… and the salaries are about the same.
BANGOR, Maine- I had an epiphany of sorts the other day:
Maybe I don’t have to write.
I was looking out the window at a dreary, frigid Maine landscape that fully belied the fact that it’s technically spring, and I got the odd notion that maybe, just maybe, I could get a different type of job — something where I could go to work, work, come home, and not work.
The idea seemed novel, new, and kind of exciting. What, so you mean there are people out there who have … free time? There are people who don’t have to think about working when they’re not at work? There are jobs where other people are responsible for keeping the company afloat? Where I could just be an anonymous cog in the machine?
Ever since I hung up my trowel over a decade ago I haven’t even thought about doing anything other than writing. As the years went by I added in video — it’s all just storytelling — and became more and more removed from any other type of work. The more money I made the more encased I became in the writer’s life: I traveled, I asked a lot of questions, I wrote. That’s what I did and that’s what I was — writing evolved from a passion to a job to an identity.
But then I entangled myself in a web of too many big projects, had to take a step back to collect myself, quit some good jobs, and in doing so I was inadvertently provided with a look at how flimsy my position in my profession really is.
You go into the writer’s life thinking that all you need to do is publish enough, get your name associated with the topics that you cover, write for big publications, get books in print, get featured in big media documentary films, make documentary films yourself and you can get so high up on a pedestal that you can never be knocked off — that the work will just keep coming, that you can just sit back and say, “I made it.”
But this isn’t the reality. The moment you stop moving forward is the moment you vanish. It’s kind of like how people once thought that sharks needed to keep moving forward in order to survive or that bus in that Bruce Willis movie that had to keep going or it would explode. You can never get a point in this profession where you can be comfortable. You can always be knocked down, laid off, rendered irrelevant.
“Only one letter separates writer and waiter, after all, and the salaries are about the same.”
I read a story on Deadspin the other day about this journalist who made it to the height of his profession, who spent decades working for the biggest sports media outlets, personally knew the biggest names in sports. who won two Emmys, and did everything that would make one think that he etched out an indelible place for himself in his profession. Then he got laid off. Boom. Done.
He’s now working as a waiter.
But you can keep going.