Monday, September 5, 2011

The Day Job

“While one is learning one’s craft, then practicing it and hunting for an agent, then waiting for mail with the agent’s return address, one must somehow make a living. Every writer hopes, like a medieval Christian, that after his period of honorable suffering, bliss will follow as a reward. So the writer takes some miserable part-time job, or lives off his parents or spouse, and writes and prays and waits. One day, the writer tells himself, the big break will come, and his money troubles will be over.”
-         -  On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
This is the lavender that’s grown on the island. We distill the oil and handcraft everything on San Juan. 

I have not written in eight weeks. This is a crime! A shame! When I counted back the weeks on my calendar I was horrified. I’m a writer. I write! I was knocking out 20 pages on good days. 

This eight week lapse correlated with a specific event – the start of a new job.

I swore I’d never return to retail customer service after growing up in my family’s Alaskan souvenir business… until I found myself laid off and in need of another position pronto.

The timing of the local lavender farm/shop’s ad was serendipitous, not to mention I was already a fan of the home, body and culinary line all grown organically and handcrafted on the island.

Working in the store turned out to be fun. I’ve met countless friendly (and well-behaved) visitors and made add-on sales – the most satisfying kind.

And on the subject of work, I've had to fill in for a flighty co-worker this Labor Day weekend. 
Off I go!

Maybe it’s my age (34 this month) that’s given me the confidence to approach and converse with strangers that I was lacking in my 20s. One fact remains, however. I’m an introvert and dealing with people all day sucks the life force out of me.

I remember my first writing professor, Richard Chiappone, Water of an Undetermined Depth, express the importance of the dull day job in not hampering the creative spirit. I left my job as an editorial assistant/reporter at The Anchorage Daily News when I realized I was starting to lose my joy of writing.

Being a journalist and writing fiction conflicted for me personally. No, I’m no longer using my degree, and it comes up in nearly every interview, but I’ve found somewhat of a happy balance between earning a living and pursuing my dream.

Do I fantasize about writing full time? Every day!

Photo credits: Brandy Mills, 2011.


  1. Great story and awesome goals… I am on the same path as you, trying to develop my craft while working a full time job.

    Eight weeks is a long time, but sometimes our brains need the break, and our muses needs to hit the reset button. I always find its better to write when you feel the desire, the story is much better for it.

    The absolute worst thing that can happen, (at least for me) is when writing starts to feel like work.

    I have no doubts you’ll meet your goals, never stop writing and never stop believing!

  2. I used to work in retail and it was actually good for me to get out and talk with strangers because I am so shy. Then I went into graphic art and animation which satisfied the creativity. Now my spouse is kindly supporting me while I write. Yay!

  3. Congrats on the new job- I can imagine it must be tiresome too but there's worse!:) Save writing for your days off- I love waking up early on a day off with a cup of coffee and my laptop and my wip. I write best for two hours in the morning and two hours at night when the kiddies are in bed. Dunno why- that's just when my writing mojo is at its best.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement!

    One of the big pluses of retail is being on my feet. It’s hard to sit working at a computer all day then come home and sit and work at a computer some more. This is my last week, though, then I’ll likely be switched to administrative duties, which I’m looking forward to.

  5. I dream about that too, but gotta pay the bills for now, right? Those lavender fields are gorgeous! Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

  6. I used to be a drug rep. Talk about killing creativity. And when you tried to be creative, the big guys would frown down on you. :P

    Your job sounds perfect for you. Suddenly I have a craving to spray lavendar scents on my bedding.