So sorry to be so late with this, but I came home to a pile of stuff that needed to be done. Yes, there were other reasons for my cutting short the Texas trip, reasons having to do with family stuff (no, nothing horrible) but here’s the thing – even without that staying away for two weeks would be inadvisable. Because I’d come home to two weeks of stuff that needed done, and not just house stuff (where the guys do pitch in, if often not well) but business correspondence, cover art to evaluate, contacts with editor doing Witchfinder, stuff that needs to be put up — that sort of thing. Oh, yeah, and working on novel for delivery.
Which brings the question again, when did we all get so busy?
I was talking to my sons yesterday, and all of their friends (and they too, if in odd freelance areas) are doing thirty things at once. Two part time jobs, more than full time studying, and a couple of volunteer gigs on the side because it’s something they want to do.
Okay, I’m a terrible example of this, because I took a full load in college, took private language classes on the side on stuff the college didn’t offer and taught part time. But that’s not how the movies show my generation. It certainly isn’t how movies show their generation.
There’s a bit of selection bias there, granted, and granted, they know people doing half time in college, and then spending the rest of the day getting baked or playing computer games. But these aren’t their friends.
Among my friends, too, I can only come up with one, off the top of my head, who has only one “regular” job and nothing else. I will grant you selection bias. Being a writer is sort of like being an actress in Los Angeles. Half the waiters you know are really “actors” too, and then there’s the girl down at the copyshop, who’s hoping to be discovered.
Of course a lot of the people I know are… whatever they are and indie writers or aspiring writers on the side. But even taking away that component, most of them have third jobs too, something that brings in “a little cash” – whether it’s doing the accounting for a company, the research for another, or more homely stuff like office work for a friend on the off hours, or crafts you sell on the side, or… both for cash of which we are all short, even those of us working like crazy, what with the price of everything always going up, and for well… when we’re working we’re not reading the news. Right? It serves a purpose. It could be argued my younger self took those extra courses because the labor market in the late seventies in Portugal was tighter than a miser’s purse and also because being so stupidly busy kept me from worrying.
But all the same, when did we all get so busy? And where are the people who must – perforce – be doing nothing?
To an extent this is the evolution of the “job”. I remember in my parents’ day a job was something you got and you stayed on until you got your retirement party and your retirement. There were signs of anxiety about that model before I left elementary. My brother’s generation, ten years older than I, all seemed to be getting “gigs” to “make do.” Six months here, and they let you go before they were stuck with you for life (European labor regs are fun.) People would do six months as teachers, six months as mechanics, and then rotate to working in an office for six months. The jobs that remained sinecures were either government or “someone got me this job because my uncle owns the company.”
Coming to the states after college didn’t seem to make much difference for those prospects. All of our friends were getting temporary jobs. And honestly, throughout our working lives, except mine, which is of course weirder than that being a freelancer, all our jobs have been “a few years.”
Part of this is how industry changes. Dan has worked all over the place. So have I, when forced to get honest jobs. In my case, I’ve ranged from retail to a chemical plant, to colleges. Nothing is permanent, and you really don’t expect your employer to have any loyalty to you, so you don’t really consider yourself bound to stay with them for life.
In fact, most of my generation has suffered more or less prolonged bouts of unemployment. We’ve been lucky and ours have been minimal, though we have this thing that if I’m having trouble selling (so far only ONE dead year, back in 02/03) it will be at the same time Dan is laid off. Because misery loves company, I guess. We’re speshul that way. Never mind. I’d rather get my misery over intense and quick than light and prolonged.
But now, and yes, partly through the completely stupid law that shall not be mentioned, we seem to be parting ways with the full time job, even the temporary one. Or the full time job just doesn’t pay enough. Or it’s shakier than a guy who guzzles whiskey for breakfast. Or whatever… and then people have these “I also do this—”
Is it a great strategy? Oh, heck yes. One of my friends who was laid off stands a good chance of replacing his traditional income with income from his other sources, just amped up a little. And of course, he now has more time to pursue them.
But time is the thing. I mean, I’ve not got to the place I was in college, where I slept only on Saturday (– and slept like sixteen hours. The rest of the week I made do with two hour catnaps per night. Good thing I haven’t got to that point. I don’t think I could survive a month of that, much less four years, at my age.) but I dream – DREAM – of taking two days off and just sleeping and reading.
It’s a pipe dream.
Heck, take the Texas trip: when I started going there, five? Years ago to teach the workshop at Bedford Library, we thought “Why not cut it so it’s two weeks, and I can attend Fencon.” And it worked fine. Oh, I didn’t work on schedule while there, but that was okay. I could take the weeks to read and research and work around the edges.
Objectively, I was doing a maximum of three novels a year, blogging once a week (if that) and maybe doing five short stories a year.
This year, for good or ill, I seem to be on the short-a-month treadmill, and of course I blog for PJM, and blog here every day, and I’m trying for at least four novels trad and a couple indie a year (not that I’ve done great at that) plus I’m working with Goldport at bringing out my backlist, and I’m doing cover design for Naked Reader (and man, is that a steep slope) and because of all my new duties, I’m taking classes and…
And if I take a day or two off, I end up having to make it up, so taking time off NOT worth it.
Of course, this is also the fault of technology. Not that way. It’s obvious that when technology makes it easier to work from home and to learn new trades part time, the ones who will do it are not the ones who are doing nothing, but the strivers, the already over busy, the chronically curious and insatiably interested – us, in fact.
And all my friends – except those who are ill — are the same – when they’re not worse.
So, when did we all get so busy?
This is a question a friend asked. She said “So, traditional publishing is dying and we all thought we’d be vegging in front of the TV and instead we’re all going crazy. When did we all get so busy?”
When indeed? And how?
Atlas isn’t shrugging. Atlas has taken a part time job lifting Jupiter and Mercury, and he’s juggling all the asteroids on the weekend.
Is it useful? Well, it gives us more skills. And it can cushion you when the main job falls. But this resting from a job by doing another, only works for a while, right? Maybe the completely insane drivers (No, worse than normal. FAR worse) on Colorado roads these last few months aren’t just because of pot legalization and driving drunk and/or importing Californians. Maybe they’re all sleeping behind the wheel.
Take me right now. I have to finish this blog post – late, because I actually crashed and slept 12 hours, last night, perhaps logical after illness/trip/cleaning house and catching up on business stuff yesterday – and then do the post for MGC. And then I need to do three covers for Naked Reader. And then I need to get the first two musketeer books in shape to reissue. And then I have a story that MUST be delivered by Friday. And somehow there in the middle, I MUST do my posts for lifestyle, since they very kindly put up with my going AWL while sick.
And there’s laundry and dinner and the chores of daily life.
The question I have is – where are those people who aren’t doing this? Do they exist? And what do they do all day? Surely you get tired of watching soaps after a week? No?
When did we all get so busy? And where are all those zombies?
UPDATE: a different post is up at Mad Genius Club: A Self-Doubt Called George.