Killing the Muse

My “day job”, as it were, is seriously stifling my creativity. I spend all day doing things that are antithetical to creative thought. Filing, answering phones, fetching coffee. Not exactly stimulating work. My writing has to take a back seat, because the only time I have to work on it during the day is at my 45 minute lunch break, of which 30 minutes are taken up by eating. And of course, when I get home I’m mentally and physically exhausted and sometimes writing can seem like a chore. Which is horrible, because writing is so often my escape, my passion, my reason for living at times. I don’t have the resources to jump full time into freelancing, so I do the day job hustle like so many other creative types are forced to do to survive.

U.S. culture is such that your job is your identity. When you attend any group gathering, inevitably you’re asked “what do you do?” How people treat you is often tied up in your answer to this question. The majority of our time is spent working, and we’re expected to be upwardly mobile — to chase that promotion or that bonus or that raise. We’re not encouraged to grow as people, to enrich ourselves, or to improve societal conditions. Those things have to be done on what little free time you have, along with grocery shopping, taking care of children, eating, sleeping, or any number of other things that are basic to our survival but not important enough to merit reducing precious work hours. So many people today work without paid sick leave or insurance or vacation time or any of the perks that you might get working at better jobs, because we have to. In this economy, you can’t afford to be picky in your work choices. Sometimes it’s between unemployment or working without benefits. And our work culture is stifling our freedom as individuals instead of just a cog in a machine, a coffee jockey.

Some people are able to work doing what they love, or work for a good cause, and I wish I was one of them. I wish my job actually improved people’s lives or in some way helped the world be a better place. Unfortunately, I work to help rich people get nasty divorces and other rich people sue corporations for not giving them their “golden parachute” when they got let go as a partner. It’s hard to do that with a smile on your face, and I perform quite below par because I just am not interested in this work at all. I want to work writing anything, although if I got a shitty writing job doing copy for a corporation I probably would be dubious about it. But at least I’d be working doing the craft I’ve been honing since I was a little girl.

Our culture needs to encourage personal growth and working towards happiness rather than just the go-go-go system we’re in right now. I feel like we should all be able to pursue our dreams, and I know it’s idealist of me, but I just think the world would be a better place if we liked what we did all day. I always hear romanticism about European countries and the supposed “siestas” they take after lunch, and more than once I’ve jokingly asked my boss for a cot in the conference room. Of course, I’m not actually joking. Somehow I think the trend is towards demanding more productivity with less free time and lower pay, not accommodating workers with naps and longer lunch breaks.

And now I’m off to bed, only to wake up tomorrow and start running in the damn hamster wheel all over again. With copious amounts of coffee in me.

38 Responses to Killing the Muse

  1. Meghan Flynn July 28, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    Let me tell you, even when you get that writing gig, ANY WRITING GIG!, it's not all its cracked up to be. I got out of school and literally fell into my current job, where I write every day for my supper. It's pretty terrible. There are other factors: a dishonest, exploitative company, a miserable boss, etc. But the bottom line is writing bullshit is dissatisfying, even when you love t write.

    But babe, as tired as you are after work, you gotta just ignore it. I know, I'm there too. But I feel so much better about my life when I read, walk, talk, and/or cook after work instead of numb myself with a pizza, a movie, and a bottle of whiskey.

    Nothing against whiskey, of course.

    Society doesn't encourage personal growth and exploration; it needs you to keep up your productivity levels. But if we're not still growing and exploring and learning on the side, then society wins!

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

      Let me tell you, even when you get that writing gig, ANY WRITING GIG!, it’s not all its cracked up to be. I got out of school and literally fell into my current job, where I write every day for my supper. It’s pretty terrible. There are other factors: a dishonest, exploitative company, a miserable boss, etc. But the bottom line is writing bullshit is dissatisfying, even when you love t write.

      I figured as much. It's that dream of working at home, not having to drag myself out of bed almost literally, and being satiated by my work that keeps me going. Getting a corporate writing job, while technically being writing, would probably end up just killing me in the end. I worked for dot-coms in the 00s that started out "indie" and went corporatized and I did not do well when that happened. Although my talent was undeniable my work habits just did not jive with big corporate environments.

  2. Rachel July 28, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    Ugh, yes. So much this.

    I also want my life to be about writing and designing, but the need to pay bills now takes precedence.

    It depresses me, also, not being able to self-actualize. We may no longer be bound to the lands of Kings and Lords, but in every way that matters, we are all still serfs. Except the "land" we work is money–and like the serfs of old, we don't own any of it.

    I had a financial setback this week and I'm feeling particulary morose and indentured. All of this is just a longwinded way of saying, "my sentiments exactly!"

    I love your writing, the way you think and present your ideas, and I hope that no matter how much of an alienating soul-sucking creative black hole your dayjob is, you keep sharing your thoughts with us.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

      I hear you x10. So much creativity just goes down the drain every day with all these artistic types stuck in jobs to pay the rent. And I just keep screaming to myself "money is just a made up concept!!" and wishing things were like they are in Star Trek, where they did away with the monetary system. I'm nerdy AND idealistic.

  3. Nomie July 28, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    Right the fuck on.

    I took a vacation this past week from my shitty (part-time, no opportunities for advancement, no benefits, no security) job. And had to explain over and over again "what I was up to" after leaving grad school. Answer: not a hell of a lot. I feel trapped, not only by my crappy job but also because I don't make enough to live independently in my area so I live with my parents. And at my crappy job, we've lost four people over the past few months and the higher-ups still make no move to increase my hours or hire people to replace the losses. I have no idea how much more blood they can get from this turnip. I dream of having a job that pays me appropriately for the work I do; when I get really ambitious I dream about doing something fulfilling. But it seems so far out of reach.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

      I dream of having a job that pays me appropriately for the work I do; when I get really ambitious I dream about doing something fulfilling. But it seems so far out of reach.

      Just the yearning for something better gets tiring and demoralizes me even further. The feeling that I'm never going to be able to find a job that fulfills me is just really hard to bear. That's why I'm such a pill popper. Ha.

  4. Roschelle July 28, 2010 at 5:27 am #

    The cattle head off to work and head back home from work. If only we could expend as much energy and time exploring, learning, growing, seeking, discovering…the world would most definitely be better for it.

    And since I work all night…it’s my turn to sleep.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

      Sleeeeeep. I get too little of it. I got home early today; what a blessing. Hopefully all the caffeine I drink to keep me awake because I get too little sleep won't keep me up all night so I get too little sleep tomorrow… and on and on.

  5. Julie July 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Ditto to what Rachel & others say above. Keep sharing your thoughts here. It'll keep you happier, and I enjoy reading what you have to say.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

      Thank you. I will definitely keep writing, even if no one reads it.

  6. Xeginy July 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    This sounds so familiar. I've been told to just "get over it, it's how the world works" so many times, I can't stand it, and thus have stopped complaining (except in my head, of course.) I kind of see it as a conspiracy – if we were allowed more time to rest and grow and be happy, then we wouldn't equate happiness with consumerism and we might actually protest and loudly bitch about things that are wrong. Now, th0ugh, we tell ourselves we'll do it tomorrow cause we don't have the energy to do it today.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

      I kind of see it as a conspiracy – if we were allowed more time to rest and grow and be happy, then we wouldn’t equate happiness with consumerism and we might actually protest and loudly bitch about things that are wrong.

      I KNOW. I've been thinking that exact same thing. People are too worn out to give a shit about politics, too tired to do any activism, too apathetic from mind-numbing jobs to realize what's really going on in the world. And people who do community organizing and the like for a living are compensated so poorly it discourages a lot of people from going into social service fields. It's a damn shame.

      • sRa July 29, 2010 at 8:26 am #

        a month or four ago I was talking to a friend who was reading Frederick Douglas and he said something about working slaves so weary and then giving them the weekend to have a rest and see family and that this was a control tactic – right before they were about to raise up they would rest and think "oh it's not soo bad i can deal" kept them complacent…….sound familiar? hm…
        I need to read it.

        I'm making an effort to be positive about my job by taking advantage of ANY and EVERY positive thing I possibly can….like tuition assistance….and the down time where I'm basically "babysitting" a department with nothing to do – I read and write and try to use the time to "better myself" somehow…it's helped my outlook a bit.

        But I still want to sell everything and become a nomad.

  7. sRa July 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    word.

    I just read a study done at UCBerkeley on how napping increases your brain function – meaning sleep deprivation and long hours actually kill productivity. Don't they have napping chairs and such in japan? i need to move i think.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

      There a TON of studies that say our current work system is detrimental to productivity, that naps are helpful and all that, but I don't see things changing. Workers are expendable, especially now when there's 5 people to every job. So they don't feel the need to coddle the workers they have when they can just find someone else who's A-OK with no sleep and shitty soul-crushing work.

  8. Meowser July 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh man, I know what you mean. I keep thinking, "If I was really creative and really talented, I'd have a regular writing gig, and I wouldn't be listening to doctor drone eight hours a day." And in your 40s, if you don't have kids AND you don't have a big deal career? People just don't trust you. They act like you've spent the last 20 years making crystal meth in your kitchen and polluting the groundwater.

    Then I think back to those glorious 1-1/2 years in San Francisco, at the height of the dot-com boom, where paid writing jobs were growing on trees, and I had one. How did I feel then? Did I feel "legit"? No, I did not. I felt like I was taking a "slot" away from somebody with "real talent," and I wasn't doing my creative writing, either; all my writing energy went into this job, and I enjoyed that part of it. I didn't like chasing people down for interviews or all the corporate crap that went along with it. And it probably did sidetrack me in terms of writing a novel; I was never going to get that done with a job like that.

    But man, do I ever get being pooped from the schlep to and from the office, and feeling like you have to shoot your inner artist with a big old tranq dart to get through the work day. Nowadays, at least, I don't have to commute, and I don't have to get up early, which I was never good at. That makes a biiiig difference.

    • Tasha Fierce July 28, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

      They act like you’ve spent the last 20 years making crystal meth in your kitchen and polluting the groundwater.>

      That made me LOL. I’m 30 and I feel like a failure. People are becoming really successful at a young age lately, it’s crazy. I’m like, you’re a published writer 10 times over and you’re like 20? *stab* I really wasted my teens and 20s. Granted, I was seriously mentally ill, but it still feels like a waste.

      I can’t wait until I don’t have to wake up early or commute. I am also bad at both.

    • sRa July 29, 2010 at 8:35 am #

      "they act like you’ve spent the last 20 years making crystal meth in your kitchen and polluting the groundwater."

      ha! so true :)

      so funny.

      i'm trying to reconcile myself to the idea that that's the cross i bear for being a free thinking creative type instead of what they want or expect me to be. I speak out and that makes me a target -but realizing that I'm made a target because of something I believe in fully gives me some peace…

      then again i can have a bit of a martyr complex sometimes…ha.

  9. isistheblogger July 29, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    I feel you. After a 40 hour work week, paying bills, playing Mommy and attempting to have something that resembles a social life; my writing suffers. I love writing but that lover rarely gets my touch anymore.

    • Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

      I just really need to reexamine my life and try to figure out some way of living that doesn't end up killing me psychically or physically. I can't even imagine having to be a mother, too. Right now I'm all I can handle! And my social life, well, I've taken to spending a lot of time alone to recharge from fakey office attitudes.

  10. gillyrosh July 29, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    Thank you for this post! I am feeling this keenly at the moment. I loathe my current job at an ad agency and I really want to teach. There's an opportunity for me to teach at a local community college in the city where I live, but the pay is abysmal. I really wouldn't be able to support myself on it. At all.

    So, for now, I have to stick with my Awful Job. And like you said, it drains me so much, I'm not writing anything – unless you count the many screeds against my workplace I write daily in my head :-)

    • Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

      We've just got to keep writing and have some hope that we can work towards some kind of personal goal. Now that it's the weekend I'm getting a bit more clear-headed and I can see I need to institute some changes in how I deal with this situation.

  11. Library Lady July 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Oh man do I feel this like… a thousand times over. I got my master's in order to supposedly get paid more to do what I love and here I wound up being a temp and ridiculously in debt thanks to all my grad school loans. I really feel like a failure, and god are you bang on about treatment in social situations.

    Stranger: so what do you do?
    Me: oh I temp for a local university
    Stranger: oh. That's… nice. (runs away)
    Me: (cries)

    What's worse is by the time I get home, I'm so fried, I can barely apply for the jobs I DO want AND keep up with all the professional publications, emerging trends, etc, etc, etc… I know I should be glad I at least HAVE a job the way the job market is, but it's disheartening to hate it and feel like a failure in my intended field.

    • Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

      Man, while I wish I had the drive to get a master's because to me it would make me look more legit at any profession I took up, I wouldn't want to end up in that situation, having to take a crap job when I spent all that time working to NOT get a crap job. I hear you. Good luck.

  12. CraftyLuna July 30, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    Ok, so you've identified the problem. Don't stop there, now let's try to find solutions. There are people out there making a living doing what you want to be doing, yes? How did they get there? Was it all luck, or were there concrete strategies that helped them on their paths?

    In many situations where we feel stuck, there ARE ways out, those ways just often involve sacrifices, things we think we can never do, are not capable of handling. I have been stuck in bad jobs, bad relationships, bad living situations where I felt I was going to be stuck forever and I had all sorts of good reasons why I "couldn't" leave. But eventually the desperation to escape becomes so great that those insurmountable obstacles start to look surmountable after all.

    So, one suggestion for reframing how you see yourself: to the question "what do you do?" instead of saying "I work at blah blah sucky job I hate" you say "I am pursuing (Dream Career) while supporting myself doing blah blah sucky job I hate." So your main identity is the thing you want to be doing, while the thing you do right now is just one step on the way to the thing you want.

    One concrete suggestion that worked for a friend of mine is to budget your money very strictly, no luxuries at all, and save every extra penny until you have a fat enough savings account that you feel comfortable either taking a sabbatical or outright quitting to pursue your passion full time. Yes, if you don't "make it" the money might run out and it's a bit scary . . . but it's your LIFE. Isn't it better to fall flat on your face while really going for it than to slowly die inside?

    • Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

      Yeah, I understand I need to make some kind of plan but right now I'm battling the bipolar demons that have started to rise up again so I'm not that clear headed BUT now that it's the weekend I am a bit removed so I'm going to try to work up some goal system so I don't feel so trapped and hopeless.

      • Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

        Wow, horrible sentence construction. Me tired.

    • redcrest September 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

      "One concrete suggestion that worked for a friend of mine is to budget your money very strictly, no luxuries at all, and save every extra penny until you have a fat enough savings account that you feel comfortable either taking a sabbatical or outright quitting to pursue your passion full time. Yes, if you don't "make it" the money might run out and it's a bit scary . . . but it's your LIFE. Isn't it better to fall flat on your face while really going for it than to slowly die inside?"

      Wow, that is GOOD advice. It's so true–we only have this short time, so why not go for it as hard as you can? We may fail, but we're still young and smart–we can try again or go back to the corporate world if necessary. I don't want to look back at my 20's and think about how dull and nothing-doing it was. I know I'm not happy living where I am, and in fact, I know where I want to live/what kind of lifestyle I want to have. I'm going to start saving now and plan to move up to Seattle (my dream city) next March. That should give me a few months' rent and time to finish paying off my credit cards. Then, it's time to take the plunge!!

  13. IrishUp July 30, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    The cynical, conspiracy-theory side of me says that designing USian jobs to be soul-killing mind-sucks (or vice-versa) is totes on purpose out of pure evil. The practical side says it's totes on purpose out of malignant neglect. BTW – the Douglas citation is on the mark, and he was no more insensitive to the tools of HIS oppressors, than were the French peasantry, midaeval Saxon surfs, or us drones being told to feel "LUCKY" to have our shit ass jobs even as we're made to feel less than 'cause all we can get is our shit ass jobs.

    I have a weird little defense mechanism. I was raised to "leave things a little better than you found them" by which my Mom (a single mom for most of my ubringing) meant to remind her children to be mindful of opportunities to do an extra chore/clean a little clutter around the house. She also used it to have us be mindufl about helping friends, neighbors, and strangers out if we could. So I try to do that every day, and let it make me a little bit happier. Some days all I have the energy to manage is to take the paper-towels someone left behind out of the ladies room sink before it gets all gunky and gross – but hey, it's something, right?

    Here's manifiesting good things for your beloved writing projects, Tasha!

    • Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

      I <3 you, you always have good things to say. I like the "leave things a little better than you found them". I've been trying to do that more. I'm also trying to put myself in other people's shoes more often.

      I get to go flea market shopping tomorrow and then I'm spending the rest of the day on work *I* want to do.

      Thanks for the love.

  14. chriso August 2, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    I know I am currently in a situation partially because there was a sort of perfect storm in my life to make it happen for me, but I really have never been happier that I quit my job, went to beauty school and became a hairstylist. It is the first time in my life that I haven't felt like I have a job, I actually have a growing career. It's kind of mind-boggling, to tell you the truth. And I sometimes wonder why I waited so long to fulfill the fantasy I'd had of doing this for years. But then I realize, hey, at least I did do it!

    I'd encourage you to try to figure out your version of that path – knowing that you have some demons you're battling right now so it's not easy. I started just by making a list of any possible career I could engage in, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Then I started to really pore over the list and eliminate things that didn't really resonate with me. It's a simple process but it really helped me. And I have to say, cheesy as it may sound, when you really pursue something you want and are passionate about, things have a way of working out. And I think you definitely deserve some of that!

    • Tasha Fierce August 2, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

      I'm so happy for you that you found a path that makes you happy, and you're really good at it! I can't wait to see you later this month. You can touch my hair. LOL.

      • chriso August 3, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

        Oh man, that reminded me of white people in my beauty school getting snapped at when they tried to just touch some black students's hair and didn't realize how it was rude or inappropriate, especially when they petted said hair like it was a tiny animal at the petting zoo.

        • Tasha Fierce August 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

          Haha, a tiny animal. Yeah, our hair makes white people do all sorts of silly things.

  15. Lincoln August 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Yep…all of that.

    The weird part now is that since I'm on disability, people get this odd look on my face when they ask me what I do. I tell them I don't work, that I'm on state disability. They get this look they try REALLy hard to hide. It seems like they want to say "but you look so healthy, what could you possibly be on disability for?" But this is Seattle. We don't say those sorts of things out here. At least not out loud in front of the person. :-)

    I have been doing something called search engine optimization writing. It can be done from home (or anywhere). Though I have to tell you, even as little of it as I'm doing, working from home means the switch never turns off. There's no physical separation between me and the computer. I can always log on to textbroker.com and find another assignment if I want to, or write another post for someone else. So I spend a lot of time feeling like I SHOULD be writing. Sometimes for no other reason than because its there.

    Take three deep breaths…my girlfriend is fond of telling me "now is not forever". I don't know if that covers your situation.

    But we'll be here reading!

    • Tasha Fierce August 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

      That sounds interesting, you just go to that site and they give you assignments? I'll have to check that out! I hear you about the disability thing. When I was on disability people treated me like crap. I mean, they tried to couch it in non-crappy terms, but it was still crap.

  16. Tasha Fierce July 31, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    OMG that "sick" system sounds so familiar. That's like my job as well. Hell, that's like every job I've had. In fact, that sounds like capitalism in general. Good link.

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