Thursday, October 14, 2004

Long miserable post warning

Over on his blog Paul has written a long post about why he's decided to do a PHD, the post has quite a bit of relevance for me, except for the PHD bit. The main similarity comes from dissatisfaction at work being a deciding factor in going back to college. I don't intend to go back to college myself even though I 'd like to, sadly the courses I'd like to do I would have to pay for instead of being paid to do them, education being something only people with money should have. But the dissatisfaction with work is very familiar.
Like Paul I've been caught on the merry-go-round of promotion. At the moment I'm on the merry-go-round despite myself simply because I had to take over from the person above me when he left as I was pretty much the only person who knew how the section he had worked, it was a big section and so it was a lot of responsibility. This means that I'm a grade 3 doing the work of a grade 4 and have been doing this for a year (sorry Paul, no matter what grade you are you are expected to do the work of a grade above you, even if, like me you never planned to) To add insult to injury for the last couple of months I've also had to help someone who's already a grade 4 become my boss and although I have no problems with her and think she's hard working and committed I can't help but notice that I'm doing most of the work. Money isn’t an issue as the company has a specially piggy bank put aside for people who should be promoted, they just don’t like to break it open.
Deep sigh. On to other things.
This is not what I want to do. Not only is it not what I want to do but it is one of the factors that stops me doing what I want to do. What I'd like to do is write and draw. One of the problems I face is my own limited ability and also (let's be honest here) my lack of drive. The amount of commitment needed to become a paid author or illustrator is a hell of a lot, we're talking about labour intensive work where you have to produce just as much work as the people who get paid for it, maybe be better than them (how else do you impress a publisher) and not actually have a vacancy to apply for. Look in the job section of a paper, there's no ads say publisher requires author/illustrator, you just have to do the stuff and keep your fingers crossed. That's a lot of commitment (and, just as importantly, faith, you really need to believe in yourself) and although I have a fair bit of commitment I can't honestly say that every bit of free time I have is spent on working on a project or improving my craft, unfortunately all my spare time is what is required. Which leads us back to my job. The time I spend at work eats into my writing/drawing time in a major way and it also leaves me in no mood to do anything but lie on the couch when I get in. I take my share of the blame for not using my time in the best way possible but I can't help but be frustrated by how much a job I don't care for, doesn't pay well (as Paul says bookselling is appallingly paid especially for the work required) and holds me in low regard is taking of my time.
In a nutshell, I do this job for money to allow me to do the work I'd rather do but the money isn't great and the time on the job holds me back from doing the work I want to do. It would be nice to find a new job (and I have started looking) but I'm not terribly well qualified or experience in much of anything - which is why I'd like to go to college but can't afford to because the pay from my present job is so low.
Last night I had to help in a 'change over' (when we take out one promotion and replace it with a new one), generally they aren't too bad other than the fact that we have to work late, but last night's was the worst I've ever done and I'm kind of glad that I'm not in today to see the reaction to it. After finishing it a few of us went out for a drink and I was amazed at the degree of unhappiness for the job we all had. There was little anger or outrage, just a strong sense of unhappiness because noon of us really knew what we were doing there. This kind of conversation is not exactly rare but it struck me most because of the mix of staff there - it included management.
Paul's post has far more merit because he's doing something about it, he's got a plan. All I'm doing is whinging. I'm putting this up here because it's how I feel, and have felt for a long time, and I think it gives some background to what's going on as I try and write and draw. I've been talking about the 'creative impulse' recently with a few other people on here and one of things I believe is that when you stop worrying about something and just enjoy it for what it is then you produce better work. The irony is that I nearly always worry about my work and none of it's being done for itself, it's being done to earn me money, it's commercial art, I'm hoping it'll mean I can leave my job. Sure I'd do it if I wasn't getting paid (that's what I'm doing now isn't it), but that is still the final goal for most of the stuff I do. Writing and drawing in the hope that it'll save me from my present job puts quite a lot of unhelpful pressure on me, it may be pressure of my own making but it still exists and it has a detrimental effect on my writing and drawing.
So I just keep on plugging away like the steady drip of water on a stone slab waiting until I finally make some mark.


paul said...

i know what you mean about the "none of us really knew what we were doing there" bit. i found work really interesting when i started primarily because everyone had loads of other interests, but i do remember liam going off on a rant about how i'd be stuck there for ever and it was shit.

at that time i was pleased to be finished at uni, so kind of ignored it and carried on. but now that most of the same people are still trying to do something different, and none of us seem to be getting there (i was hoping to make some money from pictures!), a sense of inevitability and desperation has begun to set in.

i used to get annoyed at people telling me i was wasting myself by not doing a 'better job' (more highly paid/more responsibility/more academic - depending on who was asking) because i was hoping other stuff would take off quite quickly, or i could, at the very least, carry on without responsibility; being out of the system was what i craved. i still crave that, but i'm now really glad i've got the option to do something else for a bit.

i have no illusions about ever working out what i really want to do with my life, but at least i might be a bit more interested in the process of exploring it!

in the meantime whinge away, it's only by exploring the reasons for being dissatisfied that you might work through them... maybe. if nothing else this might fuel your creative drive.

Danny said...

I remember being completely stuck at Ottakar's, promotion wise. I think I was on entry level for about 2 years. So I'm on the lowest rung of the ladder, but because I'd been there for ages, I ended up with a whole bunch of other responsibilities, but no extra money. They're exactly the same as any other employer, namely they'll take and take, but clam up when it's time to do anything in return. So I got out of bookselling, and went to work for the people I work for now, only to still end up doing 2 people's work for 1 person's pay. They're all the same...

Totally relate to the stuck feeling, though. It seems inordinately hard to break out of bookselling. Not sure why...