Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Chaulk Full of Writing and Career Goodness


I had an interesting interview with an insurance agency today, after I had the first interview with them last week. They called me earliesh today to see if I could come in for a job offer. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive an offer. They received an ideal salary figure from me, however.

Since I can worry a little too much about these things, I won't say much more about it. They want to call me tomorrow after discussing the situation. Whether that means they'll give me a counter offer or not, I don't know. I didn't get much to work with in regards to me asking way too much or if they really just need to think about it.

Until I hear from them, I'll act like I don't have chance. "First thing" tomorrow, I'll start in on the want ads and querying for positions again.


On Christmas day, I got a cool inadvertent present. The fiancee and I went out to the Western suburbs to have Christmas with family friends. A teenage guy turning 17 there has done some thinking about going to college for writing and getting a career in the field.

The two of us got talking about his prospects, his future and the potential of a writing career and education. It allowed me to try articulating my current problem of being a writer and not having good well paying work other than possibly in insurance. In other words, I had the chance to practice the college and career discussion that I probably will have someday with my own kid.

This time, however, I don't have the disadvantage of being this guy's parent. His parents (or, at least, his dad) gave him some good advice. A writing career doesn't really have the best chance of making a very good living, so he should check out other careers. At the least, he should do so until his writing career takes off. I have no idea whether he took the advice from his dad all that serious. When I gave him similar advice, though, he did reference back to his dad's advice.

My age probably has had a little something to do with possibly receiving more respect in this discussion, if I got more. My own struggles may provide reason for taking me more seriously. From what I know, only the fiancee has provided an example or talked to this guy about writing. She hasn't reached her career goal, but she has done well to prepare herself for it.

Me, I don't have much to show for my real career and education except for three-ring binders of rough drafts, ideas that I throw around and some of the business knowledge that I've garnered here and there. The fiancee makes for a much better example of success in the publishing and media field.

I provide the example of struggling artist, something of a slacker and who has had plenty of trouble realizing my goals, even though I stubbornly push, push and keep pushing. Whenever I think about giving career and college advice to someone this guy's age, I fear that I'll come off as a hypocrite. I don't want to give a teenager the impression that I'm trying to mold them into a certain form instead of encouraging them to follow their heart. After all, just because I haven't found success yet doesn't mean they won't.

And just saying "I just want you to be happy. Do what will make you happy" doesn't cut it. I had that happen before I experienced the real world, where I have received an important lesson or two (such as: similar to writing a narrative, do your research for knowledge then come up with a good, flexible outline that doesn't dictate every bit of information at the beginning). Having that freedom, I just did what I wanted to satisfy myself in the short term.

To productively help a teenager in this situation, I think it benefits them most to help them do the research and coming up with that flexible outline. Stress should go on the flexibility of that outline, too, because who knows what will happen in the next four or five years. When I went into college, computers were the big thing and tons of money flowed from that inudustry. That bubble had popped by the time I left school.

Following your heart wisely with knowledge and that flexible outline serves well as good advice for a teenager about to pick a career or collegiate direction. Going slow and extending financial, research and emotional support doesn't hurt, either. The slow approach may actually save money and time, in the end. Maybe they can even find a good job while going through the process and take the financial burden during the process.

I pretty much told the teenage guy everything I said above, just not as straight out and not the fear of coming off as hypocritical. Nonetheless, I really do worry about the hypocrite part when talking to my own kids. I probably have that fear because I had that feeling with my own parents. Or if not seeing them as hypocrites, as people who didn't know what they were talking about, wanting to mold me into an image then, in the end, just throwing up their arms in frustration.

Looking back, I see that my parents had a pretty good idea about the things they told me. I don't, even now, necessarily agree with everything they told me or think the way they told me was appropriate for me. I believe they have a clue, though. . .just not for my situation. Truthfully, I didn't work hard enough in the situation or have a clue about them, either. I still have plenty of baggage to handle or to just push aside for the rest of my life. I may become a success despite it.

Either which way, having this discussion with the guy felt really cool. I didn't take a hard ass approach that I would have taken a couple months ago. Neither did I sound unintelligent or wishy washy. Talking about my own real life experience, the regrets I had and my understanding of the market on a sincere level really seemed to make a connection, and I really got into the conversation. The guy sounded into the conversation, too, even if he sounded a little disappointed about possibly having to take up a day job career.

I'll need to come up with another strategy for my own kid, if they don't want to go into writing. My gut tells me that I should work at it like the ideal at my college. Take it as a challenge to myself and try to learn about the topic with my kid. I've heard plenty of students at the college really get into that approach.


+ I've already updated you on the job search.

+ I wrote 2 pages in the novel last week but will put it on hiatus for a bit.

+ The talk with the teenage guy and the fiancee on our way home got me inspired. I've started working on a short story from high school. It needs another scene (which now has a rough draft), some fixing up of language and a couple turns of phrase added or adjusted. After it reaches my satisfaction, then I plan on making it my 2nd ever piece submitted to a magazine that pays.


The Christmas conversations also did a good job of reiterating that WRITING IS HARD WORK. And I don't just mean the writing, itself, or even the revision or marketing processes. To rephrase, the LIFE OF A STRUGGLING WRITER IS HARD WORK.

For awhile now, I've just been looking at jobs that look like they fit my temperament or that I easily qualify. To make enough money and have the time to write, I may have to take a job that I find hard, that I don't qualify for or doesn't fit my temperament. If getting a job and being successful at it was as easy as having those elements, I would be a successful writer already.

Since my temperament and skills generally point me toward writing and writing doesn't pay well right away, then I'll just have to find something that works, either which way, whether I like it or not, whether I'm good at it right away or not, whether I'm qualified at it or not. Then I'll just have to work my ass off doing both jobs to get successful at writing.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I had yet to accept this fact.


Dawn said...

What I would tell a kid who wants to become a musician: if you can do something else and be satisfied, do it. If not, work on the music, but realize that 80% of being an independent musician is about business and marketing/promotion. Learn how to book shows. Learn how to market yourself. Figure out how to get press. These are the things music school will never teach you, but these are the things that are essential if you're going to make a living.

The_Lex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The_Lex said...

Same thing with writing, of course, and I made sure to tell the guy that.

At the same time, once a narrative writer gets enough popularity, the amount of marketing goes down by a bit. The agent takes over and/or people start asking them for work. I would figure it's the same deal with musicians.

Poets are probably screwed every which way. The pay just isn't really all that commensurate with the work that goes into it.

Freelance writing and TV writing, I have a feeling that has a lot to do with your reputation in the biz and how much quality and people skills you've demonstrated to editors and producers. Once you've got them on your side, though, I figure the marketing side of the equation goes down.