Paying Your Dues

*To celebrate my one year blogging anniversary, I’ll be posting some of my favorite posts from 2013 through the month of December*

The monotony of a day job can be near suicide inducing. Especially when you know in your gut what you were put on this earth to do and that whatever you’re slave to every day from 9 to 5 just isn’t it. You know it the second you sit down at that bright orange cubicle, your desktop filled with spreadsheets and emails and a million other things that will never satisfy that need just simmering inside you, waiting.

Some mornings it’s hard just to get out of bed. I usually wake up before the alarm and just lay there, staring into the dark, waiting for that loud buzzer that pretty much sums up the tone of the rest of my day. For about a year I would get to work, sit down at my desk, and just stew. I was bored. I was unfulfilled. I was pissed.

I was in purgatory, still am, only now I’m making better use of my time here. Every artist—and every person for that matter—will be forced, at some point in their life, to work at a job they hate. To feel stagnant and lost. To sacrifice making art for the sake of paying their bills. But this is not a form of punishment. It’s a rite of passage.

We have to pay our dues. Not because we have some quota of suffering to reach before we’re aloud to start being happy. But because, down there in the trenches, that’s where we grow. I mean really grow. I can read every book I can get my hands on about writing and style and craft but none of it will ever teach me how to be human. Life teaches you that. Life teaches you all of the chaos and nuances of the human experience—the very thing every writer is trying so desperately to capture.

And if we do want to capture it—the whole truth and nothing but the truth—then we have to concede to a little suffering every now and then. We have to work in a job we hate, we have to overwhelm ourselves with responsibilities, we have to be disappointed and angry and every other adjective on the emotional spectrum. We have to pay our dues.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to master dialogue then you have to engage in conversation. You can’t just be an observer all of the time, although most of us writers might find that more comfortable. No. We have to feel the words rolling around on our tongue. We have to taste them. We have to say them aloud and measure the reaction. The same rules apply to writing about the human experience.

We have to meet people we’d rather avoid and fall in love with the wrong person and argue with strangers on the bus all for the sake of creating characters who are just as real. We have to absorb different perspectives. We have to interact with the things that scare us. We have to exist in the real world long to enough to be able to translate it.

So we are not stuck. We are sitting in a bright orange cubicle, not stewing, but absorbing everything there is to discover about this life and we are growing. We are growing even when it feels like all we’re doing is standing still.

*Originally posted on 4/7/13*

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6 thoughts on “Paying Your Dues

  1. Love this. And yes, sometimes it feels like a “suffering quota,” but you do have to live to have anything worth saying.

    • Yes! Even if your daily routine seems mundane or unimportant, you’re still growing emotionally and intellectually in ways that will only make you a better, more thoughtful artist.

  2. Mark Myers says:

    Summed up how I feel exactly. But I am (and trust you are) making strides to sever the ball and chain that keeps me at that mind-numbing desk. Hopefully, someday…

    • That’s definitely one thing that helps to keep me going–planning my future escape! I’m such a goal-oriented person and keeping sight of those goals, regardless of how faraway they may seem at the moment, has brought me so much comfort. Plus, I know I’m not in this alone. Most people dream of the day that they’ll be able to leave behind their 9-5 and follow their passions and I truly believe that it’s our job to help each other get there.

  3. Megan says:

    This reflects a lot of what I’m going through now. I work as an admin to pay the bills, and because of my financial goals, I’ll be staying in this type of field for a long while. It is upsetting knowing I won’t be able to do what I love, and I fear my potential may go to waste.

    But at the same time, given how expensive the cost of living is, as well as saving up for retirement, a house, etc., it is financially wise to work a job just for the money. There’s less stress that way, which would mean a little more happiness and good health.

    As long as I get to do what I love on the side, that’s all good. Now if I get to do what I love while making a good salary with good benefits, I’ll be totally blessed. But until then, I have to do what I have to do. In the long run, it may pay off – literally!

    • This is such a good point that I really don’t write about or reinforce enough. But as unfulfilling as a “day job” can seem sometimes there are really a lot of benefits. I spent a few months between jobs just focusing on my writing and while I loved having that time to devote to things that are actually important to me, I was constantly worried about money. And unfortunately stress and creativity just do not work well together. Now I work part-time which is the perfect balance for me, although money is still tight sometimes. But sacrificing going out or buying new things is a compromise I’m willing to make in order to have enough money to pay my bills and still spend the majority of my day doing what I love.

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