superman, when I'm writing I'm invincible - troubles melt away, no one can touch me, and nothing puts a damper on my mood.

But Clark Kent is still around. I have to pay the bills, don't I? And as much as Superman flew around, as cool as he looked in that cape and matching boots, as dapper as that shining spit-curl was in the middle of his forehead, he still needed food and shelter and clothing and the other things us humans have to have to survive. (Sure, I'm belaboring the point here - Superman had his Ice Fortress provided by the nifty crystals left to him by his dead superparents, but I don't have that luxury, so indulge me with this comparison, if you don't mind.) So yeah... for now, I'm a sales director by day and a writer by night. My day job is fun; I think I've mentioned in an earlier post how it allows me the time (and more importantly, the working brainspace) I need to write my book and build my career as a dark fiction author. I bet working at the Daily Planet was fun, too.

For a while.


Helen Ginger said...

Maybe writers have their own Ice Fortress. For me, it's my office. It could be anywhere you write or type or work.

Straight From Hel

Arlee Bird said...

Only slightly whimsical, but very true and oh so apt metaphor for your life. I can certainly identify with what you have said. A year ago my management position of 20 years at the branch of a company that I had been with for over 30 years was terminated as my branch shut down. Now I'm a writer, but most people are a bit wary of that. Okay I'm starting at the bottom again and have to work my way back up. It's a business start-up of the trade that has been with me for nearly 50 years and I just haven't actually put into operation. Now I'm just Clark Kent with an unemployment check, but hopefully Superman is gonna take flight soon.

ggray said...

What a wonderful way of putting the writer's dilemma or blessing. I certainly have identified with all the Clark Kents, but hadn't thought about the Superman side. But you nailed it. That said it all about the times we write and it works and we recognize it.
I'll never look at other writers as Kent again - they're all Supermen flying in a different stratosphere with the stories of the world on their backs.

Helen Ginger said...

Dropped by to tell you I gave you the Circle of Friends award today - and re-read your post. I love the Superman/Clark Kent analogy.

Straight From Hel

B. Miller said...

Thanks so much, friends!! Your comments keep me going. And Hel - you're awesome! Many, many thanks!

Maurice Mitchell said...

A great analogy. It would be boring to watch Clark Kent looking up a word in the thesaurus, but we know it must have happened.