The Day Job: Shift Happens

Previously, I spoke about the challenges of working and writing.(The Writing Life: Keep the Day Job)

Today I want to say that I now understand why Millenials are having such a difficult time balancing their lives. Not only is it hard to find a full time jobs, the shift changes from day to day make it almost impossible to have a life outside of work.

Last year I worked as a waitress and, as hard as that was, I loved it. The hours were late and long, but consistent. The job I have now is also hard work, but my hours have no rhyme or reason to them. I work late several nights (past 11 pm) and then have to be in very early in the morning on other days. Shift changes like this make it difficult to get enough sleep every day. I felt young at my old job and now I feel old at my new job.
Millenials suffer the most, I believe, as they never knew a time when this kind of scheduling was frowned on. When I ask co-workers why the scheduling is like this they don’t seem to see it as a problem that can be overcome. They seem to be unaware that they should have better options and that means the job shouldn’t infringe on every waking moment of one’s life.

I’m sure that this sad situation arose out of a need for “flexible scheduling,” but it’s morphed over the years into a chaotic monster that shatters any ability to make plans off company time.  I often find I have no idea whether its morning or night while I’m at work – there’s no frame of reference if one starts work at 6pm one day and 8am the next. The hours blend together – endlessly in some grotesque cycle of work and sleep.

The paranoid in me wonders if it’s not a master plot by some evil HR head. To keep from having to listen to employees complain that they don’t want to work late shifts or they don’t want morning shifts – some genius decided to give everyone bizarre schedules . Then the misery is shared and no one can complain their schedule is the worst. They’re all equally bad.

Continue reading “The Day Job: Shift Happens”

The Writing Life: Keep the Day Job


We would all like to ditch the day job, but some of us must face that bothersome reality: the human need to eat.

I have recently reentered the job market after raising my children. To say that it’s changed a great deal over the past 30 years is an understatement. I have a lot to say about that, but in this post I want to talk about the day job and the creative process.

First of all, why do we write? For me, it’s for two reasons. The first is to make sense of life. By trying to put words to paper, I must make sense of the world around me. That’s not a small task, but it helps me to understand my own life.

Secondly, I want to connect with other people. Those who create art are trying to communicate something. Why do humans do that? Why do we feel the need to connect with complete strangers? Is it just an instinct that developed from the evolutionary process or is something more than that? Is there a spiritual component for our itch to create? This is the theme of most of my writing.

In any event, working the day job has advantages beyond the practical one of money. Writing (or artwork) is generally a lonely process. Going to a day job puts you in contact with other people. It keeps you connected to their problems and their dreams. You can add so much to your creations by paying attention to these things.

Another thing is that the break from writing can actually give you time to think about the problems you are working out in your stories. The brain continues to work on problems even while you are engaged in manual work. When you get back to your writing you have to reorient yourself to where you are in your story and hopefully some time away from it will make it clearer what is missing.

Now, sadly, it is very hard to keep a day job and persist at art at the same time. It takes discipline to carve out some time to get back to it. Also, it means putting other things on hold – like sleep and housework. It takes effort to prioritize your art above these other needs. People can see the dirty dishes, but they can’t see the progress you’ve made on paper – so we find it hard to justify the time spent on invisible things.

This is why so few stick to their art. We do the thing we “need” to do, rather than the things we “should” do. It’s hard to prioritize your spiritual dreams above your physical needs. Finding that balance between living and creating is not an easy path.

So, why not just give up? We say to ourselves “no one will ever see this, only I will ever know it exists.” But, that brings us back to why we do it in the first place. Deep inside us there is a need to make sense of life and to communicate the results of that search to others. We create and we are changed in the process. And as we change, hopefully becomes something good we can offer to others.

We hardly know how we affect the lives of others for good or bad, so we should strive to keep getting better at everything we do. Even if no one ever sees our creative work they see what we’ve become in the process.

It’s possible that our best work, in the end, is ourselves.

So, keep the Day Job, but don’t give up on the Dream. 😉