Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: Authors, Musings, writing | Tags: , , , , |

Technically speaking I am among the throngs of the unemployed. It’s not a bad situation for me as it is for thousands of others; I’m still living at home with my parents, and they both have steady (or fairly steady) jobs to keep us fed and clothed. I’m pretty blessed in the fact that they’re not raring to throw me out onto the streets or finding ways to not-so-subtly encourage me to get any job I can find.

That’s not to say I’m not looking; I am. I’m just not sure how excited I am about getting a job in the first place.

When I was younger, I imagined writers that I adored sitting back with their families, writing at leisure, sending off manuscripts to editors and publishers and whatnot, and being lazy in the meantime. It sounded like a great life to me. Get paid to write? And have lots of free time on the side? Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Unfortunately, as all childhood dreams are wont to do, I wised up. Perhaps I don’t have all the facts, but I’m fairly certain most of the writers out there are not sleeping in, writing a few hours a day, and then making lavish dinners using the expensive ingredients they’re able to buy on their author’s income. To my knowledge it’s a little more common for writers, especially those who are unestablished, to work a second job until they make enough money writing that they don’t need a supplementary income.

Or, in the case of a lot of female writers I’ve seen, they’ll write all day while their husbands work. Even in that situation, I can’t see it being the leisurely art I often dreamed of. And the husband either has a very good job or the family lives modestly.

I get the feeling that’s a more practical way of looking at things.

I’m not published, at least, not in terms of novels. I’ve barely finished writing my first one. And I’m afraid it needs months of work to get it into a presentable stage that could be used to query agents or publishers. No, I’m nowhere near being a published author.

But I always wanted to be one. And now I’m wondering how long my parents would consent to letting me be a stay-at-home author while unpublished and with no form of supplementary income. I’m guessing that won’t last long if I’m not at least looking for a job.

Sometimes I think it’s too bad I don’t already have a rich husband willing to let me stay home and write all day. But then again I probably wouldn’t have written my first novel had I already been married. A lot of things would be different. And I imagine a lot of authors have had the same thoughts.

How would things have changed for some of our favorite authors if they hadn’t had the experiences they did? For one thing, we wouldn’t have nearly as exciting of books to read. The whole ‘write what you know’ admonishment does tend to stick, after all. For another, some of the great authors might never have begun writing had they not experienced certain things.

I think that would be a great travesty, personally. To have the ability to put into words something that is precious and beautiful and yet never to use it? It’s like Bach having never composed. And what would the world be like without ‘Toccata and Fuge in D Minor’?

Certainly we wouldn’t know what we’d missed, but would there be a part of us that yearned for something greater than ourselves? It’s possible.

Even so, it is, as I’ve read in various Q&As with authors, a good thing to have jobs and husbands (or wives) on the side of writing. While writing can be a passion, writing in and of itself is almost never the message. Even in the dry spells, there’s something to be drawn out, molded, shaped into something brighter, and then kneaded like dough. There’s a message to give if one just knows what to look for.

As much as I hate to admit it, my own state of unemployment even has its own story to tell. The only question is how to wend my way through the detritus to find the gold gems beneath.

In the meantime, as I do my own searching, I’ll be hunting for the elusive job. And I’ll be grateful that published authors, like the rest of us, had to start somewhere. In fact, I believe I read a quote about that: “Don’t be discouraged; everyone who got where he is started where he was.”



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7 Responses to “Unemployment”

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Thanks for this Rae. This is definitely one of those posts I needed. I have a job, but it’s in a family business. So, I live with my parents. *sigh* I’m planning on moving out by the summer and like you feelings are running a bit tense about how I plan on moving forward. My sister is currently getting her Master’s in engineering and I’m trying to be a writer…you see the discrepancy? I agree the fairytale about writing is really more like a nightmare. You get blocked for long spells, you endlessly mull over metaphors hoping they reveal something about the human spirit, you choke at the sight of every typo…trust me it’s real work. I think that’s what people on the outside don’t understand about the craft. It’s not just words on paper. They have to convey a meaning, captivate. Also, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without classical music. It is supremely soothing.

Don’t worry about being unemployed. A lot of my friends are too. College grads all living with their parents. It’s pretty common. A good book to recommend for people like you and me is Rejuvenile. It’s sort of talks about the “new adult” and how our generation is defining it.


Rejuvenile, eh? Sounds like something I’ll have to look into. Thanks for the recommendation!

And I’m not too worried about being unemployed yet. If I’m still unemployed this time next year, I’ll start feeling a little constrained, I’m sure. But right now I’m just picking through all the job postings and looking for ones I qualify for that are worth my putting forth a resume. It’s tedious, but if it gets me a job, I’m okay with it.

I support the arts and think the world would be a much poorer place without them, but I don’t really think of ‘ART’ in itself as a paying job. What artists (authors included) have a long history of is having a ‘regular’ paying job and doing their art on the side. Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and he talks about all the odd jobs he held before he made it big and could quit. I remember reading Hemmingway talking about his friends that worked in banks and things, and how they wanted to be able to just write without having to work.If you can afford that, great, take advantage. But I know when I was working retail I got a lot of material from working customer service!

Also, as far as being married and depending on the other person for support while you write, yes and no… I stay home, so I’m technically unemployed, but most days I work as my son’s ‘learning coach’ for the Virtual Academy (which is like a full time job). In between his lessons, I clean the house, make phonecalls, do laundry, pay bills, feed everyone 3 times, and then if I’m lucky I’m not too pooped to write. I’m not whining. I actually have it really nice. But the point is ‘unemployed’ does not necessarily mean you have time on your hands to write. I’m actually busier now than when I worked evenings and my son went out to school during the day. And I know of other people who have a much fuller plate than me, and write a hell of a lot more than I do. It can be done.

This also struck a cord, because it’s something I’ve thought about a lot. Without adversity, would people who write well write AS well as without adversity? The subject of my current story came from the question, “What if Shakespeare had a word processor? Or even a typewriter or pen instead of a quill? Would he have written as well if he could have written instantly what he wanted instead of having to write by hand?”

Just out of curiosity, what kind of job are you looking for? I had the impression from your earlier posts that you were in your 30’s, but in this one you sound younger. If I’m being too personal, just tell me and I won’t ask.

Good luck with your writing!

Actually, I have one more thought. If you are just looking for a job for a minimum income so you can concentrate on your writing, there are several I can think of that don’t pay well BUT give you lots of free time. At least, I remember they used to. One was when I cashiered at a movie theatre. There was a 20 or 15 minute rush when all the movies would start around the same times, then an hour or two between with almost nothing to do. When I was in high school I used to do my homework then or read a book. 🙂 Basically, any kind of job where you have long stretches of time to yourself with not much to do would be great for showing that you have an income (albeit maybe a low one) while still being able to concentrate on writing. Just a thought! 🙂

Heh, I agree that writing isn’t easy, and you’re right about it not being a ‘paying’ job. I think that’s what I was trying to get at: you get quite a bit of material from interacting with people in jobs, clubs, associations, whatever you’re a part of. I think it’s a good thing to find employment outside of simply holing up at a desk all day, keyboard clacking. That’s why it’s a bit frustrating to get no responses from any of the companies I’ve applied to.

The luxury of writing all the time isn’t mine (yet), so I’m trying to be industrious. And I agree that having a spouse doesn’t guarantee you that luxury any more than getting a degree guarantees you a job. By the way, I like how you worded your subject matter for your story. It’s very curious, and I’m intrigued.

You’re not getting too personal at all with your questions, by the way. 😀 I’m not in my 30s; I’m actually 23 and just graduated college in December with a BS in business administration. Right now I’m looking for any job that will have me.

I moved back in with my parents after college, too, and that was before the recession. Job hunting is rough, and not many people out of college have ideal work skills.

Best of luck to you as you job hunt. What type of work are you looking for?

Honestly, I’m looking for anyone that will take me at this point. If I can get a job somewhere, anywhere, I figure that’s a great start. In terms of qualifications, I’ve got a BS in business administration that’s waiting in the wings to be used. However, I won’t worry too much if I don’t get a job that uses my degree.

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