Most of us who write in our spare time probably don't consider our day jobs particularly interesting. Nor can most of us boast a glamorous and professional photo taken in the middle of a field. This is the best one I could find of myself ... seductively squinting into the full force of the mid-afternoon sun!
This interview, published by The Believer in January (found via this brief article on The Rumpus), doesn't explore whether Summer Brennan considers her day job to be glamorous. She works for the UN - which sounds mildly interesting at worst - but writing five thousand words in a typical day sounds very intense, albeit acknowledged as:
an on-and-off worklife.
Having frequent bouts of extended time to work on our own projects is a luxury rarely afforded to most of us. Taking reduced hours (and, therefore, salary) or exploiting flexi-time to maybe give one day a week off is likely to be the best we can hope for, which makes it even more of a shame that the interview doesn't expand on this quote:
When I’m really busy with professional projects, I get so saturated that I can pretty much only think in Internet memes once the workday is over.
From that point of view, the interview isn't really about balancing creativity with the day job, unless the definition of 'balancing' is to see out your busy work days until you've got time off to work creatively - a scenario that isn't practical for the majority.
Assuming our only time off is weekends, 20+ holidays and the occasional public holiday, then we have to work all day and write when we get home throughout the year. In which case, is it better to have a dull job that doesn't challenge us or a job that requires us to use our creativity?
I used to believe the former. The reward for spending all day at work was to get home and indulge my creative aspirations. But creativity isn't something to be turned on and off like a switch, and repressing that part of my brain from 9 to 5 proved to be nothing more than a source of frustration. Where is the joy in being unable to express creative thoughts and ideas, and carrying on with some mundane or repetitive task instead?
The more writing I have to do for work, the better I am in the creative field. And I not only have better ideas, but I also finish things, and that’s what counts.
Since the turn of the year I've had many more opportunities to use my creativity at work: writing product guides, putting together presentations and other such things. Few people would consider it glamorous, but it is rewarding. It engages the brain and lets me apply the creative principles that I've developed in my spare time. Creative practice makes me better at my job and my job helps me practice my creativity.
The thing that is not different in my writing across the board ... is the cadence. The simple practice of turning ideas into sentences that are easy to navigate.
That doesn't necessarily mean it is easy to pack up from a day's work and then carry on with your own projects into the evening. There are long days and tiring days and days where niggling little irritations leave you wondering what the point is and whether you're doing the right thing. Those days will always happen, and as long as they are the exception rather than the rule then we're doing just fine.
I think that doing “non-creative” writing is a huge help for when I do write creatively, because it has made me realise that writing is largely about work. Sometimes you don’t feel like it, but that’s too bad! Do it anyway.