Tag Archives: employment

The strange satisfaction of loving my job

I kept this in my pocket when I was a greeter at Home Depot, because people didn't believe I was employed to stand at the door and say hello.

I kept this in my pocket when I was a greeter at Home Depot, because people didn’t believe I was employed to stand at the door and say hello.

I have what is known as a “portfolio career”. Which is to say, I’ve never done the same job twice, or any job for a decent length of time. The most recent changes in my employment have taken place while I’ve been blogging, so you may be familiar with my regular struggle to hang onto, or find, a job that pays me to be there.

The reason I want to mention my library job again is that I have been there for a year. I’ve been there a year, and it doesn’t feel like it. The time has flown by, and I’ve managed to move from Auxiliary to a Part Time position. In my last job, I hadn’t been there for a year before the company folded. In the job before that, vertical movement was almost impossible.

On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) I brought in my Mandalorian Helmet for the check in desk.

On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) I brought in my Mandalorian Helmet for the check in desk.

We’re quick to notice when work is unpleasant. We moan about Monday rolling around again, about feeling tired, or sick, or getting a stress headache in the traffic. But we’re not so quick to notice when work is great. Hearing I’d been at the library for a year was a surprise, as was meeting the new group of Auxiliaries who had been hired because MY group had all moved up to new positions. I’m not the new guy anymore! Look how long I’ve been here, and I STILL love it!

Yes, the library even has books you never knew you needed...

Yes, the library even has books you never knew you needed…

So I’m looking forward to the next year at the library flying past like this one has, because everyone knows that time flies when you’re having fun.

Sometimes we need to point out the obvious...

Sometimes we need to point out the obvious…

And sometimes we support the unusual - Why shouldn't Llamas and Alpacas have the chance to be Managers?

And sometimes we support the unusual – Why shouldn’t Llamas and Alpacas have the chance to be Managers?

I don’t have to love this, to do this, right?

The two-day job workshops concentrated on bringing out the aspects of past jobs that were most enjoyable. What did you achieve in this role? Which skills did you most enjoy using? What did you enjoy most about this position, this company, this manager?

The intent is clear: create Frankenstein’s job for yourself, by assembling the best bits of past roles and aiming for the Uberjob, your perfect employment partner.

Which is lovely, and I can see that working for some of my fellow would-be-workers as we leap from our slowly sinking ship. They, after all, have transferable skills, or qualifications. I’m a little lacking in both, it has to be said, but the real problem is larger.

I’m looking for part-time work, because my priority has to be Weasel Welfare. I have to get them to school, and I have to be there to pick them up again. They also enjoy some after school activities, and it would be sad if they couldn’t continue with their skating or swimming lessons because I had to keep chipping pennies from the workface.

So, I’ve done the exercises, analysing what I liked and disliked about my employment history, and I’ve come to the startling conclusion that my ideal job would be working from home as a writer. Duh. Except, as I have proved over the last decade, that doesn’t bring in enough income to pay for food and electricity and the other little necessities of life. Working at what you love is a good philosophy, and I see the point, I really do, but it doesn’t always apply.

When I went to the workshops, I was hoping they would analyse my skills and point me towards a job I was suitable for but hadn’t previously considered. I was hoping they would FIND ME WORK. Instead I have access to their marvellous jobsearch engine that searches all the other jobsearch engines I was already using, and I’m doing the same old searches to find the same old jobs I don’t want and can’t do.

Before I came to work at this company, I had a job I didn’t particularly like. It involved standing up for the whole shift, and answering the same questions over and over. The people were nice, the company had a healthy regard for its employees, and the social setup was pretty good. But I didn’t like the job itself. The same could be broadly said to be true of this job. The actual nitty gritty of the work is dull – I’m a proofreader, what do you expect? It’s NOT exciting work. But I was good at it, and I did it with enthusiasm and determination. When I am at work, I do the job, and I do it to the best of my ability. I don’t think you have to love your job to do it well. When I worked as the Manager of the allowances section, I was checking formulae and signing forms. I had to check through a rulebook eight inches thick to determine whether people were permitted certain expenses or not. It’s hard to get excited about that kind of work, but it was my JOB, so I did it and I like to think I did it well.

I’m looking for a new job, and I don’t expect to find one that will make me sing and dance as I jump out of bed each morning. I’ll settle for a nice working environment, for the chance to have a coffee on hand and the ability to use the washrooms when I need them, not when I’m scheduled a break. Other than those requirements, (and a regular schedule that doesn’t involve weekends) I’m pretty much open. Any suggestions?

A watched phone never boils…..

I really wanted to wait until I’d heard something from someone about employment, because I always think a blog without something positive is a whinge. But, there’s also the feeling I’ve  mentioned before, about an idea not being properly developed until it’s been expressed. Makes me wonder about “Think before you speak”.

So here I am, at Friday, a whole week into February and still with only the usual suspects of work. I spent yesterday in a fever of creativity, reviewing a play and writing two and half sketches. TLC have been asked to write a sketch evening on a specific theme and I decided it was time I tackled the sketches I’d volunteered for. If you asked me, I’d have said I don’t like working that way, that I prefer to wait until I get a great idea and then work that one out. I would have said I can’t write to order, or if I do it comes out as merely workmanlike. Modesty prevents me saying the two sketches I completed yesterday were good, but the better of the two made me laugh while I was writing it, and the second one made me laugh when David re-wrote the ending to make it funny. The third will have to wait to be written up, since I wrote it longhand while watching Eldest and Middle Weasel doing their Ice Skating lesson.

I don’t know what people think it’s like, writing for a living. I can tell you what it’s like for me.

I have the computer I work at set up in the Living Room. It’s not the ideal place during the evening, but with the Weasels out getting educated it makes as much sense as anywhere else. I have a coffee-making machine ten steps away, so I have to get up at least every five minutes. I have nowhere near enough food, which is a good thing. I don’t have reference books to hand, or manuals on writing. I read those at night (seriously – at the moment it’s  “How to Build a Great Screenplay”). There is clutter on the computer desk – story cds, game boxes (The kids leave them out and I never bother to put them away unless it’s time for the big clearout.) There’s a Dictaphone there today too, thanks to a rummage in the deep storage the other day. I found it and thought I might need it for something. I didn’t, but I’ve been using it as I walked the dog the last couple of days. I keep thinking it’ll be brilliant for capturing the bright thoughts I have when I’m out and about, but it’s rubbish. I should have remembered, because I once spent several months dictating a novel into that same machine, then typing up the copy. On a tiny machine like that, my voice is whiny and nasal, plus I huff and puff like an old man riding a Space Hopper down a cobble street. I finished the novel, a children’s book, and it was rubbish. (I liked some of it – the page numbers mostly. I may use them later in another book.) There’s usually a pad or blank paper for scribbling things on, but they tend to be lists of stuff I should be doing, or things that people have phoned up to tell me. I also have a hard copy of the e-book so far, because I was doing revisions on it the other day. I’m still clinging to the idea it’ll be finished by the middle of this month, but that may be just the copy written. I suspect the actual production ( there are diagrams to include, which I haven’t drawn, and the cover needs to be re-done by David) will take a bit longer. It’s still easier than trying to produce a real-world book, since the typesetting and design are completely under my control (in that I say “David, how do think the design and typesetting should go?” David’s a print and design professional you know. I can trust him on this stuff. Plus he makes my sketches funnier. AND he won the Dame Academy Panto Dame competition in Milton Keynes. Not someone to be messed with.)

I listen to music while I write. I’d rather listen to stories, but the words get in the way. Strange, because the lyrics are my favourite part of most songs, but the singing slides straight past my ears and into my brain, so I don’t have to worry about it turning up on the page. I don’t pick specific music for different types of writing – I have a big file of my favourite tracks – seven hour’s worth, give or take a minute, and they wander out of the speakers on random play. Doesn’t make much difference to me, as I only HEAR it when I stop writing. I hate writing in silence, but I’ll do it if I have to. The best days, the days I dream of, are when whatever I’m writing is so interesting, so much fun that nothing else matters. The coffee goes cold and the music fades away, there’s nothing but the pictures in my head flowing down through the keyboard and onto the screen. When everything is going well, my hands can’t keep up and I can’t stop smiling. I think that’s something else people don’t get: Writing can be miserably hard work, it can make your head ache and slice your confidence to ribbons, but at the best moments it’s like flying. I am at my happiest when I’ve written something I’m pleased with. Doesn’t matter what. If I’ve got the idea down complete, I’m irrepressibly cheerful

So this week I’ve applied for a few more jobs and had some in depth discussions with some potential employers. I swapped quite a few e-mails with a Vancouver blog who wanted freelancers to interview Vancouver-based directors. They were willing to pay, so I volunteered my services. We talked about it, and then all of a sudden they said they were “going with other applicants.” I tried not to feel crushed, and concentrated on the online audio-book company that wanted a story re-written as a script. They also wanted some kind of adaptation done, which sounded like they wanted an additional narrative frame around the story to “put it in context”. I asked a couple of reasonable questions* and then sent them in my idea. Since they were also asking for voice actors, I pointed out that I had a fine English accent and would make a brilliant villain in one of their productions. They seemed to reply to both the e-mails out of sequence, but to be honest, neither reply made a lot of sense. The second e-mail said simply :” I concerned that people would get bored with the sequential nature of it.” I concerned. I concerned? I can forgive a typo (except when I’m proofreading) but the rest of the sentence was just as baffling. He’s worried about people getting bored with the sequential nature of the story, and he’s running a business selling audio books to people CHAPTER BY CHAPTER? Heavens, let’s avoid giving people anything of a sequential nature! We’ll keep ’em interested by starting with chapter five and then skipping ahead to seven, then three…. I may be just a little bitter.

My friend and neighbour across the way, Sue, is waiting for employment news too, but she’s been waiting six months. Actually, that’s not a fair thing to say. She’s been working very, very hard to find work for six months, and has been through more interviews than I’ve had coffees. I really wouldn’t mind if today’s her day instead of mine, because I haven’t tried nearly as hard as she has.

Following up on yesterday’s creative storm, I’ve finished my latest bunch of play reviews and now I’m going to pile into the domestic tasks. If there’s time later, I may go back to some other projects that have been a little neglected, but I also have to do the rounds of the job sites. If you’re curious about the writing process, e-mail me. If you have a script you think needs assessing, you could try the Lazy Bee appraisal service (Lazy Bee are my publishers, and they employ an experienced Script Reader to assess submissions for them. Ok, it’s me, but I’ve been a published playwright for over a decade, reading scripts and reporting for over three years, and I took a course on Script Reading with the Script Factory in London.)

*Including “What the hell are you talking about?”

Getting a job is such hard work!

I’ve thought a lot about this post, especially since it’s about something that only happened in the last forty eight hours. I often remember the phrase “A thought is never fully formed until it has been expressed.” and for me the best form of expression is writing. I need to have things written down so I can see what I think about them. It makes me useless in an argument because I can’t marshal my responses. I look at both sides of what’s being said, and often cave without arguing back. With Mrs Dim, I’ll quite often take her opening speech and run through how I think the argument (oops, meant “discussion” there…Sorry!) will go. Odds are, I’ll find I’ve run out of responses before we really get into it. This isn’t because she overwhelms me or is authoritarian or anything spooky or depressing like that : The fact is, if we’re having a difference of opinion, it’s usually because I am being resistant to change or reluctant to take on responsibility for something (see my previous post).

It may seem daft that I say I’m resistant to change after spending sixteen years moving from house to house, having three kids and numerous minor jobs. Here I am, thousands of miles from the country I was born in, saying I don’t deal well with change. Well, it’s true. I like routine, I like things to sort themselves out and then I can cope with them being the same every day. Having got Tiny Weasel into full-time schooling, I could relax into running my own day between 9 and 3, fitting odd things into that schedule when necessary.

A while ago, when we were living in Bournemouth and not sure if we’d ever get to Canada, I wrote a  magazine article called “Giving up the dream” which talked about the fact that I would have to stop being a full-time writer and go back to regular employment if we were going to stay in the UK. There was no other way we’d cope with the financial reality of life outside the RAF. And besides, with the kids in school and the writing business only growing slowly, there was no reason not to. I had hoped that coming out here, where the house prices are lower and the exchange rate was so good, that we could carry on as we were, and I could survive by increasing the number of published plays. Of course, I also had my grand plays to be visiting Rock-Star-Playwright at the local school and colleges, feted by all and showered with money for deigning to appear and discuss my process.

Well, the plays are still being written. We add new titles every month and our business plan for the next year is healthy enough, but the projected earnings don’t match up to the projected shortfall if we go ahead with the house purchase we’re both considering. Me getting a regular job is the only sensible solution, and this is what Mrs Dim said to me, in a very reasonable tone of voice on Saturday afternoon. I’d like to say that I nodded sagely and instantly suggested several courses of action that we could work on.

I didn’t. I sulked like a teenager. I whined and bitched. I muttered about having wasted the previous ten years building up a business only to throw it away. I said I would only be able to get a stupid shift job at Starbucks, since I’m qualified for nothing, and what good would that do? When this didn’t get me anywhere, I brought the dog into it. How was she going to get her morning walk if I go out to work? Pathetic, isn’t it?

Mrs Dim was more than a little disappointed. From her point if view, I was being very slow and unsupportive. She had shown me the accounts spreadsheet the week before and indicated how the incoming and outgoings wouldn’t match up if we take on a mortgage, or even if we just carry on the way we’re going now. I looked blankly at the lines of figures and nodded hopefully. I did not leap up and suggest I get a job and, bless her, right then she didn’t ask me. She gave me more time to figure it out myself, and when she felt it couldn’t wait any longer, she pushed the issue and I reacted like a spoilt brat.

Why? Well, have I mentioned that I don’t cope well with change? (Please understand, I am aware that everything said in this paragraph is an EXCUSE and not a REASON. I’m explaining my point of view, not asking you to agree.) I have exactly the life I have always dreamed of: I have time to write my looniest ideas down and send them away to my publisher, I get to tidy and clean at my own pace, I get to walk the dog in the fresh air at least twice a day and I don’t have an in-tray. I’ve worked in many different types of jobs in my time, and never really found one that I enjoyed. I worked behind a bar, behind a desk, behind a shop counter, in a factory and it’s only since I’ve been working for myself from home that I’ve been happy with the working hours and conditions. If the kids are ill or there’s a crisis at school, I don’t need anyone’s permission to shut down the computer and go get ’em.

But the point here is not how comfortable I feel in a new work situation. The point is that Mrs Dim has said there is a family crisis on the horizon, and I’m the one who can do something about it right now. If I step up and find work, I can stop that crisis ever arriving, and what kind of husband or father would I be if I just curl up under the desk and hope it goes away? It’s not like she’s asking me to stop being a playwright, and there’s plenty of examples of people out there who acheived more than I do on a daily basis while holding down a nine to five job. If I can’t carry on writing, reviewing and appraising while I turn in eight hours a day somewhere, then I don’t deserve to have all this time at home playing at being a famous writer.

On the other hand, if you know anyone who wants to hire a writer for a couple of thousand dollars a month, I can send you the number to call….