Oh the innocence of youth! When I was a preteen and teen, I was under the false impression that in order to be a successful author I only had to sit down at the computer to type up a manuscript, and send it to a publisher who would readily accept it. From then I would receive accolades and hefty paychecks as my writing inspired generations of people. If only!
Much to my chagrin, my life isn’t one of mingling with fellow intellectuals in wine and cheese parties, – not that I’d drink wine, but I love cheese – nor is it having funds to travel the world as much as I’d like. Instead, it’s working a monotonous day job, in which many of my coworkers could care less about literature or just books in general. It’s a job in which I bag groceries for demanding customers who would rather talk about trivial and meaningless pursuits, such as football, rather than the philosophies of Plato or Descartes, or mythological epics such a Beowulf, or classics in fantasy and science fiction by J.R.R. Tolkien or Arthur C. Clark. Nor does anyone want to talk about the book on the current bestseller list, or the latest news of ecology or new planets and solar systems discovered. During lunch, I dare not stay in the break-room, but rather eat outside and then head to the bookstore next door to read my novel or philosophy or world religion book in solitude. In all fairness, the company I work for is excellent, treating me and their employees very well. My employers are fair and good people, and I work to please them. But despite their kindness towards me, to which I am most grateful, it’s not a job I want to do for my whole life.
So, how do I keep my sanity in a job with demanding customers and coworkers who seem to have no spark of wonder for the world around them? As previously mentioned, I take my book to read at the used bookstore during lunch break. Though lunch break is usually only an hour, and sometimes even only thirty minutes, that small amount of time still does a lot to recharge me for the remainder of the day. For those thirty minutes or an hour, I can be transported to another world of fantasy or I can fill my head with fascinating facts about the world and the earth. Even being in the bookstore itself works as a brief sanctuary, elevating my mind to a higher plane of existence.
Speaking of a higher plane of existence, I also transcend my thoughts to a happier place, in this case I think about my writing and all the ideas I’m going to incorporate into my stories. Jean Paul Sartre said that we are destined to be free, that we always have freedom, even if just a little bit. While I am under obligation to come into work and follow regulations and protocols, I let my mind soar high as I world build, craft characters, compose epic stories, and overall act like a god in my head. I may physically be at my job but my mind is elsewhere.
Most writers have to work a day job. It can feel confining when we believe that day jobs and the monotony they entail are not our callings in life. For those who have been touched by the hand of the muse or drunk from the mead of Suttungr, it can be hard not to go mad, especially since they have a little madness in them to begin with. Nonetheless, we keep writing, even though it feels like the words we use to paint images onto pages fall upon many blind eyes. Why do we keep at it? Because it’s our calling and it helps us tolerate our day jobs.
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