The Magnificent Art of Balance or Slaying the Day Job Dragon
Hi, my name is Chris and I’m an addict. See, I have this horrible addiction to food and shelter, heat and light. It’s made me do things I’m not proud of, this addiction. It’s turned me into someone I never thought I’d be: a person with…a Day Job.
Writers are already schizophrenic; we have to listen to the voices in our heads and give them names, personalities, backstory. We make the real out of the unreal and to give our characters voice and make them live, we have to become them. Let them inhabit us until we can feel these creations moving beneath our skin. Until their words come bursting from our mouths. That’s what writers do, who we really are, in the privacy of our offices or writing nooks or leather chairs at Starbucks. Add to that a persona that actually has to be somewhere on time and contribute or add value. Serve customers. Choose benefits.
I give name to this beast, this horrid responsibility: I dub thee Day Job Dragon!
Like you, I’d rather spend my days crafting adventures from the four corners of the globe, pulling alternate realities from the tenuous grip of time or building sweeping epics of geo-political, swashbuckling, sci-fi, romanticism on worlds that do not exist. And like an icy shadow blocking out the sun, the behemoth that is my Day Job rises to burn my flights of fantasy in an inferno of emails, client calls and TPS reports.
It is a struggle, my duel with the Dragon. Every page or post I write comes at a cost of time that could be devoted to some other aspect of my life. There is no balance. I live the traditionally frenetic American life that is trying to cram in my career aspirations, spend some time with my kids, spend some better time with my wife, put some words on the page, and find the time to take a shower. Plus Jon Stewart is horribly addictive…so is Law & Order. CSI. The Real Housewives…you get my drift.
For a long time, I really bought into the idea that there had to be balance in my life and that I was giving into things that did not matter by feeding the Dragon. I’ve invested enough time and money on books, programs, planners, and apps to fund the shuttle program for a few more years. I have stuff from before Franklin met Covey, before there were 7 Habits—back when it was DayRunners and DayTimers. I even have a book about procrastinating that I never found the time to read. All of this is designed to help me prioritize my life so I can accomplish more. But I already accomplish a lot. So then the systems started telling me I was accomplishing the wrong stuff…
This is crap. There is no right or wrong stuff. There is simply our stuff—the hodge-podge collection of experiences and ideas and opportunities and responsibilities that makes us who are. Just like our families and Honey-Do lists and Lifetime Saturdays (yes, even I have had them), the Day Job is a necessary monster that must haunt our lives. In fact, it is the Day Job Dragon that lets me write at all.
For all my griping, Creative Me needs the Day Job Dragon. Creative Me loves Day Job Me. Day Job Me can afford my shiny new Macbook and that grande vanilla cappuccino at Starbucks. Day Job Me pays bills, buys ink and gas and domain names, can spend his money frivolously on writing classes and books, retreats, and printing. Creative Me is Kato Kaelin–the rumpled college kid sleeping on Day Job Me’s parental couch still wearing yesterday’s sweats.
Not that Creative Me doesn’t add value. He absolutely does. He inspires Day Job Me to get up each and every day to battle that Dragon just so the fairytale land can exist at all. He is the reason Day Job Me has a job. The analogy works: just as parents sacrifice to send their children to schools where they turn around and drink and party and sometimes study, all so they might pursue endeavors that financially support the pursuit of lofty dreams, the two sides of every writer—the creator and manager, the right and left sides of our brains—must exist.
There is no slaying the Day Job Dragon. There can’t be. In the best case scenario, the one that we dream about, our creative works bring enough financial stability that we switch day jobs. In that fantastical, but wholly plausible world, our creative endeavors become our day job. The day job doesn’t disappear; the nature of the beast simply changes. So instead of trying to slay the Day Job Dragon, I say let’s ride it!