The sin of wages
Every so often, if I’m not careful, work gets under my skin. We’re not talking about writing, by the way. No, I mean actual work. Employment. The way I pay the bills.
For the record, I don’t like admitting work can make me angry. I try to be a ‘work to live’ guy. I want to be a ‘work to live’ guy. There’s really no reason why my job should affect me the way it does sometimes. I’m basically getting worked up about things that have no bearing on the world I live in or the people I love. Still, there are I am some days, slamming my keyboard. Banging my fist against the desk. Passive aggressively misdirecting my frustration. None of which ever helps me feel any better.
It doesn’t make any sense. I didn’t spend my childhood counting away the days until I could co-ordinate data. It’s not a career or a lifelong ambition. I am there to sell my time to people who have sold their time for more money than I have. That’s the nature of the beast. I know they want me to be focused whilst I’m there. I know they want me to be invested and, hey, sometimes I am. But I didn’t take that job because of some universal calling to service the spreadsheets of others. They must know that. The people who are getting more money for their time than I am must know I don’t want to be there.
A long time ago, in a meeting we all missed, I think some important looking people decided the stuff we wanted had to start costing us more. That way, the important looking people could afford the insanely expensive things they wanted in their lives. When this sinister little think tank came up with the concept of employment, I imagine they all high fived.
I know, I know. I sound like a whinging teenager. I’m sorry. Every time I have a bad day, I’m all too aware that there are people far worse off than me. I get it. I do. I’m not living in a war zone. I’m not a refugee or a soldier. I have clean water and food. I’m not consumed by poverty or addiction. I don’t have to fret about supporting a family. I understand that I’m a terrible person. Still, terrible or not, that knowledge doesn’t hold back the twitch in my right eye whenever work gets to me. If anything, it just slathers some guilt on top of the stress. A self-loathing cherry to go on top of my frustration cake? Yippee!
The writing can help sometimes. I can sit through computer errors and the many, many irritations my office has to offer and tell myself it’s okay. My secret identity is Writer Man and I have a story waiting for me when I get home. Only, dear reader, that sort of logic can only get you so far. It piles a huge amount of pressure on whatever you’re writing. Not only that, but it increases your desperate need for success. When your book doesn’t fish you out of the rat race, you end up hating that book for a while. Or you end up silently hating all the people who aren’t reading it. There are billions of the people in the world, you think. Why can’t just a million of them buy my novel?
Trying to sit down and write something is lonely work. There are plenty of obstacles in your way, most of which are in your head. Still, there’s no denying it can feel constantly under threat when you’re selling the majority of your time for funds. After all, laptops don’t grow on trees.
(Insert Apple joke here.)
I’ve never liked working. It goes back to when my parents insisted I get a weekend job to help pay the bills. It made no sense to me. The cost of living hadn’t suddenly skyrocketed when I turned into a teenager. I wasn’t suddenly started eating more to prepare for adulthood. I wasn’t powering myself by jamming my finger into their electric sockets and draining the grid dry whilst their meter dials just span and span. It’s just something parents do, I guess.
“You’re a teenager, you smell bad when you don’t get up until one in the afternoon. Get a job.”
Some of my other friends, with the richer parents and their heads in richer clouds, were also sent out to find weekend employment. Only, when they didn’t like their jobs, they just stopped going. I would’ve been shot, stabbed, poisoned and drowned if I’d done that. That’s right, the full Rasputin.
I understand I have to work in order to make money for now. Oh, those two magic words. For now. They’re basically the cheese on the end of my own personal mousetrap. For now, because one day I’m going to be a full time writer. Ha, ha. Still, you have to believe your dream a little, right? Whatever your dream might be; you have to believe that one day it will more than a dream.
The iconic image of the struggling artist, as I see it, is that you work in a boring but ignorable job until you get home. Then you create something brilliant. Then you go to the boring but ignorable job gain and clock watch until it’s creating time. The problem is I don’t think the boring but ignorable job exists. I’ve tried to find them. I’ve worked in kitchens and behind shop counters. I’ve worked in post rooms and print rooms. I’ve been a phone monkey and a data monkey. Not one of them left me alone after I’d clocked out.
What makes it worse is that I’m sure it’s the job’s fault. Not if we’re being honest and taking the high road. It’s work. It’s a contract between you and someone else. You do them work, they pay you money. It’s not prison. I wasn’t sentenced to this. I wasn’t knocked out and woken up in the navy with a wet shilling in my pocket. I went to the interviews. I asked very nicely for these jobs, more than once. I wore a tie. I smiled. Which shows you I never paid attention during fairy tale time. I wasn’t careful what I wished for. Look where it got me.
Damn it. I’m doing it again. I’m the only one. There are plenty of people just like me. There are people in all walks of life who are doing some version of this life, far better than I am. Most of the writers I know are juggling a wage and a working title without moaning. All this complaining is just me, whining like a baby, in my petulant little crèche.
“I don’t want to go. I don’t want more work. I already did work. My emails won’t stop. Wah, wah, wah.”
Most of the time I’m at my desk, sulking, I keep myself sane with headphones and podcasts. Not long after I tumbled down the rabbit hole of podcasts, I began to think I should do one. Because, you know, I’m a vain idiot. (He said on his blog.)
Self-deprecation aside, I might actually try it on one. After thinking about this, I think I want to make it about people who are working hard employees between nine to five, then go home and do something amazing. Something unexpected. Something they do for the love of it. Local theatre actors. Sculptors. Painters. People trying to climb something or run something in order to raise money for charity. The office monkey who goes home, spikes up his hair and plays in a Pistol cover band. I want to speak to them. I want them to tell their stories and I’ll call it The Petulant Crèche. People can listen to the whiny author meeting people who can actually handle balancing their working week with their creative life better than him. I might even try and get some tips off them.
For the record, if that podcast ever appears without me behind at least one of the mikes we’ll know someone stole my idea. Oh, the angry blog posts you’ll have to put up with then. Reading them will be hard work. Unpaid hard work, at that.