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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Full-time retail vs freelance writing?

You probably think there is no comparison, right? The freelancer has all that wonderful freedom, can pick and choose her jobs, sleep in if she wants, and be all creative all day. The retail job is mundane, monotonous, dull, and pays badly. Well, think again, and take a read of this insightful piece by freelance writer, Caitlin Kelly, who sometimes writes for the New York Times: 'My Retail Job, Crazy as it Seems, Keeps Me Sane'. As for me, I'm too busy with the guidebook writing to even blog at the moment. I'm rising around 7.30-8am most mornings (too late for my liking), after three attempts that start with the first alarm that goes off at 6.30am - ah, how I remember the days when it only took one alarm for me to bounce out of bed. But the late starts are because I'm not going to bed until 2am. I'm working 15 hour days at the moment. I should be doing 18 to meet these deadlines, but 15 is all I can manage, as I've been leading this crazy existence for a while now. So, a retail job is not sounding too bad after all, after reading Caitlin's story. Well, these guys look happy, don't they?


Sean McLachlan said...

Sorry to hear you're so buried in work, although that's not entirely a bad thing. Try to get a couple of days off after your next deadline to recharge or, as one writer I met put it "let the well refill". This is good for your clients as well, because they get a better product.
Retail drove me insane. One reason I'm a freelancer is that I simply can't deal with the public in a situation where the public assumes I'm an inferior, as happens a lot when you're standing behind a counter. I'm not good at being polite to rude people. And no, refusing obnoxious comments isn't censorship. this is the internet, and they can get their own blog!
I did love my bookstore job back in the Nineties, but not the public aspect of it. I think the guy on the right of your photo agrees with me. The guy on the left seems happy though.

Terence Carter said...

Working in a bookstore would be OK because everyone thinks you're either: A. Complete book geek or B. Working on your first novel in your spare time. Clothing retail? No thanks.

When I did a long-term 'stagiaire' (fancy name for cooking for free) at a friends restaurant, he – quite rightly – wanted me to do some hours as a waiter and also manning the coffee machine. I refused because I also didn't want that same inferior feeling that you're talking about – I already had a great day job and I was there to learn to cook better, not take orders! In hindsight, I should have done it and it's a wonder he didn't tell me to F-off! Since then I've been to great restaurants and seen brilliant waiters at work, I really admire the ones that always seem to understand the 'vibe' of a table and act accordingly.

The writer in question in the story doesn't have a full-time job though. I thought it would be about someone not being disciplined enough to handle being your own whip-cracker. Lara is amazingly disciplined and is doing crazy hours – I'm barely hanging in!

PS: Actually Sean, the guy on the right is doing his dignified 'Mona Lisa' smile. You need to see a bigger version of the photo...

Michael Esposito said...

Regarding your current writing predicament, I'm reminded of when I had to write term papers in college: I hated the process but loved the final product. However, the alternative of sitting behind a desk all day doing seemingly meaningless work isn't good either. As I sit behind the desk but have enough vacation time to squeeze in some interesting sidelines, I have had to use the advice from Alan Loy McGinnis' book "The Balanced Life," to "maintain a middle course between boredom and stress." As this ideal state isn't always possible, we should also qualify this statement with the Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage the change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Sean

Thanks for the advice! We're very much looking forward to a break, I can tell you - but think we need a good couple of weeks. In the last few years the only days off we've had have been a few days each Christmas! Crazy, hey?!

Yeah, look, I'm not sure I could do retail again... haven't done it since I was 16... though I think it was a well-crafted article, I like it that a writer doesn't see the job being 'beneath' her as many would, and that she's written about, and I like that she makes use of the 'skills' she's getting on the job in her writing and vice-versa.

Now, if I wanted to do a day-job again, I'd teach (again) in a heartbeat. I love the contact with students, the creativity, using my brain... that's one of the worst things about retail, I found... performing senseless meaningless tasks day in, day out...

But a bookstore job would be the way to go, as long as it was one of those little specialised stores, a travel bookstore, or perhaps a good academic bookstore where people coming in were really passionate about books... at least you're using your brain.

Oh, and that guy who has accused me of 'censoring' his posts? He does have his own blog. And that's all I'm saying on the subject.

Thanks for dropping by!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Michael

Nice to hear from you!

Oh, gosh, sadly, it's not a
"current writing predicament", but it's pretty constant, which is why I think we need to take a good long hard look at it all when we take that much-needed break Sean has suggested.

You talk about your term papers... okay, well, because we have staggered deadlines, every day is like term paper deadline day for us at the moment. Imagine that. But I much prefer staggered deadlines to getting one massive book in at once - a little less stressful.

You see, I enjoy the process, but I just wish it could go on forever... I don't like the fact that there's this deadline you have to meet (rarely do writers actually meet them though)... I wish we could just hand in the writing when we felt satisfied with it. Obviously I know that's crazy and not how it works, but in my imaginary world that's what I'd love to be able to do.

No, I'm with you... I don't like the idea of sitting behind a desk all day doing meaningless work... as I said to Sean, I'd rather be teaching.

I'm going to check out that book you mention. Oh, and that quote about what you can and cannot change... that's a favorite of Terry's too. When I did work in academia, he was reminding me of that almost every day! Oh dear, and I was actually contemplating a return to the academic world... hhmmm... better think about that one when I take that vacation!

Thanks for commenting, Michael!

AngelaCorrias said...

I have done a small period retail too, in cosmetics as I liked trying different skincare products. Now I don't even want to see an eyeshadow anymore... I honestly don't think I'll be able to do retail ever again, but I understand when the writer says she wanted a day-job to leave behind at the end of the day, and with freelance writing it's impossible. It's a bit like when you study, you are never finished...

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Angela

Funny how retail seems to do that to people... I worked at a jeanery as a teen and don't wear jeans anymore, and overdosed on chocolates while working at a chocolate shop my first year at university and rarely eat chocolate anymore...

Yeah, I'm with you. I understand the need she felt (and I really enjoyed her piece) but I'd probably choose another 'day-job'.

Oh, yes, tell me about... I'm working on a few projects at the moment that seem to have been going on forever... loving them, but looking forward to a change.

Prêt à Voyager said...

you are a machine, lara! don't forget to keep some balance in your life :)


Lara Dunston said...

Oh, I usually get 'robot', but 'machine' works too. Balance, yeah, I've heard about that. :)