Writerly Rant #26
A Jack of all Trades Dilemma
by M.J. Moores ~
I love the arts: writing, dance, drama, visual, music… whether it’s crafting with my mind or my hands or expressing myself through song or letting my body move in ways I didn’t know it could, I feel alive. But the question that always hovered over my head was, “What do I do with these bits and pieces? How do I make a living?”
At first I thought the answer was teaching. As an English teacher my love of writing and literature would be quenched and as a Drama teacher I could utilize my voice in song, my body in expression, and my hands in building: costumes, stage sets, painting backdrops, and lighting design – you name it. I have long known that my skills in any one arena are not sufficient to base a career around, but in this day and age with staff reductions, in every industry, we are encouraged to diversify to be able to fulfill a variety of needs and niches in the work place.
So I was set, right?
Enter the political arena: a place for which I have zero experience and have never wished to know much about let alone be a commanding presence within it. It destroyed my love of teaching and undermined my ability to gain full-time employment. So where did that leave me? With trying to salvage a living using one of my single trades that I was not a master of.
I picked English, not just because it has been a love of mine from a very young age, but it seemed the most realistic of my skills to evolve and grow with. I do not have the right frame of mind to be a master carpenter though I absolutely love working with wood. Besides, the amount of time required to excel here, and the amount of saw-dust I was likely to inhale and ingest with that line of work, did not appeal to me. I’m no dancer. I just understand the basics and enjoy movement and rhythm. I’m no vocalist. It took me a good half of my life to come to terms with this (I may have a pleasant voice and sing well, but there is nothing special about my ability, and my lack of experience still makes me nervous in front of crowds) and I never did learn how to read music properly – sight reading doesn’t count. I’m also not an actor. You have to ‘want it’ to be able to go after a dream like that. I enjoy improvisation, not memorization, so that never would have worked. Finally, my art skills are basic at best. I can sketch the image of what I’m looking at imperfectly (and it takes me a while to do it) but when I add colour to anything it turns into a cartoon – and that’s not my intent. My techniques for stage painting work to compliment this fracture in my ability, but I will never make a living being a set painter – too many excellent ones are already scraping to get by in the industry.
That left English. I tried my hand at Journalism when I was younger, but again that political thing got in the way. I excelled in my courses but I didn’t have the passion or drive to chase down a story like my classmates. I felt as though I was simply getting in the way of their progress. So, recently I looked into freelance writing and editing (because we all know we won’t get rich writing genre fiction, my other love). I took a s*** load of courses from various post-secondary institutions for a year and then I dove in.
I balk at the going rate to ghostwrite a book for a new genre-based series. It makes my skin crawl to paraphrase and re-write other people’s work to make it sound fresh and new. I won’t lower myself to making buck or two on 500 word articles, and the local papers don’t even want me to volunteer my time for articles around town. So, I study up on my grammar; buddy up with editors and authors around town and on LinkedIn; use my connections to learn more about the industry from those who have been in the industry. And what do I get for my troubles? A handful of editing jobs (to be expected when starting out) and a ton of grief about my editing tips posts.
As authors we complain about unnecessarily harsh reviews. Well, as a blogger I feel the same way when someone criticizes (not critiques) my posts. Yes, I welcome feedback and alternate points of view, but don’t attack me. I put this information up because an industry professional has passed it on to me. If you’ve learned or experienced differently I would love for you to share – but don’t purposefully make me look like an ass. I’m sharing my knowledge with others, but if I’m not good enough for that, too, then maybe I should just go on welfare, pray to win the lottery, and do Jack all.