You can take this job and. . .
Come to think of it, I’ve never taken a job. . . and shoved it. I may have pushed it a little, but never rudely shoved. Grumble as I do about my work, my workplace, even my coworkers, deep down I suppose I really do love what I do. And if it’s not love, then certainly it’s tenacity.
I’ve never left a job without moving to another, never been cut or let go. Never been fired. This Labor Day marks 40 years on the “job.” I use the word job deliberately. And with respect. I’m not talking about a profession or a high powered career. I’ve chosen my path as a commercial writer - writing on assignment, writing for the approval of clients, writing in collaboration, writing for a living. Through maternity leaves, (through thick and thin), through moves to new cities and career moves, through long commutes and telecommuting, through staff cuts and furlough days..still writing. Still tap-tap-tapping at a keyboard, lost in concentration on one bumpy sentence after another, scrabbling on the rocks of one word at a time.
Writing. Nice work, if you can get it
...and getting the work is getting harder all the time. Oh, I’ve had my fun in a string of adshops, where style is rewarded over substance, where a 30-second script is your ticket to a 6 week film production, where writing a few lines for a jingle could win you an Emmy. Heady stuff. Loved it all...
And then? We moved to Detroit, where things got serious. Tough city, tough job market. Leaving the Cleveland ad agency where I worked for nearly 15 years, I left advertising altogether, took a job with a charitable org, learned to straighten up and fly right: writing press releases, speaker notes, annual reports, steering a new craft without the wind of my former ad levity.
And now? Still writing, I hold a job few people can claim, developing exhibit content for a children’s science museum. My specialty? Medical science, of all things, currently working on a brain gallery. Without a PhD in neuroscience, I couldn’t ask for more intellectually stimulating work. But it’s a job, and not a secure one at that. I ask myself, what would I do without a job? How would I do writing . . . on my own, working for myself?
“You should get off your ass and write a book.”
(...as though that’s where I’d find a book) This advice I get from my sister, a painter, now at a crossroads with her own artwork in Florida. “I’m not a writer, like that,” I whine back at her. A writer who writes. . . books? Like novels? Sounds lonely and like the wrong line of work for me. I write exhibit labels for a children’s museum. I’m a distiller of text, not a storyteller. I’m a sprinter, good for short bursts, prone to short cuts, writing short pieces. I like water cooler chatter and twitter and oh, yeh, I like feedback. . .
All good reasons to blog.
Anyone can blog. Search the web for the words Why I Blog and a thousand windows pop up, ready to open at the click of your mouse. At the top of the google-list, find a thoughtful piece by writer/blogger, Andrew Sullivan Why I Blog - Magazine - The Atlantic “The blogosphere is inherently collective,” he writes. The internet is interactive, a dynamic social medium. In other words we’re all in this thing together. One Big Brazen New World. The blogger’s job is to link and facilitate, to play host to readers in search of their own points of interest. As Sullivan suggests, the key to good blogging “is to write as though you are not writing at all.” I love this advice. Now if only I could take it.
Beyond my family and a close friend or two, I don’t know who will ever see this post. But I’m up in the early hours of the morning, tapping it out with the same level of effort I would give any “real” job. I intend to post it before its deadline at dawn: Monday, Labor Day.
All in a day’s work.
NOTES: for more on Andrew Sullivan The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
Photo source: miniature alphabet pencil sculptures by Dalton Ghetti telegraph.co.uk