How do you achieve work life balance?
I work a lot of strange late hours, so it’s a difficult mixture for me at the moment. So I’ll talk about that, and the influence of supplementary work on my life.
Currently I’m working a “day” job to support myself, so that work has to be sectioned off, in my mind, as a kind of blessing with boundaries. I have to avoid the temptation of a deeper involvement with it – specifically with the “drama” that may or may not go on. (I’m lucky enough to have a relatively drama-free one though – with a lot of retired judges, police officers, security guards – take-it-easy kind of folk – working with me as part-timers on this job.) But I guess it can be easy to get caught up in the “drama” in a job, if you don’t have a drama to be kind of the architect of in some other way creatively-speaking. We all know someone who makes their job their gossipy playground.
I’m probably a perpetrator of that kind of thing in relationships (i.e., looking for the drama) more than I do at work situations. But, whether it’s a job or a relationship, I think it’s all therapeutic to have a situation that gets you on edge for whatever reason, and then you can go home and imaginatively write about it. Maybe you don’t write about the job or the relationship specifically – but you can write about the conflicts, the head-butting, and the stalemate of personality clashes that universally occur. It gives you a healthy, compassionate distance from the dumber, pettier stuff.
It’s also good if I keep active on a simple job that has a short-term benefits and goals. Because, on the other hand, if I get too much up in my head, I’m a bit more nutty as a worker; I don’t tend to do as good a job with work that requires virtually, only mental concentration. I think one part of my brain gets jealous of the devotion to an activity requiring the other part. This is why I try to do supportive work that can involve simpler routine and hands-on labor…it helps with the creative work that I do in some ways.
Basically I try to learn about human contact (and conflict) from my day job and from my life, and because I work as a writer, synthesize some of the phenomena through my imagination somehow.
What are some of your previous job titles?
Off the top of my head, I have worked as an airport shuttle driver, a restaurant “food runner” (horrible job for me!), a telemarketing interviewer (great social atmosphere), a 7-11 clerk, an administrative assistant, a clinical trials monitor, and a community education instructor. I got a Bartender’s license, but never was able to use it.
Did you always know what you wanted to do with your life, or has that changed over the years?
I think I always wanted to tell stories. There was a story always going on in my mind. I tell stories about myself still that stimulate me to greater degrees of fantasy, waking nightmares, hope, belief, defeat, terror, depression and confidence. I think I initially gravitated towards fantasy as a buttress against disappointments and difficulties in life.
Plus my mother and grandmother had this habit of telling you the same stories over and over again (my dad did too!); when you’ve learned the story verbatim, you begin to concentrate on what else is there to learn within the telling of the story. I think my life journey is to figure that out – what it was my parents were conveying to me in the nuances of these repetitive stories. (I mean to say, what it was that was important for me in their telling.)
What is the greatest challenge you overcame to become a successful professional?
I was sick from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) when I was around 16 years old; this was probably a byproduct of being a stressed-out kid sometimes. I finally nearly died as a result of food poisoning during that time, had four operations to correct the bowel disease (I was permanently disemboweled), and over several years I gained my health back.
I don’t recognize it as a challenge necessarily, but I think the difficulties in the rehab allowed me to gain a degree of practical humility that allowed me to slow down, and be a little more self-aware in my role as a story teller. I think that the medical challenge was more a life challenge than a challenge to my profession; but I think the professional clarity I have in my writing processes is what I’ve been able to gain from that life challenge.