Friday, March 13, 2009

On work, and the lack of it

I can't even think about work without whining. The biggest obstacle I see now to managing my return to the UK is work. It's no one's fault but my own. I "chose" (for which, read "drifted into") a "career" (for which, read "string of boring, unfulfilling but basically easy jobs") in a "profession" (for which, read "pile of arseholes") that has lost its value in our money-oriented world, did not put any real effort into doing it, or more importantly, into networking, greasing and arsekissing, and now cannot find enough of the tedious bullshit I do each day to make it possible to go home any time soon (for which, read "when I have so much money that even Mrs Zen can't claim we don't have enough to move").

It's not that I'm choosy. Far from it. I'm currently "authoring" (for which, read "writing my blog instead of authoring") a course that I have to present as a soulless, lifeless piece of adminshite, and editing a "book" (for which, read "turgid, badly structured, horrendously written heap of cock") on human resources, in which the "author" (for which, read "clown") is trying to break the record for meaningless jargon and succeeding admirably. This I have to do to a deadline that requires late nights and working at the weekends, because this is a form of publishing that turns round books without regard to sanity.

It's not even that I don't try. I write to people and ask them for work. I wrote to every publishing firm in Brisbane, everyone even vaguely connected with publishing, and not even one replied. That's right. They didn't even write to say "fuck off". I sent my CV to an English firm that was looking for freelances. They replied once, but when I followed up, I presumably ended up in their spam, because I never heard again. Another was advertising a job that was uncannily similar to the one I last had in the UK, down to the form of finance it concerned, which few people have experience in, so I was what you might consider the perfect candidate. No reply. And yeah, I'll write to every agency, every publishing house, everybody who might give me work, but I know already that the outcome will be, well, the dole.

I had five clients two years ago. One sacked me when they took the work back in house. Fair enough. The next "restructured", and did the work out of their Sydney office, which meant more work for Sydney's freelances and none at all for me. Another simply stopped bothering to answer emails. This is a company that, when it hired me, did so on the basis that I was becoming a full-time employee! I'm not kidding. For two years, I worked more than a hundred hours a month for these people, but when things changed, they didn't tell me. They just didn't invite me to the Christmas party and hoped I'd get the message. When I wrote to ask what the fuck was going on, some guy wrote back and said they'd hired a bunch of "interns" to cut costs. I heard through the grapevine that the message had come down the corporate chain that the firm could rest on its laurels for quality and no longer needed actually bother producing it. Such is capitalist short-termism. The fourth client was a subsidiary of the third, which incorporated it, so same story, I guess, although no one bothered telling me they weren't using me any more. This is how business is done in publishing. The fifth I still work for, but intermittently, so I can't count on it.

Now I know there are other things I can do. But they are all in very crowded markets, and it's all very well saying, why not write? But what can I write about? I don't know a fucking thing about anything, at least not beyond an inch deep. And the market is saturated with fools who don't know a thing. I don't have the time or energy to indulge in what is no more than playing writers' roulette. And temperamentally, I am not hardnosed enough for it. I take rejection too personally and, even though my head says it doesn't matter, try telling my heart.

Meanwhile, the job I do have is terrible. I hate authoring. It sounds like something that should be okay, but it's basically a game of trying to figure out what will please my boss, not something that you do to objective standards. But try telling her that. Or anything at all. She's done well in her business, so she has no concept that there could be any other way of doing things, or that any other perspective than hers could have merit. She is mostly inadvertently a terrible boss. Last year, she took a project from me and gave it to someone else without telling me. She didn't explain what she thought I had done wrong; she still hasn't. Apparently, this other woman had "customer service experience" so was an expert on customer service. Yeah okay, but how come the course she wrote was just the same old shit then? It was entirely fucking nonsense, and I was aggrieved that my fresher approach was canned. But more aggrieved, all in all, that she hadn't thought to tell me that she was canning it. Meanwhile, she hired a bunch of new staff, some overlapping with what I do, and this is now the fourth month running that she has not been able to fulfil the hours we agreed in our contract.

Worse, she asks for "feedback" but doesn't actually want any. I don't have the sense just to keep quiet, and end up defending my work. "Why do you take it personally?" she says. Well, how about this? The other day, I asked her for more work, having run out. She says, I have something but I'm not sure you're able to do it. What? I say. If I'm not able to, no one is able to. This isn't the first time she's insulted me like this. Why care? Because the editing portion of my job has dwindled a lot and she says when I go to the UK, she sees the authoring becoming difficult (because I won't understand Australia any more, apparently; as though I would be doing anything different: I don't read Australian newspapers or watch TV, and I rarely speak to anyone Australian about Australian things, because most Brisbaneites are not interested in anything beyond their own front door).

So blah blah blah. That's what I've been thinking about the past two or three days, to the exclusion of everything else. So boring. My whole life I've staggered from one way of making money to another. Yeah, I do regret not having something more structured, because for all the conventionality that I despise, the rewards would be worth it. This is the outcome of being talented enough to despise your talents, or of never bothering to find, or not being led to find, a vocation, or perhaps simply of having ideas and no capacity to live them. I dunno. Whichever, it sucks.


At 8:33 pm, Blogger nobody said...

Since you already think (or at least should think) me a loon, I'm free to say anything at all that seems right to me.

I can relate only too well to your feelings about work, your career, all of that. I had very similar feelings and I worked in the computer software business.

Having a job simply sucks, that's all there is to say about it. Most people seem able to accept that. Some of us simply cannot.

So here's the thing that I suggest to you. Do what you damn well please. Sit down, give yourself permission to be a free man for a bit, smoke some weed if that's what it takes to set you free, but sit down and allow yourself to be free. Then ask yourself what you truly wish to do. Then do it.

Of course it seems mad, so what? I can think of a number of things you could do that would end up providing more money than you make now without having a job. We have a common acquaintance who also lives in AU and who has for years supplemented his income by writing magazine articles.

There is a global depression looming. People are hungry to know what's going on, what to expect, to have some clue how to cope. You have financial understanding though I'm unsure the details, perhaps you could write articles for some financial magazine that dumbarsed investors read. As long as you can stay away from the communism pulpit you should be fine on that one.

That's not your idea though, it isn't what you wish to do. The thing of it is giving yourself permission. The more responsibilities you have, the more insane it seems to give yourself permission to follow your heart. At the same time it is only when you follow your heart that you can truly be sane.

At 9:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the moment I am too lazy to log in but you might wish to look at this:

work sans job


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