There aren’t any songs that will describe any of my jobs in specific. I’m not Working In The Coal Mine, Working On The Chain Gang, or even Working 9 To 5. I’m not a Blue Collar Man. I don’t even dislike the jobs, so I’m not Working For The Weekend, and “Bang on the Drum” – catchy as it may be – just doesn’t apply. Besides, one of my work meetings is always on Sunday, so I don’t even have a full weekend to look forward to.
When it comes to my day job, I’ve assuredly had worse. I get to work from home, in my pajamas, posting real estate listings for a property management company in the Big Apple. Instead of a five-hour commute, I walk two feet from my bed to my computer chair. I can set my own hours. My work’s appreciated; my boss is cool, and it’s a low-stress job. But it’s only part time, and the pay is somewhat on the low side, so it’s hard to make ends meet. It’s better than the guaranteed nothing that I’d have without it, though! I’ll do it as long as they let me, absolutely, and try to keep doing it even if a more profitable opportunity should arise. But, to be honest, if it were profitable enough to be a more livable wage, with full-time hours and benefits and all that jazz, they wouldn’t be able to pry me out of my position even with a lever of Archimedean proportions!
But, as it stands, I appreciate it, and it’s keeping me afloat when I’d otherwise be utterly screwed. I like it, and I can’t complain, but I know it’s not perfect, and there’s probably something better out there for me, if I can figure out how to make it happen.
So the song that best describes my day job is “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Good Enough For Now.”
You’re pretty close to what I’ve always hoped for
That’s why my love for you is fairly strong
And I swear I’m never gonna leave you, darlin’
At least ’til something better comes along.
As for my editing job, that’s even harder to address! I’m editing the players’ handbook for a friend-of-a-friend’s upcoming tabletop RPG, a position which I fell into by a staggering sequence of increasingly-unlikely events. I’m unsure how it’s all going to play out in the end. It could be a big dang profitable deal! It’s always possible it could flop, and that I could be the one who ruins it somehow! Aaaagh! But, to be honest, it’s fairly low on the strife scale. And I tend to forget there’s even a chance of money in it. I get to use my skills to help people out! I get to help someone else’s cool creative ideas get the context and clarity they need to better explain to and inspire the players!
My bossfolk are the worldbuilders, and I’m just facilitating others in engaging with that world. Maintaining the spacecraft that’s going to bridge the gap between Earth and that world, orbiting and surveying it. Checking for errors and irregularities, probing both craft and world for a breathable atmosphere and gravity that won’t pancake people or fling them into the void. Making sure all the instruments give accurate readings, so the players can launch their landing pod, get out on the surface of that world, and have a damn fine time. And also get out from under the weight of the real, largely-sucky world.
So, with that metaphor in mind, perhaps Black Sabbath’s “Into The Void” would fit the bill. Especially given that game world’s design as a place where certain kinds of judgment and inequities simply haven’t come about.
Freedom fighters sent out to the sun
Escape from brainwashed winds and pollution
Leave the earth to all it’s sin and hate
Find another world where freedom waits
But I have another job on top of it all: the job of writing. This blog thing, other short story things, and even a commissioned piece, recently, which made me a Legitimate Professional! I don’t make a living off of this work, true. But I’d like to say that’s just not true yet. I’ll figure things out more, get myself out there more, and manage to get by. I don’t want fame, by any means; I’m not out to be a bestselling author or anything. It’s just that I want to do very little else but writing, and I’m good at very little else but writing, and I also want to not be homeless and starving, so if I could actually fund my existence through the act of writing, it seems like things would work nicely all around.
If I were a really good writer, of course, I’d be able to just write a persuasive essay that convinced people to give me money. It worked for L. Ron Hubbard, after all, and he wasn’t even a good writer! And I do enjoy religions and rituals. So step right up, folks, and join the Gantist Mystery Cult — only $50 a head. Is it a UFO cult? Doomsday cult? Lovecraftian cult? Sex cult? All of the above at once? That’s part of the mystery! You’ll pay good money for the opportunity to figure out what the hell you just paid good money for!
Ah, if only I had fewer scruples.
Wait, that’s the ticket!
SCRUPLES — $50 APIECE! The more I sell, the fewer scruples I’ll have, and the more I’ll charge, so GET YOURS FIRST!
In all seriousness, I’m unfathomably humbled that people have actually paid for things I’ve written. It still feels like the most self-aggrandizing thing in the world, having somebody essentially pay to read an assortment of your thoughts. If I had a useful occupation, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel so weird. Somewhere out there, there’s a guy who legitimately loves being a repairman. He knows what the parts cost, he knows what his time and labor and expertise are worth, and he makes a living doing what he enjoys and excels at, without feeling like he’s ripping people off. The value and utility of his work are self-apparent, and while nobody’s pleased that their stuff is broken, they’re probably glad to get it fixed. If someone doesn’t believe the fix is worth the price, they can try someone else or go without.
But that’s just not the case with writing. It’s not so easily quantified. It is so easily lived-without. A painting or sculpture, unique in all the world, may go for millions, but words suffuse everything. We notice when they’re missing from something, we notice when they seem to be organized strangely, we notice when they’re catalyzing a dramatic reaction. But their mere presence or availability is unremarkable. Only when we already know someone’s a writer, care that they’re a writer, and moreover care what they have to say, only then do we yearn to read their words. A writer has to emit a whole secondary set of words in order to convince people to spend their time reading their primary set of words, when we’d really like to believe that the primary set of words speak well enough on their own.
Wouldn’t it be nice if words would just shine through the covers of a book somehow, glowing brighter for each person depending on how interested they’d be? Every book a beacon. Many a book a lighthouse. But it isn’t so, and so we must put out a trail of smaller lights to lead to our larger. We must tell people why they might want to hear what we’ve said, without directly telling them what we’ve said. Or we have to tell people why other people might want to hear it. Gatekeepers abound.
And, yes, I know this all just screams “Paperback Writer,” but I refuse to be so cliched.
Because it would be nice if writing just shone with its own light without anyone having to read it yet, but it doesn’t. And because I haven’t been going through those gatekeepers of publishers, either. No Dear Sir or Madam. No rejection slips. Just my own (*shudder*) marketing. Taking the thing I’ve spent so long fleshing out and condensing it into a little spore, hoping that spore gets noticed, hoping it takes root, and hoping it grows into enough of a neuron-overriding brain-mushroom that it influences the host to alter its originally-intended course of behavior in order to instead obtain and intake more of our words.
This is weird. And creepy.
The way I feel about writing is not just about the writing and the trying-to-get-published and the making-a-living, it’s the fact that I essentially want to infect someone else’s brain with ideas.
It’s a particular sort of irony that, in writing about writing about writing, I can’t even write THIS particularly well. Nothing seems to be coming together, the ideas are vague and sludgy, and it’s more like the compost of discarded ideas than an actual idea itself. Compost that isn’t even fostering the growth of any seeds. Light, spores, compost, seeds, but nothing’s growing, everything’s just kinda rotting in the sun. It happens! Maybe it’ll ripen pleasantly, break itself down in time, and become more fertile ground for other ideas later on.
All I know is, I write because I have to. Something in my brain insists. I remember banging things out on the family typewriter when I still needed help getting into the chair. I remember reading Dick and Jane books and being so angry that they were so dumb, knowing that I could write better stories already than these adults were writing for me. I remember writing stories in kindergarten with the teacher’s aide while everyone else was learning their letters. And I remember a time before I could write, when I had a basket of plastic play food and was taking my parents orders, scribbling on a notepad like a waitress — then being incredibly frustrated with myself, five minutes later, that I couldn’t read my scrawling pretend-writing scribbles, and couldn’t remember what they had said. It felt like part of my brain was missing. Or part of my memories, or part of myself. There had been a thought, and because I didn’t write it down, it was gone forever. I couldn’t follow up on it. I couldn’t even try. It was terrifying and depressing, and I fear that my life will have symmetry someday, and I’ll get old and senile and forget how to write, but remember enough to know what I’m missing.
Until then, every day, I write. Blog posts or conversations or roleplay or complaints or workmatter or analysis; the format forever varies. There was a long time when I didn’t write fiction anymore; trying to plan my everyday life was stressful enough without standing at the helm of an entire fictional universe, guiding the micro- and macrocosm. I even used to write poetry, when I was too young to know any better. I write fewer analytical essays now than I did in college, for certain. But – as was absolutely verboten in those essays – I inject more personal opinion and experience into these bits of enbloggenment that I write now. What I write and how I write it, that’s always been in some flux. That I write… that’s just a given.
So a song that describes how I feel about writing might as well be a song that describes how I feel about existing. It’s… a thing that I do. Not doing it sounds very inconvenient and unpleasant. I don’t really have a great sense of purpose to it, or any real aspirations, and I’m not trying to achieve anything or become anything or be anything specific. I’m just being right now – and I’m okay with that, and that’s pretty monumental! I’m doing things, enjoying doing them, and being appreciated for doing them! I can’t always try to write – or live – for people, intentionally trying to make them happy, because that always turns out crap. But I can just do what I do, see it through, and try to believe that it’s going to turn out okay.
I can’t claim that I’ve “made it” yet, or that I have any real concept of “making it,” much less an expectation to do so. I don’t have a destination. But I am finally doing something; I am finally going somewhere, even if that’s just “away from all the before-crap.” I’m writing things, I’m putting them out there in public, I’m sometimes even sort of advertising them, and I’m getting paid to write occasionally! All of these things that have been stewing in my head forever are slowly getting out onto paper (or screen,) and being seen, and being appreciated, and every one seems to take me further… somewhere. I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but there are people who are legitimately interested in coming along for the big weird wordy ride.
Ah ha! It took a long and circuitous path, but I suppose it’s only appropriate. The song that may best describe how I feel about writing – and existing – is “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys.
Well, it’s all right, doing the best you can
Well, it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand
Well, it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well, it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line