'You’ve heard of people calling in sick. You may have called in sick a few times yourself. But have you ever thought about calling in well? It’d go like this: You’d get the boss on the line and say, “Listen, I’ve been sick ever since I started working here, but today I’m well and I won’t be in anymore.” Call in well.'
Accounts of career-life such as this are common all over the internet (see also), and in people’s face-to-face accounts of their work. We know that people ‘have a career’, and that is seen by many as a good in itself. But we know very little about what people actually do all day in their work, how they feel about their actual tasks – the work culture.
Full-time career life is just so opaque – and especially to graduates clamouring for a career-job when they have never had one before. This is what work-experience should be about: discovering the true nature of corporate life, and then avoiding it.
‘Sustainable creativity’: where the purpose of writing or making music or creating anything is not necessarily to produce a product, but simply to find a way to fund the continuation of making stuff
A phrase coined by Miranda Ward in her excellent book F**k the Radio We’ve Got Apple Juice, about the rise and supposed fall of the band Little Fish – who chose to leave their major record label and support slots on stadium rock tours in order to take back control of making their music, on the cheap in their own home.
|—||Alain de Botton|
Is University Really Worth It Any More?
I’ve written and rewritten the university chapter of The Tyranny of Careers more than any other, because, although there seem so many reasons to choose not to go to university nowadays (massive tuition fees, the prospect of years of non-deferable debt, the reduced value of a degree certificate now that so many people go on to higher education), I benefitted enormously from a university education. Not so much from the studying, but all the other lessons: how to live with other people, how to manage money, how to deal with the freedom to do whatever the hell you liked).
You can find these other lessons elsewhere (travelling, working abroad, anything so long as you meet new and interesting people). I would jump at the chance to spend three years studying now. I’m just not sure I would be old enough to deal with the prospect of the debt at 18 or 19.
Time to rewrite again…
(image via austinkleon)
If you make money from creative work full-time, is this actually more fulfilling than making work for little or free part-time and supporting this with subsistence work? One of the themes I’m trying to write about in The Tyranny of Careers.
See also a recent article in Vela Mag, where 4 writers discuss their ambiguous relationship with writing full-time.
From a large collection of photos shot on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, two of my favorites:
Those are a pair of smooth criminals right there.
The process from blank stage to fully-realised set has always fascinated me… the first few of these photos show the infamous monolith on the moon scene created step-by-step…
Yesterday I finished the second draft of my book The Tyranny of Careers, my take on the careers advice we need in the modern day.
I’ve put an outline and excerpts from each chapter on my website – if this is the kind of thing that interests, annoys or worries you, do write and talk to me about it!
In a single sentence you could summarise it as: Find work that you love to do, do it for free (at least to begin with), and make it more important than your paid work.
Here’s a mini introduction:
‘Work hard at school, get a degree at university, find yourself a good career, and you will be happy. Your career will be your source of self-esteem and give you control of your life.’ This was the subtext of every piece of careers advice I received, and still is. School, parents and society all tell us that a full-time career is the one essential source of self-esteem, the main focus of a productive existence, and the only way to have control over your life.
But years of work have taught me that this is completely false. Until I was in my thirties I believed I would find satisfaction somewhere in a career, in paid work. I had qualifications that found me jobs in the television, film and publishing industries – but none of these careers ever provided the pleasure and self-esteem I expected. Because not only was the work something I did not genuinely value, but any satisfaction to be had was always overwhelmed by stress and overwork, of it being part of a full-time career.
Of all the adults I now know, the happiest ones, the ones with the most self-esteem, are those without full-time careers. Instead they have their own creative work, work that they personally value, alongside their paid work. And the people with full-time careers, however prestigious or glamorous the profession, are the ones who are most stressed and miserable, the ones with least control over their lives.
So The Tyranny of Careers is the advice I wish I had received. Partly a memoir of my misplaced search for a meaningful career, and partly the advice I’ve learnt despite this, on how to earn a living whilst pursuing work and a self-made career that is genuinely valuable to you.
I’ve had a problem for a long time with how to promote yourself – with the idea that it is promoting at all, which for me sounds too much like marketing and all the insincerity that brings with it.
But I’ve also been following writer/illustrator Austin Kleon for a long time, and just received and devoured his new book Show Your Work, which is all about self-promotion. He’s made me see that promotion of your own work – putting stuff out there about the stuff you are making – not only does not have to be insincere marketing – it had better not be insincere marketing.
You’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen.
And not just helpful to others – helpful to yourself as well:
Whether you share it or not, documenting and recording your process as you go along has its own rewards: You’ll start to see the work you’re doing more clearly and feel like you’re making progress.
So now that I’ve reached a second draft stage of my own book, these are my intentions for documenting the process from here on:
Firstly, keep a blog of all the failures, false starts, and hopeful progress of the process of trying to publish the book (whether that’s self-publishing or through a publisher), as a document for myself, and a resource for others. (It’s not clear yet whether this is best done here on Tumblr or perhaps on my own site<>. There will no doubt be deliberation and mistakes here.)
Also: add these rules to my own Rules for Self-Promotion:
#6 Put Yourself in the Postition of a Reader
Share one thing a day, and make it about your working process that day.
(Because that’s what I want to hear from other people.) From Show Your Work again:
Don’t show your lunch or your latte: show your work. […] The first step is to scoop up the scraps and the residue of your process and shape them into some interesting bit of media you can share.