I have a 9-5 job. Weird, huh?
You know what’s even weirder? I’m a copywriter. For the rest of my life, I can say “my first real job out of college was as a copywriter.” (You know, once I got tired of working for free in California). I feel unbelievably blessed.
(And I don’t have a cubicle, but I do have a desk! I decorated it with a small picture of Mr. Darcy and a Kate Beaton comic, because why not?)
I got to trot out my new title a couple of days ago while I was hanging out with some friends. I met a new person, and we did the usual “getting to know you” chit chat–where do you live, where did you go to school, what do you do for a living–and I got to say “well, I’m a copywriter for a small company that plans field trips for grade school students.” I’m getting better and better at succinctly describing what I do.
When I was 18, I would probably have classified my new job as “selling out.” but if I’ve learned one thing in the year and a half since I graduated college, it’s that, well, selling out is deeply subjective. I know lots of people who would hate the 9 to 5 grind of an office job–it goes with the territory of being (and spending time with) creative people. We have needs, you see. Creative needs that don’t adhere to schedules or deadlines or pay periods or lunch hours.
But that’s where being a writer is different from being, say, a designer or a painter or a musician. We like deadlines (well, we’re trained to like deadlines). If you google “tips for writers,” I can guarantee that at least 60% of the advice you find is geared towards making deadlines for yourself. (20% is probably along the lines of “just keep writing even if it’s horrible,” 15% is probably “read voraciously” and 5% is “develop a manageable alcohol problem because if it worked for Hemingway it’ll probably work for you”)
Even so, my 18 year old self would have scoffed (politely, of course, because I’m usually polite) at the idea of sitting in an office 40 hours a week walking the same copy deck around the office getting approval for five emails that will be sent to 10,000 people and actually read by 2,000, and even then 800 of them will skim it.
That 18 year old self was the same person who dropped her Intro to Advertising class two weeks into the semester because advertising was “manipulative” and apparently I was kind of pretentious when I was eighteen.
But that’s where the subjectivity comes in. I know people who work three jobs to support their dream career–who bust their ass as assistants to difficult people, who wait tables or tend bar to augment a $20,000 a year salary in Los Angeles–a city where it costs $30,000 a year to scrape by, and $40,000 a year if you want to really thrive.
But if I don’t want to do that. I want to pay my bills and write my novel and hang out with my friends and push through my depression and go to church and watch television and read new books and read old books and live. I don’t want to struggle. I struggled through high school, I struggled through college, I struggled through my year in Los Angeles. I think I’ve earned a year or two of a set schedule and a steady salary, and I can’t even describe how blessed I am to have a full-time job that provides me with both.