Writing? “You Need a Job”



Yesterday in a Christmas e-mail exchange, I told a former corporate executive and mentor about my blog.  After he scanned it, he responded, “You have too much time on your hands.  You need a job.”

Are You Serious?

I could only think:

a)   I need a rest, not a job.

b)   I had a big job until last February, and he knew it.  He was my boss for part of it.

c)   He also knew about my crazy year, and had just sent a friendly e-mail on the subject of moving to assisted living.

Still, he said, “You need a job.”

What Is Deemed Worthy, and by Whom?

I’ve read for years about artists getting this sort of reaction, disguised as humour but indicating negative judgment about how they spend their time.

Julia Cameron expresses this brilliantly in The Artist’s Way, a book that had a profound effect on me when I discovered it in 1996.   As a corporate manager, I still benefited from learning how to clarify my goals and dreams, take appropriate action, and trust in the Universe for support.

When I left the corporate world, everyone asked, “So what are you doing with all your free time?”  The You-Should’ers in particular made many suggestions about what to do next.

My observation is certain activities are considered worthy:

·        volunteering of almost any sort — especially anything church-related

As happened in my case, family emergencies and caring for relatives is worthy:

·        moving someone to assisted living

·        clearing their house

·        managing their affairs

The Elusive Writing Life

When I left the business world, I said I wanted to read, write, and travel more; explore new places with Clive; and spend more time in Paris.  My priorities changed in May, when my mother was hospitalised, and I feel blessed I was able to devote much of my time and energy to her this year.

Once again fate or divine guidance supported me in ways I never imagined.  Leaving work gave me the precious gift of time, just when I needed it most.

The desire to write more went to the back burner, but I did start a blog to express some of what I was feeling.  I squeezed in writing time, as I know many writers (and bloggers) do, whenever and wherever I could.

Making Choices, Balancing Expectations

In due course I may choose to contribute to a volunteer organisation, or other worthy causes.  I also want to write more, play the piano more, and, as always, spend more time in Paris.

I know it’s important not to live too much by the expectations and value judgments of others.  It’s important to make our own choices, be confident in them, and keep changing and growing as life goes on.

One of my favourite expressions, which I only learned a few years ago, is ‘what other people think of me is none of my business.’

And Yet

When my former boss said “You need a job,” I thought:  is this what I have to look forward to?  Now that I’m out of the big corporate job and my mother is settled in her new home, will I hear more of, “You should be doing something worthwhile”?

Freedom from the corporate hamster wheel does at times feel luxurious and even decadent.  My inner critic occasionally joins the outside crowd asking me just exactly what I’m doing with my time, and is it worthy?

My choices are worthy to me, and I know I can learn a lot from other writers and artists pursuing their dreams.  I’m happy with my choices, and understand others in my situation may make different ones. 

Writers Write     

As I’ve read many times, writers are people who write – and that’s what I’m doing. 

I thought I was a long way from the ‘writing life’ as I envisioned it, some near-perfect environment in which there’s always time to think and write.  Maybe I’m closer to the real writing life (whatever that is) after all.

Watch Out!

I decided to claim yesterday’s comment as a gift, my first acknowledgement and validation that I’m actually writing.  I must be, to have someone say, in effect, you should be doing something else.

My response to my former colleague was, “Watch out.  I’m also going to write a book.”


12 Responses

  1. After devoting so many years to the corporate world you derserve to do whatever you feel like doing when you wake each day.I can relate to people believing you are not doing something worthwhile unless you are in paid employment. Apparently being a stay at home mum isn’t even worthwhile in the eyes of many in today’s society. I pity these people, who define life by the job you do and not by the type of life you lead and the experiences and memories you gather on the way,
    Life is short…we should live it and not be a slave to it!!

  2. Being in English, I think writing is worthwhile; however, I spend so much time teaching writing and grading many papers that I don’t do a lot of writing myself. My mother is always telling me that I should. I have discovered that most people I know who are retired are actually busier after they retire. Many of them do volunteer in the community: elections personnel, food bank, church activities, Red Cross, etc. Most folks do this because they have been wanting to contribute, but felt they did not have the time when they were working full time. I have a number of friends from my college days who have retired, and what they are doing varies a good deal. Like you, many of them are involved with caring for elderly parents and are thankful that they have the time to devote to parents who need them. Really I think that each person must decide what to do when leaving the work world, but many people make value judgments I notice too. Sometimes I think that is one reason that after retiring, people move away from where they have often lived for many years. So if I retire and move to Jekyll Island, GA and run a grocery store, who will ever know or care that I taught English?

  3. hmmm, why on earth DO people believe that only a paid job is worth anything. We all live our lives in our own little way and what is worthwhile to one is useless to another. All I can say is that if it’s not hurting anyone…just go do what you need to do!!

  4. The only opinion that matters is your own.

  5. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true”. That’s my motto.

  6. What wonderful comments! Thank you all for such wise words.

  7. Well, I needed to hear this. My step-mom said some very similar things to me after some of my major changes this year. I say similar things because she has said essentially the same thing in different ways, over and over.

    I patiently try to explain that I have a plan and writing is my work and there will be money involved when it’s time. She’s not the only one, but like you I am happy with my choices and I’m not dependent on anyone else so I’m trying to let go of the need I have to still be explaining my choices at my age.

    Thanks again for this excellent and timely post.

  8. Fantastic post. I am so glad you found my blog and I found yours. I do think that those who are not living there dream sometimes undermine the dreams of others. I am so happy for you that you are following your heart and your desire to write. You might want to take a look at my Writing in Valencia series on my blog. It is a weekly series where I explore how to make a literary life wherever you are.
    Bon chance!!:-)

  9. Hey there — it must have been so disappointing to hear this from someone you considered a mentor — he’s supposed to be one of the good guys, huh?! it just goes to show what a locked-in mentality most of us have in our Western, Anglo-Saxon culture . . . work in an office from 9 to 5 and you are busy; if you are not, you are clearly lazy, and probably, even more, a leech on society!

    I admire your response and wonder if that shook him up! And I like your attitude to claim the comment as a gift. May you continue to have that kind of grace and positivity.

  10. Kim (and belatedly to Elizabeth and Belette), thank you for your kind comments which are greatly appreciated.

    Cheers and good luck to all of us with our writing and other life adventures!

  11. Thanks for pointing me to this piece–just what I needed today!

    Whenever someone tells me, “You should get a job,” I always reply with, “Jealous?”

    It seems silly to work in the corporate world when you can subsist on more fulfilling work. If you have a nest egg built up, or if you’ve discovered an alternate source of income, so much the better.

    My goal is to eventually achieve enough success as a novelist that my husband never has to work again. Then we’ll both be jobless! If you ask me, living without a job is smarter, not less “worthwhile”.

  12. Sam, thanks and great reply re “Jealous?” Love it!

    Your goal as a novelist is wonderful. Good luck to you and your hubby in becoming ‘jobless’.


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