My boss, Kate Eltham, is leaving the writer’s centre in a couple of months. She’s heading off to be the next chairperson of the Brisbane Writers Festival, and I’ve got to admit, that’s something that excites me. She spent six years turning QWC into one of the best resources for writers in the country, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to turn BWF into one of the finest damn literary festivals in the world. That’s the kind of person Kate is – smart, ambitious, transformative. As a Brisbane writer and reader, I’m really looking forward to seeing the kind of festival program she runs in 2013.
On the other hand, as a guy who works in the writers centre, my first thought upon hearing the news was fuck, time to be a writer again. And I gotta tell you, that thought hurt. I haven’t been a writer in a while now. A year, at least. Maybe longer.
I’ve written, certainly, but in my head there’s a difference between someone who writes and someone who’s a writer. It’s a really personal distinction, and I don’t require other people to subscribe to it, but for me a writer is someone who embraces writing as a job. Even if they’re not making a living from it yet, their entire process is built around getting paid, getting the next job, building a career. They’re people who embrace the fact that they’re a small business and they’re willing to concede that “how will this piece help pay the rent next week?” is just as important as “how will this piece change the world?”
A writer hustles. They aren’t thinking about what they’ve done, they’re thinking about what comes next. They’re lining up opportunities and back-up plans and…well, you get the picture. And, it should be noted, they’re generally pretty happy with all that. I was, back when I thought like a writer. It took working for QWC before I actually relaxed into a day-job and thought, yeah, this is rather nice. I could get used to earning money like this instead of fuck this job. I’m going to figure out how to earn more cash and quit.
Not that working for QWC has changed – it’s still a pleasure, I still enjoy going there, and I still enjoy talking to my co-workers. Nor is my job guaranteed to change or disappear, although both are certainly possibilities and the introduction of a new CEO will result in all sorts of uncertainties on top of the already-uncertain nature of working for a non-profit arts organisation.
I’m okay with uncertainties when I’m a writer. Less so when I’m working a dayjob.
And I really don’t want to get caught off-guard if I get to the end of my contract and find myself unemployed again. Better to start thinking like a writer now, rewiring the ol’ thought patterns, than start the process when the uncertainty becomes certain.
Best case scenario, I’ll produce a bunch of work and get to keep my dayjob. Worst case scenario, I’ll be ready to transition over should the dayjob ends.
If you need me this weekend, I’ll be finishing off some short stories. And writing some blog posts. And possibly putting together a rough plan for a novel or two.