It’s been almost a year since I lost my previous office job, spent a month in the wilderness of unemployment, and found a much better position working at a used book store. In that time I have come to know some important lessons about life and writing that I’d like to share. I did something similar at the end of last year, but this list is a more thorough compilation. In the interest of keeping the list manageable, I’ve attempted to keep it as pithy as possible. And if any of you out there have your own lessons to add, feel free to do so in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Well it’s Monday so once again time for another dispatch from your local author/journalist pal. So far I’ve written about the process of writing every day, why it’s important to “get away from it all,” my favorite books, and a long rambling post about satire that nobody (probably) read. While I still hope to use this space as a platform for advice on finding a publisher and to expand more on the actual process of writing and how to market yourself to the world (among other topics), I feel I must write a bit about my current employment status.
So as you know, I was laid off (or in a less kind manner, “terminated”) from my day job in July. Although legally I’m not supposed to discuss the terms of the dismissal, I will say that this came out of the blue and I was quite shocked by the decision. While not exactly a stellar employee around that place, I felt like I shared enough of the load in my department to warrant my sticking around for at least another few years. The folks running the show thought otherwise, and I was shown the door on a Friday afternoon. This entire situation threw a pretty big wrench in my plans for the rest of the year, but I’ve since learned to use such things as an opportunity. A month-plus out from being laid off, I also feel completely detached from my former workplace, and couldn’t be happier. While at first I had intense self-doubt about myself and my performance there, enough people told me otherwise (both inside and outside the organization) that I couldn’t feel all that bad. Still, I have never lost a job before, which I must admit is a bit of a shattering experience. I felt as if I’d let people down, not least of all my wonderful wife Mary, who has a great career working for the big red bullseye company up here and has been a rock for me to rely on for many years. She assured me that I wasn’t disappointing her, but it took a while to get to a place where I believed that myself. Then there were all the fun “grown-up” things that come along with getting canned, like losing your family health insurance, navigating the unemployment system and trying to figure out where to stash my 401K money. Plus all the fun of looking for a job, which I had been doing on-and-off throughout the years but never put enough effort into it. Well, I sure had a chance to give effort into it now!
I covered some of this ground in my previous post about becoming a full-time writer, so I just want to focus on what it meant for me to have “a job” after I was released from my current one. For one thing, I got to finally think of myself as an author/journalist first and foremost with everything else falling to the wayside to a certain extent. It also meant I had a lot more time during the day to write, which I attempted to do in different ways when I wasn’t searching for some place that would hire me. The weird thing was, once I started thinking that way I saw my whole life in a different light. I sent out quite a lot of resumes to various places, including retail outlets, grocery stores, offices, and even looked for some voice-over work (which proved futile for now - drat!). This contained echoes of my first attempts to make it in the Twin Cities area circa 2007. Except back then I had almost no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At this juncture I’ve started a life together with the woman I love and have already published my first novel. Things are slowly coming together, and that meant it was high time I started living like it. I took a few interviews at some menial positions, just like I did eight years ago, but this time I had the strange luxury of being able to turn them down if they didn’t fit my life. I also worked on getting my substitute teaching license, which while incredibly interesting and a possible side-career at some point in my future, ultimately isn’t looking like it will work out just yet. But what mattered was that I was trying something different, something that might actually fit my life. Which is what we should all strive to find in this era of the false-ringing “do what you love” appeals in the media and otherwise. But back to the job search.
I also applied at a bookstore one town over that my wife and I frequent quite a bit; it seemed like a perfect fit and I was very elated when the manager called. After a fascinating, half-hour long interview I was given the job and have been working there for almost a week. The pace is insane, the amount of books is terrifying, and I’ve already screwed up a ton of stuff. And I absolutely love it. Getting to work with books is truly a great place to be for an author, and it also gives me an opportunity to see the book business from a different perspective, to see the life of certain titles and what people purchase. Yes, it’s retail hours and has been taking up a lot of the time I’d had when unemployed that I used to write, but I think after I get the rhythm of the place down pat I’ll find a way to schedule everything accordingly and still be able to produce writing when I need it. The important thing is this place fits my life, way better than the other place did. And that’s the key. You have to find the place that fits your life, because then it slowly starts becoming less a job and just another part of your life. To my reading audience out there: “doing what you love” is great if you can get to that point, but given the state of our economy these days it sure looks like most of us are going to need some kind of a job just to make ends meet so we can then also pursue our life’s work. Make sure whatever you find fits your life. It will make all the difference in the world.
I’ll wrap up by mentioning a few things:
1) This will probably the the final post on the blog for a little while. I simply won’t always have the time to do these every Monday, but I certainly will make sure to post on here when I can. I have a wealth of topics to cover, but just can’t get to all of them right away due to the demands of this new job but also because…
2) My second novel is finally being published next week! Last Man on Campus officially releases Thursday, September 3rd at Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis. For those of you in the Twin Cities area, the event starts at 7:00 with a reading at 7:30 and a discussion to follow. This kicks off a whole series of events/signings for the novel all through September, which will take up the rest of the time I’m not working at the book store. Click on the “Events” tab above to see what’s next!
And as always, thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy the new book.
Signing off for a while, at least for now.
John Abraham-Watne is an author and freelance journalist located in the Twin Cities, where he lives with his wife Mary and their two cats. This blog is his attempt to catalog all the events that culminate a local writer's life.