Most of the writers I know—even the successful ones—have a “day job” besides writing, I include housewives and mothers here, certainly, as I consider what they do a job and a half. What I’m saying is, writing isn’t usually the only job a writer does—me for instance.
I work on the website my wife and I own, “Belva’s List.com,” often seven days a week. Then there’s toiling with my wife in another business we have, recapturing over-payments in Washington State sales tax for manufacturing companies. Plus, I teach workshops in screenwriting and perform one-on-one mentoring for screenwriters. In today’s economy it’s hard to keep ahead of the bills with just one job.
But that isn’t what I want to talk about, the extra job thing. I want to talk about those times the day job or jobs closes in, filling my head with all kinds of crap irrelevant to the particular story I am mulling over at that moment. An up-and-coming appointment with so-and-so, or an approaching deadline I have to meet, or preparing for a class I have to teach on the weekend begins to horn in on the room set aside for developing stories—i.e., creative thought. Sometimes it gets so crowded in there my head feels like it’s going to explode!
Suddenly, my productivity slows and I’m not working up to my capabilities—the harder I work, the less I accomplish. Quitting is not an option—the landlord has to be paid, we have to eat, Comcast must have its pound of flesh! And I refuse to quit writing! But all the other thoughts pressing in…push creativity out—shout it down, throttle it, drown it—the infant creative thought has no chance against the mature survival thoughts!
At times like this, I head for the water, preferably the ocean. There I can let the sound of the waves wash over me, the winds blow the clouds of worry away, clear my head, let me forget everything for a bit. It works every time for me. I am able to parse my thoughts, identify and assign them to their own space—keep them from fighting. Who can think in a melee?
But I can’t always find the time for a 2- or 3-hour trip to the ocean. So, I go down to Puget Sound. It’s not the same, even though it’s part of the Pacific—sure, it’s salt water and there are sandy beaches in a lot of places, sea birds everywhere and I see seals and a whale once in a great while. But there’s no crashing waves or a horizon where water merges with sky. Not the same but in a pinch it does the job. And If I can’t get to the Sound, a walk on a lakeshore, maybe following a river or creek, even, can calm the clamor in my head. If it’s late at night or the weather is too hostile to brave, a long hot shower can quell the crowd in my head and allow the conversation with story characters to start again, without the day job interruptions. I guess it all has to do with water’s ability to cleanse things, even the mind.
How do you cope with the Day Job Syndrome?
Something to share, maybe help make my point:
When I first reached land’s end
Beholding the vast ocean
Where sky and sea converge
Far past the pitiful limits of sight
I realized for the first time
Just how small and
Insignificant I was.
And on that first seaside night
When I looked to the heavens
Filled with its multitude
Of uncountable stars
Spread across the immeasurable
Distances of limitless space
Where time has
No beginning nor ending
I realized how insignificant
We all are in the scheme of things.
Wally Lane, 1993 (Mirror, Mirror… reflections of a man’s life)
Like Jimmy Buffett said, “Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call…”