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I’m Gonna Live Forever

Can you guess who the writer is?

While we are on the subject of the undead, let’s talk about day jobs. I want to know where you guys work and if your colleagues know that there is an undead among them. I also want to know if you think writing in the night, and later night, the dead of night and wee hours is good for your writing. And if being an undead helps your writing or sucks all the life blood out of you.

I would like to complain about how being in publishing is probably the worst thing for my writing life, but that’s not true. For fuck’s sake, I eat, live and breath the shit. Does taking 15% make me a vampire?

But what’s it like working among civilians, people who don’t understand or care that you are not really alive unless you are bathed in the light of the computer screen. After all, what’s a book but a bid for immortality? Suck it.

67 Responses

  1. I used to work in association management. When my boss laid me off in December he said “Now you’ll have time to write that novel you have in you.”

    The guy who had to pick up the slack when I was let go died in his sleep night before last at the age of 47.

    I think I feel lucky to remain undead and writing even if immortality remains elusive.

  2. Newspaper reporter. These days are like the old days — every reporter has a novel in his desk drawer — nowadays it’s called an exit strategy.

  3. Ask me about my day job tomorrow at 8 a.m. Right now, I’m struggling to forget about it.

  4. I am a temp, and am currently a job where I work closely with three other twenty-something temps. One is a writer. One says he wants to be a writer (though I’m skeptical). The third just asks to read any manuscript I print off the work printer. So it’s sort of nice, all of us legitimizing the way station we find ourselves in.

  5. I’m an anthropologist for a state agency. I love it, but have noticed getting increasingly irritated by technical writing.

  6. I’m a CPA with my own tax practice. I kick ass at the IRS. I understand audits and the SEC. If I tried a little harder, I could make 300K a year, drive a Mercedes and buy my daughter a horse. Instead, all I want to do is write, so I keep my practice small and say no when potential clients call. I stay up late during tax season to do tax returns, then stay up late the rest of the year to write.

    While most of my clients were aware when my mystery series came out a few years ago, none of them have any inkling what I just sold. Many of them are hardcore right wing Christian fanatics (which is a whole other rant about principles and ignoring them for filthy lucre) & I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be impressed that their supersmart CPA also writes books about Hell and teenage sex. Thus a pseudonym. I won’t get into the lie I live here in solid BlueTown, faking that I’m not the flaming liberal mother of a lesbian.

    No one gets it. Not my family, or friends, and for damn sure not my clients. I have a friend who runs. She gets up every morning at 4 AM and runs 5 miles before she teaches French to kids with hick accents all day long. She told me it’s what keeps her centered; running is all that makes her truly happy. I’d rather spend a weekend with one of my religious fanatic clients than run around the block, much less 5 miles, so I don’t really get it. She talks about the zone and I eat another Oreo. Which is pretty much how others see my addiction to writing. And why I don’t talk about it. For me, most everything I have to do to live – work, taxes, fight with the IRS, laundry, get the oil changed, even hanging with nonwriting friends – is just something else that takes away my writing time. For people who don’t get off on staying up until 4 AM because OMG this is blowing me away and I can’t go to bed because I might wake up tomorrow and lose it, writing is something they do in college because someone makes them.

    Honestly, even if I worked in publishing, I’d still resent the hell out of the time it took away from writing.

  7. marketing director at a small tech company. during my 9-to-5, i write articles with titles like: How to Build Demos that Shorten Your Sales Cycle. it pays the bills so that i can work on titles in the wee hours of the a.m. that don’t make me want to bang my head on a granite counter top.

  8. I work with mostly wonderful waiters, waitresses, and bartenders who know that I’m a true vampire (I even wear a black Dracula cape). I come alive at night and I suck the blood of anyone who is brave enough to sit down with me. My job is so dangerously creative–and I say “dangerously ” because it threatens to satisfy all of my creative impulses so that I don’t even need to write–and therefore get great satisfaction from my “day job,” which is really at night.

    But Vivian, the worst person I am currently dealing with is this Capricorn waitress on Sunday nights, a real bitch from hell. Her name is Vivian too! I swear! So I’m lucky to have a vampiric job. When I write, if I write, it’s all night long into the wee hours–and when the sun comes up I am dead to the world once more.

    • From 1987-88 I worked in a jewellry store on Fifth Ave. One of the salesgirls was a blowsy fake blonde with frizzy hair, the kind of girl who didn’t have any boundaries in the lunchroom when it came to waiting for her turn for the microwave and who snuck into the Diamond dept to poach customers (she was a lowly Silver salesperson, with a huge rack). We didn’t get along. She got knocked up in the Spring of ’87 (and blamed the guy in the watch repair dept, who denied it) and then she had the baby and brought it to work one day. That’s when she told everyone that she’d named her daughter VIVIAN. That was so creepy.

      So I can tell you that if your Vivian is THAT Vivian, her personality problems are genetic. But seeing as she’s a Capricorn, just tell her that she is too smart to be doing this job and she’ll think you’re a genius.Us Capricorns, if we’re not CEO or HBIC, we think we’re underemployed.

      • couldn’t sleep this morning, but it’s great to start it off with a few laughs. No, different Vivian, but I’ll try this approach with her. Maybe she’ll even bring me a desert (something she refused to do once and I gave up asking). Had a great aunt, Aunt Viv, when I was a kid. She smoked Kents, holding them oddly near her middle finger. Don’t know her sign, but I’ll ask my Dad. If she was a Cap, I’ll let you know.

  9. Frankly, I don’t see how it’ll serve any purpose for me if people are reading my books, talking about my books or thinking about me as a person once I’m dead. That’s why I talk so much while I’m living, I suppose.

  10. I work for the emergency services as a calltaker / dispatcher (it’s the Aussie version of 911). It’s a challenging job so it keeps my mind active and there is a lot of downtime, especially on night shift – perfect for drafting and editing projects. Also I work on a 4 day on / 4 day off roster, giving plenty of spare writing time. I was so stoked to find a job that fits in so perfectly with my writing and penchant for long weekends.

    Most of the people I’m friends with at work know that I write. I don’t keep it a secret but I don’t walk around talking about it constantly, so it’s mostly if it comes up in conversation. At least two other people on the team are writers too, so it’s no big deal. I don’t think anyone thinks it’s weird, it’s mostly seen as just another thing that I’m passionate about, like cupcakes and Pauly Shore movies.

  11. Ha! This is great. The undead! How true. I have the best day job for an author. I am a classroom assistant for a before and after school extended day program for grades K-5. ONn the surface this might make you go screaming into the hills and at times it does. But, I get paid for talking to children, they love me, they are so impressed that I am a writer they allow me to discuss my work whenever I want, and I pretty much work on my own with no bosses breathing down my neck. Although I will say that I yearn to get back home and sit in the glow of my laptop which is kind of the opposite of what the undead want. um. Anyhoo, great post!

  12. I’m a retired second grade teacher. I didn’t write anything creative while I was working, just kind of fell into this because I needed something to do. It was like any other addiction. Once it had me, I couldn’t get away, and the ups and downs have made me crazier than ever.

    I was much happier when I was not a writer.

  13. Business Analyst. I’m the bridge between real business people and the geeks who can give the real business people IT solutions. SOMEONE has to translate what business needs in a language that IT folks understand. That’s me. Business people can’t speak tech geek and vice versa. That’s where I come in.

    And I managed to shift my schedule so that I can write in the mornings, then go off to the paying job. No writing by lantern light for me.

    • Same here. I’m a bridge over troubled and sometimes confusing waters. But I do think it’s taught me to really listen for nuggets. Sticking with the vampire allusions, in conversations I’ve learned to always look for the neck and forget the frilly collar. Maybe it’s helped my writing. Then again, if you haven’t heard of my blood-sucking rampages already, maybe it hasn’t.

  14. I was fired a year ago from a dumb-ass desk job. The next day, I was offered a part time gig driving people with developmental disabilities to and from therapy. So for the past year, I’ve worked part time and collected unemployment, for the first time in my life.

    I told myself when I lost my job that I would give it one year to seriously persue writing because I figured that’s when unemployment would run out and I’d have to find another full time job.

    Last October, I found my agent. Last night, I sent her the third draft of my novel. (the vampire/mafie chick book I’ve mentioned here before)

    As for time of day? I wake up anywhere between 4 and 5am. I write best in the mornings.

  15. Freelance corporate communications writer. I don’t talk about my “other” writing life with my business clients. But now that I have a novel coming out in two months, perhaps I need to rethink that strategy.

  16. For Calyx

    Calyx sweet X, crossroads, meetingplace
    in the heart of the valley,
    Calyx chalice, cup, holygrail
    of fierce brightness and fragrance,
    Calyx of lazy lilies
    full of bees with furry thighs,
    vagrants, honey-drunks,
    Calyx of fertile words,
    holder of the sacred pollen:
    on you today this blessing:
    go south in beauty,
    go east in beauty,
    go north in beauty,
    go west in beauty.
    Be in the center in beauty.
    Be a long time in beauty.

    Ursula K.
    Le Guin

  17. I worked for Penguin for about ten years and now work for a small book printing company two blocks from home. But my hours have been cut back due to economy, ebooks, etc. I can’t write at night because my family watches TV all night and it’s not quiet enough in my apt. I write when my sons are aseep on weekend mornings, etc.

  18. Currently, my “day” job is being a graduate student in Slavic linguistics (yes, random) and managing editor of a leading Slavic linguistics journal. I’m at the point in my coursework… well, in the fall I’ll be taking one class that meets from 7-8:30 pm and has about 1hr’s worth of homework. Unfortunately, I’m supposed to be driven enough to work on my own projects and somehow also spend 20hr/wk editing someone else’s bibliography, checking for periods and making sure the capitalization and quotation marks are correct. It’s mind-numbing to say the least, and makes me have less than zero desire to do my own work. Of course, I am driven to do my own work, just not the work that *they* think I should be driven to do.

    The odd thing about it is that when I started college ten years ago I was a creative writing major at a small school with a really good program. While I was there, I somehow got off-track, and ended up in International Relations. (This still doesn’t explain the linguistics, but it’s not worth it here.) And I missed writing like I might miss my right arm. But I never “had time”. Now I’m back in school doing something even more unrelated, and I’ve gone back to writing. I explain it to myself as needing something a little more right-brained to balance out the overly-structured, left-brained nonsense that guides—and, yet, is the antithesis to—my life. It’s like what Stef mentioned above about her writing and her friend’s running. It’s the only thing that keeps me grounded.

    So, do I talk about it? Ha! I can count the number of people who know about it on both hands without resorting to my toes. Just a couple of close friends, many of whom knew me in my previous life when I wrote before. But the thought of telling my professor/adviser/boss makes me cringe and squirm, knowing exactly how his face would contort and he would ask indignantly, “WHY?”

    It’s rather funny, actually. I can’t talk about my academic work because no one understands it, and when I tried to explain it to a woman at a party once, she walked away from me thinking that I was a pervert (I study clitics, which are tiny, semantically-empty pronouns…). And now I don’t talk about my writing, either, though this is by choice. And both lead to similar questions: 1) What are you going to do with that? or 2) How are you going to live off of that? Apparently, I’m just a masochist at heart.

  19. Sorry! That ended up being much longer than it needed to be…

  20. My happiest undercover writing experience was when I was working as a receptionist at a hedge fund in Manhattan. I’d lied to get the job: I told them I’d been the assistant to the Vice President at Christie’s auction house, when actually I -was- the V.P. I never told anyone my secret for the three years that I worked there, although I did tell them that I wrote free lance and had articles published regularly fin local magazines.

    Of course, nobody cared: I was the lowest staff member and they only talked to me to complain that I’d let the canteen run out of milk, Honey-Os, Sweet’n’Low, or Equal. I used to think, Shit: When I went to Frank Sinatra’s house to appraise his Faberge his wife went to the trouble to make me coffee and give me the house tour, and now I have to care whether or not some jerk with a state school MBA gets his sugary breakfast cereal?

    The high low point came when my boss, fresh from his visit to the lavatory one day, told me to draft a memo to all the male employees concerning proper toilet flushing in the mens room. He was tired of seeing “floaters” and it was my job to make sure that from now on, all turds were properly disappeared; it was my job to prescribe the proper watchfulness and follow-up second or third flushings if nec.

    But I can look at some of the more intricate illustrations in my book (published five years after I was fired from that job) and remember the hours and hours that I spent at my receptionist desk at that hedge fund, drawing the many detailed elements of those labor-intensive pictures. And I met my husband through one of the VPs there, so it was totally worth every demeaning day.

  21. Until a couple of years ago, I lived in Los Angeles and worked in Hollywood, mostly as a celebrity personal assistant. So, I have absolutely ZERO experience working among civilians. Hollywood is like its own planet. And no one gave a shit about the writers there, either, for the record.

  22. I’m hugely intrigued by the widely varying ‘real’ lives of you guys.
    Betsy, you should put this stuff together and get it published.
    Forget Shit My Dad Says. You can publish Shit Writers Gotta Do To Pay The Light Bill.

    Also? Vivian totes wins this round. I think I peed myself.

  23. domestic goddess. no pay, no benefits. get dressed in professional clothes and write for 2 hours/day during the daytime at a noisy coffee shop. approach writing in a businesslike manner–wrote myself a strategic plan for writing and have found it highly effective.

    don’t ask me how i feel about gender roles. just don’t.

  24. Secretary. I need something steady, I need benefits. But I need something that’s not too draining and where I go home at five. At this job I have loads of blank time that I spend researching, thinking, writing. And I try to stay away from the Internet…but I’m obviously not that successful.

    Vivian, I’ve had some demeaning moments, but never quite as bad as yours. Wow.

  25. Used to be a full time in house publicist in NYC now I work part time for a tech company (health insurance!) and part time PR for a book events company in the Northwest.

    When I worked in book publishing I never wanted to tell anyone I was a writer because it felt like such a cliche but now I am out of the closet loud and proud!

  26. I work a day job in niche publishing; I like the work but the double life is draining.

    I’ll write a scene on the morning subway, sometimes return to it at 3pm over coffee, or at night after the kids are asleep, or at 5 AM the next morning. I’ve spent years on my ABD novel, working this way, holding on tight when the responsibilities of work or kids try to shove writing time out of my hands. I steal & borrow time — call in sick so I can finish a section of my book; show up at the office on Sundays so I can revise in a quiet setting. I carry my MS everywhere I go.

    Once I could spend three weeks at an artist’s colony, writing longhand in a cabin without electricity. Now I do this impossible thing six days a week. I’m edging toward the finish line of this project but it’s a tough road.

    Not what anyone thinks about when starting out.

  27. Since leaving foster care I’ve had a string of what some might call crappy jobs—sickling corn, washing dishes, pruning trees, cooking food, nursing home aid, and, after acquiring two masters degrees, a few more elite assignments—newspaper researcher, trends analyst, zoo librarian—all the while writing (memoir turned fiction—honestly isn’t that what all writing is?). Rewrites with agent now. Worked to the bone fingers are crossed. Still, if nothing happens I will keep writing.

    • what is sickling corn? Seriously, I’m curious.

      • With a sickle in hand you go down the corn row cutting out the rogues–the stalks taller than average to insure a uniform crop.

    • Is Zoo librarian as awesome of a job as it sounds like? For some reason it brings to mind that childrens book ‘The Eleventh Hour’.

      • One of my favorite jobs. Helped Yukkies (young urban keepers) find all manner of info. And got to go behind the scenes with gorillas, elephants and koala bears. Spent the night on the grounds with a group of kids learning about nocturnal animals (the source of all vampire stories those creatures) and fell in love with the vet who left to hunt rhinos.

      • Well shit. What am I doing with my life? Where do I sign up for this?

  28. I was a pastor for 25 years — boy, does that yield good material — then got beat up, literally, by a crazy parishioner, so for the past few years I’ve been recovering on disability and finally focused (as much as my addled brain can focus on anything) on writing. I thought it would be nonfiction but discovered that it’s a hell of a lot more fun to make up shit. There’s a lot of self-censorship implicit in being a clergy person so I’m enjoying telling the real truth, as I experience and see it, for the first time in my life. Not religious anymore, but spiritual of sorts. That’s when I’m not stlll too pissed at G-d to ignore it.

  29. Oh, I forgot to say what I currently do for $. Part time public reference librarian. Which means I look up phone numbers for schizophrenics.

  30. I’ve been unemployed for the majority of the last two years. A great writing gig. As much as I admire people who work and write, and did it myself for many years, and will be doing it again, I have to admit that creativity is best fostered by long stretches of unstructured time.

    When I’m working I can’t afford to sink too deeply into thoughts or emotions. (I work with lots of Work-Hard-Play-Hard types). Working with crazy account people and creatives is draining and I don’t have much left at the end of the day. However, I do have moments of inspiration that I try to capture between meetings in my notebook.

    When I got laid off and started writing my book, I went into hibernation. I felt like I was on my own island, and couldn’t really deal with people too much. I felt lonely, but the loneliness felt necessary for the writing I was doing. It’s the other side of the coin.

    I’ve given up finding the “right” way to write and earn a living. Nothing feels right, normal or correct. I just try to grab the inspiration, wait for the inspiration, and chip away at a labor of love. I don’t know why. I just do.

  31. I’m a lawyer. I work for a judge, and I try not to mention the fact that late at night I’m engaged in the semi-criminal act of making shit up. I would not want anyone to be concerned about whether I make up the stuff I write at work too. I like to think of myself as Wallace Stevens’s heir. I do my job and then I come home from the office and sit up in my cold little Hartford attic room and write about the Florida that somehow never became my real life.

  32. I am lucky enough not to have a day job, though I do freelance. I just can not write at night; has to be during the day (preferably morning).

  33. Somebody hates me this week.

  34. I prescribe tons and tons of psych drugs to a caseload of somewhere between 400-500 people. I got a gold star from a patient of mine yesterday for having written an awesome and truthful letter that solidified her case for Social Security Disability. My most shining moment was making a writer patient of mine aware that she was in effect a Canadian citizen due to legislation passed in April 2009 and that all she had to do was fill out the paperwork and boom… no more need to do sucky jobs in the US for health insurance when now she can move to Canada and do less sucky jobs and not worry about health insurance.

  35. I have to second Stef – these comments are book-worthy.

    We have here sickling corn, a cursing ex-pastor, countless Vivians, poop duty, “tiny, semantically-empty pronouns,” an anthropologist for a state agency – which state agency employs an anthropologist? And a person who helps Australians in crisis.

    You are all so much more interesting than vampires. And I have nothing against vampires.

    For my part, I am a homeschooling mum to a child prodigy. My 8-year-old does college math for fun. I can’t send him to high school while he still has milk teeth. Instead I make him peanut butter sandwiches and say “I don’t know, Honey. Look it up on the Internet.” It’s surreal and mundane. I write about it instead of constantly pinching myself.

  36. I was a tv producer, booking authors on a talk show. I didn’t write a word while we were shooting but then I had the summer hiatus. When the show was cancelled I tried admin work — a conscious decision to get off a career track I wasn’t interested in – I wanted to write dammit! That was the first step towards prioritizing writing. Eventually, it led me to where I am now — working three days a week at a non-profit to pay for bills (and benefits) and using the other four days to write.

  37. Interesting question. Here’s my deal:

    I work as a public school teacher, teaching art and creative writing to kids in grades K-5. I write– though not exclusively but in large part– about having been a sex worker, starting as a stripper when I was nineteen years old. All this hadn’t been a problem until recently, when my coworkers started googling me– who does this?!– and eventually it made its way to my principle’s attention. I just wrote an article about the situation for the Rumpus.net that’s being put up next week. The article is in large part about the stigma of being a sex worker, but implicit is my advocating for the right of workers to live self determined lives outside the workplace. Being a writer and publishing or publicly reading one’s writing shouldn’t threaten one’s day job, but in the age of the internet, it certainly does. That sucks. But what’s even worse: I realized after writing the article how my day job was threatening my writing.

    The article is my “coming out” of sorts. I didn’t realize until after I’d written it how held up I’d been, psychologically, knowing that eventually I’d be “found out.” It had created a real, affecting fear. Not to be a suck up, but Betsy, your chapter “The Wicked Child” really hit home and speaks to this point. I read it awhile ago but from what I remember it was all about this fear, the fear that so much of my life had already been ruled by– the fear of being found out. It is a major theme of my memoir, and so I was surprised– and not surpised– to find it was again operating in my life. Writing and publishing what I do, I suppose I could be fired from my job as a teacher, and I certainly don’t want that… just like I never wanted to dissappoint or embarress my mother, just like I never want anyone to not like or to be angry with me, ever. Being a writer, a good one, I think, generally means threatening others, which threatens oneself. One has to have a lot of courage to take that sort of risk.

    Knowing that I wrote the Rumpus piece and that it soon will exist in this world for people to read has given me permission to write and publish more freely. I just signed up to be a contributor on two literary blogs. I started I’m commenting here. I’m publishing another piece on another site that shares details of my experience more explicitly than before. Maybe I’ll get fired. Maybe I’ll score an agent and get my book published sooner than later or maybe, for now, It’ll just make me a better writer. Whatever happens, I can live with it because I’m being true to me and my work, my writing, which I consider my life’s work– I’m a good teacher and I’m a good daughter and I’m a good person but I want to be a GREAT writer and I will do whatever that takes.

  38. I’m work at Starbucks, which is perfect for my writing. I have the opening shift, so I’m up at 3am and home by 3~4pm. Gives me all afternoon to write (if I can stay awake…).

    The problem is, most of my coworkers are in my age range, young 20s, and they want to hang out after our shifts end. I used to let them talk me into going out for drinks or window shopping, but these days, I turn them down with the usual excuse: “Gotta write!”

    It frustrates them to no end. They say I can always write later, and I can’t make them understand that a) I don’t want to write LATER, I want to write NOW, and b) Writing is a never-ending process, not something that gets set aside and neatly finished up when one has time.

  39. Fascinating real life jobs of writers! I started as a secretary many moons ago; got married, stayed home to write for a long period. That long period was broken up by various job gigs: worked at Burger King, at a sewing plant, and ended with being a reporter/Lifestyle Editor at the local newspaper.

    Weirdest, funniest experience I had was at BK: we had a parade in town, and a guy rode a horse into the drive-through to get his Whopper to go!?!

  40. I work in advertising by day and write by night (and morning). I like to think that I am in the same boat as publishers. Advertising pays for my content too.

  41. I work in a trendy, hip hotel in Manhattan mainly asking douchebags “Can I help you?” which curiously makes them indignant and hostile like teenagers with a lot of money – then there are nights when actual indignant and hostile teenagers with a lot of money come in and try to tell me what to do. Sometimes I think about dying and wonder if there are jobs when you’re dead. Most of the time as I’m standing there at work staring off into the abyss I’m sending out a Tweet – http://twitter.com/Williamsburgbla – in an attempt to stay sane and seek “connection”. Some days, before or after work I feel a frantic need to write something, anything, to keep from getting swept away by the mind numbing current of my labor, and I blog. If I have free time at work I try to find someone who I can talk books with – there’s only one guy right now and he’s leaving to South America soon. I used to tell people at work about my blog, but it usually just freaked them out as they couldn’t quite connect my work persona with the unguarded me. I still tell people that I write though, to remind myself, as much as to let them know. I read on the train to and from work to keep me nourished. On my days off I work on my manuscript and rewrite and endlessly tweak my query letter to you in the hope that one day I’ll be published and then I’ll be able to say whatever the fuck I want to for a living instead of choking on my words at work.

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