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11:08 a.m. - 2010-04-21
Ice Cream Castles In The Air.

It's a balancing act, part of me wants to be 'out there', not as in goofy and strange but out in the world. To go to a job every day, even if it's not very fun and is kind of a soul suck. For the structure it would give my days. For the normalcy of it. More money would be nice, but that's not the real attraction. It's more to once again assume the mantle of being Jane Average. Don't get me wrong, I love being a writer. Love it. But it's a rather ephemeral thing to be. Always dependent on the last thing I sold and where I can park the next thing. A hustle that has very, very little to do with Art and everything to do with selling a product made of words and ideas. Heh, in a lot of ways my career hasn't changed at all, but instead of saying, "I sell cars" or "I sell kaleidoscopes and art glass" I sell the least necessary product in the universe- my words. And that's a really tough sell. Especially in a world that values the tangible.

I'm not romanticizing the supposed glories and goodies that come with being gainfully employed. I remember well enough the dull grind of it, the shitty customers, the endless make-work junk dished out by corporate headquarters. I remember the sheer banality of stocking shelves and the physical wear and tear of being on my feet for hours on end. Of always kissing ass to get a bigger tip or make a sale. Of dealing with shoplifters and petty jealous managers who hated knowing I was so good at what I did that I didn't fear or admire them enough to make them feel like big men.

There's solidity in it though. A direct exchange within a known framework. I give you X amount of hours of my day and I do whatever it is- mind a register, sell a product, wait a table, listen to you talk about how wonderful you are, whatever, and in exchange I get a paycheck and a place to be and a title of some sort. A label and an easily recognized answer to the question, "So what do you do?" The buck doesn't stop with me. I'm not on the line to make the shit I sell or rent the building or deal with the zoning board. I punch in, I work, I punch out, I go home. Easy-peasy. When I'm not on their time I don't have to sweat what's doing at the store. I don't have to think about my job at all, except maybe to maintain my work wardrobe and find time to get everything else done around my work schedule.

With the job I have now I'm never off the clock. My whole life is my job. Every experience, every book read, every jaunt to the store or the movies, and I'm mining for the next ephemeral thing to market. Can I get a jingle or a product review out of this? Will this make for an amusing pithy parenting story and will it be worth my scoring the last page in 'American Kid' instead of being folded into an inside composite paragraph? How can I use this frying pan, this antihistamine, this trip through the car wash to my advantage? Can I get a blurb out of it? Fodder for a weighty think piece? A funny? A quick buck?

In so many ways being a writer is the same as being a homemaker. To the ones who've never done it this life sounds ideal. Your time is supposedly your own. You have no boss. There's no commute. No meetings. No gossipy/smelly/idiotic/mean/backstabbing co-workers. Both the homemaker and the writer are free, free, free! Free to drink coffee all morning. Free to wear a bathrobe all day. Free to knock around any old way they want to.

Uh huh.

Yeah, we're free alright. Free to do laundry at midnight. Free to wait all day for the cable guy. Free to walk the colicky baby for hours and hours. Free to scrub the toilets. Free to give the dog her pill. Free to wash a floor that'll get tracked up again within the hour and if we complain we get that quizzical, amused look and a "What's your problem? You're home all day! You're not busting your ass at your stinkin' job like I am!"

So it is with being a freelancer. "What's your beef? Your time is your own. You're not busting your hump for The Man 9-5 every day! You can knock off and bum around anytime you want to."

Yeah? Not if I want to eat I can't. Not if I want to have something to write about and sell.

I am NOT bitching. I'm only saying it's not as wonderful as it looks from the outside. Like the fabulous Ms Collins said, "I've looked at life from both sides now." And there ain't no greener grass. Not on either side of that time clock.


Back to the fray. ~LA

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