I’m trying to remember what I did in university that made me such an insane creative writing machine. I’m not sure if it was the genuinely enthusiastic and idealistic environment, the easy access to some of the best writers I’ve ever known – let alone read (both student and instructor) – or if it was the feeling that I carried no other responsibility than to exercise the introspective thinking and passionate storytelling that makes life bearable to begin with, but I used to turn out personal essays and short stories and poetry like Paula Dean turns out clogged arteries and racial slurs.
Fast forward a few months. I’m done university and out into the working world. I even got a writing job. I get to write blog posts for the company website (those are kind of like short stories, right?), I get to write for the quarterly internal magazine (that’s like writing essays, right?), I do internal communications (um… poetry?), and sell advertising space (now I want to kill myself). The real paycheques I earn and real health benefits I get finally afforded me to get my own apartment and afford groceries and (most importantly) booze. I have a job where I exercise (or rather, experiment with) my skills as a writer every day that affords me the comfort to go home and write whatever I want whenever I want.
Why the fuck haven’t I been writing anything?
Ok, maybe it’s not the case that I haven’t been writing anything. But my creative juices are slowing down. A lot. Nothing I ever wrote used to be this hard. And I don’t mean hard in the sense that I had to really dig in myself and really explore these themes and have a full grasp as to what I’m going to say. It’s hard as in when I go home form work, literally all I want to do is eat junk food and watch cartoons.
I want to say that my job drains me of all my writing desires and leaves me exhausted and wordless. Who am I kidding, I spend more time sharing Huffington Post stories and making witty comments about them on Facebook than I do any sort of work. Despite my secondary residency on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Facebook, I’m actually on top of (and at times a few weeks ahead of) all of my work. Am I really good at my job? Is my job just that easy? Are the writing habits I developed in university following me into the working world making me actually very efficient but then very (VERY) easily bored?
I think being bored is the main issue here. I’m bored at work and when I leave the office I get bored when I go home. But it’s the worst kind of bored possible. When I was a kid, being bored meant that it was time to try a new hobby. Being bored meant that it was time to get off my ass and do something constructive. Being bored meant something was wrong with my current situation and it was time to change it. How come now being bored means I shift to a different position on my couch and fall asleep to the sitcom I paid 180 XBOX points for?
When I was in university, I read an essay by Jonathan Franzen about his struggling with writer’s block. During the class discussion, I believe my exact words were, “If you’re writing about writer’s block then it’s time to kill yourself.” Ironically, we read David Foster Wallace’s “Shipping Out” shortly after. Wallace, of course, did literally kill himself and many speculate that he did so because he couldn’t write anymore. I want to say that I feel fortunate that I work a job where I write every day, but I still feel completely unfulfilled and like the moment I quit this job some other fresh university graduate will be sitting in my chair writing the same blog posts, internal magazine articles and internal communications. Being able to write only goes so far, but if you don’t give a shit about what you’re writing about then you’re going to find yourself completely unfulfilled. Being unfulfilled is the worst feeling I have ever experienced.
I grew up part of this generation being told that we can be whatever we want to be. What we weren’t told is that there is a limited amount of options available for us to choose from. It’s like being told in the Harvey’s hamburger commercial that you can make your burger however you like it, but then approaching the toppings counter and finding all of the toppings soured, rotten and molding. Sure, there are some options there, but do we actually want any of them?
We enter post secondary with the highest aspirations. We work and study to find ourselves and where we exactly fit in the world. We earn good marks, we receive our degree, and we come out of convocation running with our gowns flowing and degrees in hand ready to start what will be an exciting career in exactly what we were studying.
Again, I got this, in a sense. And part of me feels guilty for whining when I know people who literally collect the coins off the stages at the strip clubs just so they can make rent. I’m one of the lucky essayists/poets/authors who has a steady job. But a steady job isn’t enough. Life isn’t work, pay, and death. At least it isn’t for me. I don’t think I’m the reproducing type, so I might not find the meaning to my life in raising another human being to grow up and find the same disappointment that I did.
My favourite writing quote is from Ernest Hemingway: “In order to write about life, you must first live it.” I’m not living for a fuck of a lot right now; therefore, I have nothing to write about. I can’t write about laying on my couch at home on a Friday night (Buzzfeed already has the monopoly on the “why my 20s suck” meme market). I know I have a lot of life to live before I can even look to the left at Hemingway (and a lot of animals to kill) but life doesn’t happen in a cubicle staring at a screen.
I don’t want to say who I work for, I have a strange feeling that people I work with read this and I still need the paycheque (I can always tell them, “oh yeah, I wrote this while working my last job.” Most of them are illiterate enough to be able to call me out on this shit anyways). But I can tell you this: when I came into this job, I didn’t even know this company I worked for existed, let alone have any prior knowledge of anything it does. And a far as I’m concerned, 90 per cent of it is bullshit anyways. Yet, I rattle on day after day like I am the utmost expert on the industry I apparently work for. Who the fuck am I? Seriously, when did I gain the authority to write about things I didn’t even know existed up to a few months ago?
The real issue here is my engagement with what I’m doing for work. I very obviously just don’t care. Motivation is hard to find when you’re apathetic, and even harder to find when you’re really trying not to be apathetic. Because I’m not engaged with what I do for eight hours a day, I go home exhausted. When I was in school, I was fully engaged. I loved every second when I was in the classroom. I loved how I was challenged as a creative and critical thinker. I worked my ass off and it was amazing. But school’s over. I don’t have the money to study for my Master’s. To make money I have to work.
And I don’t even think it’s the very current day job that I have right now. Any day job would leave me feeling this way. I’m probably shooting myself in the foot because any potential employer who reads this is never going to want to hire me now. But I think it’s worth saying.
I’m not very high on the totem pole. And I don’t think I’ll ever climb that high up the corporate ladder. Some of us are made to scrape the bottom like eternal characters in Bukowski novels. He wrote the way he did and the characters he did for a reason: he was scraping the bottom most of the time too. But so long as our work doesn’t define us, we can remind ourselves every day that we get to walk away with a paycheque and afford the luxury of doing what we like when we have the time and the energy.
This is the most I’ve written for this blog in a long time. Posts are getting more frequent again, but it’s still not the story a day I used to be able to do. But it’s something.
I don’t know how I got here. But I’m not going to get to a better place eating junk food and watching cartoons whenever I leave work. Well, sometimes it’s excusable.