Thursday, October 27, 2022

Got here in the end, by Catriona

 LIFE: Most writers have had other jobs. What’s one thing you learned in an entirely different professional setting that you’re grateful for?

I think I learned something from every job I ever had. Let's see:

Saturday shampoo girl at a hairdressers: I earwigged into the most rambunctious, free-wheeling, joyously hedonistic conversations in the staffroom. I think those little playlets still crop up in ensemble scenes in the Last Ditch. So that, and folding towels so they look nice.

Coming Dec 6

Bank clerk: I learned how to count wads of cash very fast. (Still waiting for that to come in handy, but when I hit the jackpot, my fingers will be a blur.) Mostly, I learned that I didn't want to work in a bank.

Pub cleaner: I didn't think I learned anything, but wait.

Library assistant in Fine Art library: Oh! The joy! Expressionism. Conceptual installations. The history of architecture. And the fact that any job where you can sit and read is the job for me.

Library assistant in Local Studies library: Oh! More joy! To find out that, in every city, there is a team of librarians who track down, catalogue and keep EVERYTHING! Facinating little snippets of niche news gathered in niche-specific volumes. Family portraits from the earliest days of photography, unearthed when a local business changed hands and the daguerrotypes in the basement came to light. Victorian playbills. Maps so detailed you can plot individuals families to individual houses two hundred years pre Google Earth. 

(I think I became a crime-writer in the stacks of the Edinburgh Room.)

University Lecturer: Ooft. I loved the preparation and performance of lectures. Didn't mind the small group seminars with a bunch of students. Adored the students themselves, all those apple-cheeked baby radicals with their chaotic personal lives. But I couldn't shake off my imposter syndrome enough to function as a researcher. And I couldn't understand what was going on in any meeting. (Seriously, the Board of Studies was like watching American football for the first time every time. It was explained to me years later: most people were jockeying for tiny advantages and I didn't care enough to find them visible.)

What did I learn? That every cliquey and borderline-bullying group will be full of people congratulating themselves on how lovely they are to everyone (who counts). And that, even if being a writer was a pipe-dream, I had to try because no one should study for nine years and end up in a job that was worse than cleaning a pub.

And finally . . .

Writer! My dream job. The job I do in every daft daydream about every life I could live. The community where I try never to be cliquey and always want to hear if I'm falling short. The place I have never had a day of imposter syndrome. Where I even love the bits that are worse then cleaning a pub (page proofs). Where I get to sit and read and call it working. The job that, on the good days, is even better than sitting reading. I'm home. 


My TBR shelves today


James W. Ziskin said...

We’re so grateful you’ve found your dream job, Catriona. Your legions of readers—including me—get to enjoy the spoils..

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Like all your readers, I'm glad you found your dream job too. And I'm looking forward to Scot in a Trap.

Susan C Shea said...

What Jim said. And I wonder why so many of us who have had the experience of professional academic lives ran as far and as fast as we could when we discovered we were writers? No, actually, I don't wonder.