At Christmas last year, I was talking to my eleven-year-old niece about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“An author,” she said. I threw my arms around her, mostly in solidarity but a little in sympathy since I knew what she was in for. A bit of success but more often than not a lot of struggle.
In January, just over a month later, at my sister’s birthday party, my niece and I were having the same conversation with my twelve-year-old nephew. “You can get paid to play Fortnite, you know,” he told me. There was a tournament being held at the Australian Open that weekend with half a million dollars in prizemoney available.
“But what will your other job be?” I asked. He looked at me blankly. “Getting paid to play Fortnite is a pretty sweet gig so there will be lots of people who want that job. But not everyone can get paid to play Fortnite so you’ll probably need another job,” I explained. He couldn’t come up with anything else and that’s okay because he’s twelve.Continue reading
Amongst writers it is a well-known fact that the majority of us can’t earn enough just from our writing to give up all other forms of employment. There are a lucky few but not nearly as many as those of us wanting to join those few would like. It doesn’t mean we give up on writing. It just means we supplement our incomes with other work like editing, teaching and more often than not jobs that have absolutely no link to what it is we’d much rather be doing.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to be able to begin three years in which I spent the majority of my time writing my own work full-time. During the times I wasn’t writing my own work, I was employed as a writer writing for others (six months here, six weeks there but for less than a year of those three years). Prior to that, I spent six-and-a-half years as a corporate writer and before that, I was a textbook editor for three years. I even have two postgraduate writing degrees.
And in the past five years, I’ve published three books, written two more, ghost-written another, written and published over 400 blog posts, and written and published about two dozen articles, one of which had over 10,000 views on LinkedIn. I was even shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for my upcoming novel, Black Spot, and it was a point of pride for me when one of Text Publishing’s employees told me my book wouldn’t need an editor because I’d done such a good job.
So imagine my surprise when, as I sat right beside him, my father told a group of his friends and acquaintances that I was an “amateur writer”.Continue reading
“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m John. What do you do?”
“I’m a receptionist.”
“So you just sit around talking on the phone all day?”
“It’s a bit more involved than that.”
“Where do you work?”
“At a small family company.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. Any chance you might be able to move on to a big corporate?”
“I’m happy where I am.”
“Are you a good receptionist?”
“I haven’t been asked to do it differently so I guess I am.”
“How many calls do you take a day?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure…”
“How much do you earn?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“But how will I know for sure if you’re a good receptionist?”
“Call the main switch and I’ll make sure I transfer you to the right person.”
“But that won’t tell me if others think you’re a good receptionist.”
“I like what I do. I don’t really care if others think I’m a good receptionist. And I really don’t care what you think.”
“That’s a pretty poor attitude for a receptionist to have.”
“Stop talking to me.”
Okay, so it seems like John is a special kind of asshat. But imagine now an almost identical conversation with just a couple of small changes:Continue reading
As part of the announcement of the release of my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I sent an email to the alumni group of Swinburne University where I studied and graduated with a Master of Arts in Writing. I’d done the same thing when I published Project December: A Book About Writing and they’d been kind enough to include a mention of it in their e-newsletter and a link to where it could be purchased. I hoped they’d do the same this time.
Instead, I got an email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed and profiled as part of a series on their past students. I thought, “Why not?”.
But once I’d agreed to do it, I did what I always do, which is panic. Sometimes I feel like I have proverbial foot-in-mouth disease (not literal foot-in-mouth disease – gross!) and am prone to say things I shouldn’t. I aim for witty and end up coming off like a weirdo. It’s why I’m a writer, after all. I like having the chance to revise. And revise. And revise again. Speaking off the cuff doesn’t give you that chance.
To keep myself calm and to try to prepare for an interview where I didn’t know exactly what the questions were going to be, I decided to attempt to pre-empt what might be asked and come up with answers. That way, if they did come up, I’d have something that didn’t make me sound like a person on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a lawyer. At least, I thought I did. Yes, I was writing poems and novels in my spare time but when anyone asked, I insisted I wanted to be a lawyer. “A lady lawyer,” my great aunt Violet said to me. “No,” I replied in my youthful feminist beginnings, “just a lawyer.”Continue reading
(Note: When I first published this article on LinkedIn, it was read by approximately 9,000 people and liked over 650 times and one of the authors of the books I recommend contacted me to thank me for her inclusion on the list. It is my most read piece of writing ever. I can’t tell you why. But it was fun while it was happening.)
I’m not generally someone who recommends self-help books. In fact, in the past I have been guilty of pouring scorn on many of them, perhaps because the ones I’ve picked up and started reading have been particularly vague (what exactly is self-actualisation?) and therefore particularly unhelpful to someone like me who prefers the literal to the lateral.
Finding a self-help book that is actually going to help you is a deeply personal thing. You have to be at a particular point in your life to benefit from specific self-help books. And you have to be going through a similar crisis to the one being described by the author. And you have to be able to put into practice what they are telling you to do. They’re long odds.
But as I was sitting in my study recently, the three books I am about to recommend kept jumping out at me despite being on three different shelves on three different bookcases. I’ve read, and in some cases reread, all three of these books in the past five years and the longer I looked at them in conjunction, the clearer it became. These three books had important things to say to women of a certain age.Continue reading
Maybe it’s a misleading article title because I should start out by acknowledging there’s no such thing as the perfect job. At least, there’s no one-size-fits-all perfect job. The perfect job is different things to different people.Continue reading