My utter infrequency in regards to posting lately (you can read a kind of explanation here) has probably gone largely un-noticed, or at least in relation to the sheer anxiety I have felt about not keeping up my side of the bargain of being a contributor. Luckily there are so many great contributors here that I shouldn’t fret so.
As I face the prospect of leaving my longest-held job for the unknown, I am (as always) intrigued by what writers do for a living and how it impacts their writing. I know a lot of writers who usher this away saying it doesn’t, but I know that’s impossible. There’s no way to go to a real job day in and day out and not have it infiltrate your creative endeavors in some way.
So, here are some jobs I’ve had and how I see the impact they played or continue to play on my writing. (Beyond writing about the jobs themselves, which I do with some frequency regarding most of them).
Gas Station Attendant: This job forced me to deal with people, strangers, all day, something I had managed to avoid until that point. Beyond teaching me how to let go of my brain and just be myself in terms of talking, I think it impacted my writing considerably, especially in terms of hearing dialogue. Being good at talking to people doesn’t always translate to being able to write good dialogue, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Construction: My time doing construction in the Arctic has really come to define a lot of my writing endeavors. My love of my home state of Alaska was already intact, but once I learned to put people and situations that I had come to know so intimately down on paper in a fictional manner it changed my writing forever. This job taught me the importance (for me personally) about real life and it’s translation to art.
Managing a Children’s Bookstore: I have written the least amount about this job in terms of my poetry and fiction, but probably talk the most about it since it’s my current situation. While there have been great aspects of this job, there have been a lot of frustrations, too, and those taught me the importance of not always taking myself too seriously (this is a lesson I seem to be re-learning to greater degrees with some regularity). I’ve learned to take my brain away from the heavier stories I write and play around. As a way to balance things. Without this job some of the stories that have gotten the most attention would never have been written. (Some of them were written while at work and frustrated and were a way to give myself a chuckle and relax a bit).
What do you do?
What have you done?
How has it helped, hindered, or otherwise impacted your writing?
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.