I wonder often what I should prioritize and what I should be. Yesterday, I went to a happy hour networking event for people involved in sustainability and social justice causes. I did it in the hopes I could maybe make some fruitful professional connections, and maybe some friends. I did actually meet one woman who had a potential opportunity for me.
I could say "fingers crossed," but they are blistered with so much crossing. In the past few months, I have been tentatively offered two exiciting writing positions that would bulk up my resume and help pay the bills. Both times, these fell through, for reasons not entirely clear to me, though usually due to budgeting constraints. Journalism is a dying business and I must be a masochist to continue treading its waters. Last month, a veteran journalist told me at a NWU (National Writers Union) networking event that she felt sorry for me as I was "just jumping in the pool as it was drying out." But I feel more sorry for society, that good journalism is seen as something we can sacrifice. It sure is not obsolete. And yet, watchdogging our government and the industrial sector is not at the forefront of our wants, even as the oil spill in the Gulf continues to obliterate the ocean ecosystems, our wildlife and the livelihoods of our Southern neighbors. Or, rather, we do want journalism, but we don't want it at a price. Like everything else on the internet, we want it free, just like we want our gasoline cheap and always readily available. We want people to work for free to do some very hard work, or at least that's what the market and my own experiences suggest.
In theory, I want to get a decent paying part-time job with benefits to support my writing as though it's some sick, stay-at-home child I am nursing back to health. I know that if I work full-time, at least in the doldrums of a traditional 9-5 office job, my writing will wither into obscurity. I know because it's happened before. It's hard to come home and eat and shower and know that at 10pm you must choose between writing or sleeping, even as your eyelids are already heavy and your head is pounding from eight straight hours of staring at the computer screen under the glare of flourescent ceiling lights. Sleep usually always insinuated itself before a conscious choice could ever really be made. Then weeks of no writing became months, until I felt like part of me was dying. If that sounds melodramatic, then so be it. My fingers became twitchy, and I would grind my teeth, like some junkie dopesick for a fix that only pen put to paper could provide. After awhile, something weird happened to my mental state. I had no more libido and food lost its taste. Even music couldn't move me. I guess you could call it depression, but it was something more primal, less clinical, than that.
And then there's this other passion I have in trying to save the world. This actually often ties in quite well with writing, but when I then think of 'work' on top of that, it crowds the room of my mind. Why can't writing be my work? I am good at it and trained for it, and don't we as a world need it? Teaching or grassroots organizing/advocacy are perhaps the only other jobs (other than something in the communications field) that I think I could work on a full-time basis that I don't think would work against my writing. If I can't write, I need to have a job where I can speak freely and often about important things.
While living in D.C., I worked a half-time position as a communications assistant at a highly respectable environmental non-profit, and also taught adult ESL at a community college two evenings a week. I enjoyed these jobs and I had enough money to pay the bills and enough time to write and even to live. I was happy. But then I moved to Burlington, Vermont to go to graduate school and pursue a Master's in Environmental Policy. I went because I thought the opportunity would afford me more professional and financial security, but it seems that it might have actually robbed me of more time to work on my writing, changed my way of thinking to something antithetical to creativity, while also placing me in some more debt.
So, here I sit wondering if there's a way I can make money, write, and still do my small part to save the world. Can I wrap them all up in one package, or will it always be a struggle...some juggling routine that leaves me tired till again, sleep wins and nothing gets accomplished?
I sometimes wish I could be an insomniac again.