This first paragraph is not a disclaimer. It is a statement of truth. I love my job. I really, really do. I would do my job for free, including the office work I do. My job is really amazing, I work with great people in a great organization and get to do work that directly benefits people.
I get paid shit to do it and it is not enough work to sustain me financially. And that sucks. Not only does it suck, its total bullshit.
I’ve been having a crisis of faith if you will. The latter part of 2016 was not very kind to me. I’d spent much of the last two years working on a licensure program which I was hoping to finish up this semester. Due to complications beyond mine or the college’s control, this was not the case. Unfortunately this undoing came at a time when my creative drive took a massive upswing. I finished editing my first, completed novel and started writing my second. One evening I had a dream and from that dream drew up some characters and a loose plot for a young adult series. I finished an issue of a comic book arch and started a second. I am writing lots of music. The creativity is flowing and I am doing all I can to capture and manage it.
We sell our time for labor and that labor is quantified in values of worth created by people who usually make more money working the same amount of time. Like I stated, I would do my job for free if I was independently wealthy. I would also work in publishing and book making if it also gave me the freedom to write when I am so inclined. Hell, there are a lot of things I would do with my time when I am not feeling particularly creative and inspired. None of it is work that “pays”.
I would never run or even work for a bank ever again. I would not manufacture guns. I won’t sell drugs. I won’t work in finance. I won’t work for pollutants. I won’t work for pharmaceutical companies or bomb manufacturers. I wouldn’t work for Wal-Mart. Not even for all the money the Walton’s have. I wouldn’t work in a kill factory where meat is processed or any fast food restaurant. There are a lot of other jobs I wouldn’t do, not matter how much they pay.
I do not like trading my time and labor for money. I don’t mind working at all. When I get the opportunity and energy to work on what I love I will do it enthusiastically. When I agree to trade my time and labor for money I do with the effort and attention needed (as much as is possible). I am a very good employee if you treat me with dignity and respect and listen to me when problems arise. I am a terrible employee if I am not afforded these simple requests. I am rarely sick, I will work late if needed and if I can accommodate, I will get my hands dirty and generally do what is asked of me if it is ethical and if I am physically able.
But right now, I don’t want to work. I want to write this novel about two young men who are gay and in love and into punk who run afoul of the law. I want to write it because it deals with class and race and because I wrote a great blow job scene to start the book because there isn’t enough fucking in novels and it’s treated with such heteronormative anguish and isn’t sexy at all. I want to finish my comic book so my friend Miles can get his start in the industry and tell a really cool crime story. It’s not that I don’t want to work, it’s that I don’t want to give up the time for my own work in pursuit of someone else’s labor needs, at least not right now.
When I don’t feel like typing, I will wash dogs and the elderly. I can’t do lots of physical labor because I am allergic to everything and my body is not very strong, but if I can help people who do that stuff in other ways, I will. I’ll wash dishes at a restaurant. Shit, I’ll be a server. I never have and my memory is shit, but I’ll carry around a note pad. I’ll teach kids English and storytelling and how to express themselves and understand how others express themselves.
But I can’t do it under the conditions I am asked to. I don’t care about money. Which is why I am bad at trading my time for it. It doesn’t motivate me at all. I give most of it away for food, bills, feeding my cat, tattoos and records. I don’t need or crave new things. The only reason I have so many t-shirts is because I like to help bands on tour. I buy socks from Toy Machine because I like Ed Templeton’s art, not because paying $11 for a pair of socks makes me feel particularly fancy. Money and things don’t really get me going. Eating food and being warm helps, but holy fuck crap Bathole!, we have enough space and ingenuity and resources on this planet that no one should even have to worry about this crap.
I don’t have a lot of answers right now. I don’t have time to work out these problems. I have to spend too much time making money to eat. I’m just having a god damn existential moment of dread where I am fighting so hard to find the balance between wanting to work and having to work. I’m struggling with being a creative person in a place where creativity has to be quantified in the marketplace and even if you are financially rewarded, it’s rarely commiserate to the actual amount of time you exchanged for the labor. The reality is, even if these books get published and put in the marketplace I’ll still have to do other work to feed myself. Even if I did calculate the time in a spreadsheet of how many hours I spent typing, editing, thinking and reworking these stories it’s not like I can charge that to an account somewhere.
And I’d do this for free if I could too. I don’t mind getting dirty, I just don’t really want to get a fucking paycheck for it.