Friday, June 13, 2008

Starting out, I want to say two things:

1) Writers get paid shit. Unless you are in the top 5-10%, you don't make money. If I remember correctly, Brian Keene did the math. Hours spent writing divided by how much money an author makes = about $1.82 an hour. Maybe it was David Morrell. The logical step after this, of course, is that all writers need "a day job" until they get to the point (which for some, is never) when they can write full-time.

2) The need for a day job is a tricky thing. On one hand, I'd like to be able to make a little coin. Not sweet coin, per se, but coin nonetheless. $30 grand a year sounds good. I make $12 grand now, and with help from my grandparents, who pay for my gas (about $100 a month) my insurance (a lot of money), and so far a majority of my school, I usually have about $200 in the bank after every paycheck. In my mind, $30 grand would be fine. The mistakes people make happen when they want too much. They start to make $50 or $60 thousand and they realize: "Hey...I can afford to buy a HOUSE. I can have CHILDREN. I can buy a fucking BOAT." And then problems start. With $30 to $40 grand a year, plus the same from Rios, I'd be able to pay for pretty much everything in my life (bills, car and health insurance, etc.) and live comfortably. I have high aspirations for myself, but I've never associated my "self" with what I can own, so comfortable is modest. My point is that I'd like to make money and live comfortably and do a job that I like.

Both those points are starters for me discussing the conversation I had with my grandfather today. I love the man. He is intelligent and logical. But he and I differ in one extremely important way: He believes you should do what will make you money, and I believe in doing what you love.

He is staunch in his opinion. When I gave him the example of "not wanting to go to work for a paper-clip factory" he sighed and said that a valuable skill to develop is to be able to learn to love what you do, instead of doing what you love to begin with. I could not disagree with this more. It's fundamentally wrong to me. How can you do something you hate for your entire youth to make money to spend when you're past your prime? Ignorance of the future is silly, but offering up your present life like a sacrificial lamb to the god of the Future is fucking stupid. If you train yourself to hate the now at this moment, you'll hate the now just as much when it's five years in the future. You'll develop that, "Happiness is just around the corner" mentality and you will ALWAYS be rounding that corner.

I made an effort to compromise. I said I had an epiphany earlier today, which I did. I was getting life coaching from my boss, and she threw out that maybe I could be a teacher. A teacher! Yes! I would like to teach community- or university-college kids some shit that I think is cool. I tossed that out to my grandfather and he sighed, again, and said that he was a professor because he'd had years of experience in the military. They offered him $55,000 for his first year contract, he said, and the yearly pay of the English and Philosophy types was only $35,000/year. I kept it to myself that I thought that was perfect pay. Riffing off of that, he told me flat out: "I don't think that you have the social skills to be a teacher. I don't think you'd be any good at it."

Further discussion revealed that he felt my talents would best be put to use as a lawyer. I was listening intently, eager to hear what exactly I was good at. "You're a good writer," he said. "You're a good reader and you research well. You'd be good at figuring out the law and using it to help the impoverished." He went on to appeal to my hippy side, saying that there were people out there that needed help and that I was the guy to do it.

The cliche has come full circle. We beat around the bush for a while, sort-of lying to each and sort-of playing it cool. But now the shit is all laid out on the table:

I want to be an artist and he wants me to be a lawyer. I don't care about money beyond its practical implications and he sees it as the end-all-be-all measure of success. Life is hilarious.

After I get my bachelor's, maybe I'll see what's up with law. I respect the hell out of my grandfather, and I'm also an advocate of "Gray Areas". Usually a healthy balance is needed. I will live my life as I want to, but I will never be an impenetrable douche-bag fortress, closed off to even the best of suggestions.

I work retail at the mall. I genuinely like my work and the people I work with. It takes up about 35-40 hours of my week, usually. I deal. I still write. Getting a serious job wouldn't take up any more time, even if it tried to. I'll write and do the best I can with that, but I won't ignore the pragmatic side of life. Money is important. But it's not everything.

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