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The Lonely One
09-29-2009, 01:10 AM
I wonder if I am alone in this situation I'm facing right now. I was kind of looking for some support/to see if anyone else has faced this.

I am at the cusp of quitting my job as a crime reporter, because, in all honesty, I hate everything about it. It's morally a completely bad fit for me as a person, it's emotionally draining and I've become a different person over the course of a couple of years. I'm bitter, I hope people don't die so I won't have to call and get cussed out by their families.

My editors are awful bosses (not saying this of all editors--just mine).

It's just, to me, an awful, awful job.

It's a writing job, sure, but the difference feels too vast for me to say "I like fiction, well, at least I have a day job writing." No, to me it's the equivalent of working at Walmart or any other job. The writing is mindless and formulaic; the job itself is talking to people who don't want to talk to me. Some people have the drive, the fuck-or-be-fucked approach to life.

Me, I'd rather work in a library, or something more meaningful than pretending to care about the truth when in reality the media will fuck ANYONE for ANY REASON for a story; it ain't about the mother fucking truth, and I'll argue that all day. It's about selling ad space and covering costs in a dying industry, it's about outdoing the competition at the cost of all moral decency because that will sell the goddamn paper. Or, in reality, it won't, if you've payed attention to the way companies like Gannett are floundering right into the toilet bowl. (Flush.)

The thing is, this kind of job is not writing to me. It's not even on the same planet as fiction, as the art of language.

And I don't know if I'm alone but to be honest I've already taken my vacation time on short notice and have begun looking for another job; I don't plan on returning to the paper for more than a week's notice.

And I feel alone.

Sorry I've gone on forever here but I was only curious if there's anyone been there/done that. I remember Steve Almond mentioned at one point being a staff writer at a paper and hating it as well, ultimately doing freelance and eventually becoming quite distinguished doing it.

I don't know. I guess I just need someone to throw me a bone.

-Lonely one, actually feeling a bit lonely out there on a limb.

Red-Green
09-29-2009, 01:26 AM
My experience has been that even pleasant writing jobs sucked my will to write fiction. If I spent 40 hours a week writing annual reports and whatnot, I didn't have the energy to write anything else. I had to quit my writing job to get serious about my fiction.

The Lonely One
09-29-2009, 01:28 AM
My experience has been that even pleasant writing jobs sucked my will to write fiction. If I spent 40 hours a week writing annual reports and whatnot, I didn't have the energy to write anything else. I had to quit my writing job to get serious about my fiction.

This is exactly what I'm experiencing now. And I'd rather support my family and feed my wife/pets than write fiction (a close second), but I won't be able to do either once I go freaking bat-shit insane.

It's good to hear I'm not alone in the being-drained category.

Linda Adams
09-29-2009, 02:16 AM
Been there, done that.

When I was college, I thought writing was writing. I didn't get that fiction was quite different from other forms of writing. So I took journalism classes, though I struggled to maintain my interest in them. When I enlisted in the army, they were willing to offer a newspaper reporter job for me--but I turned it down.

Alas, they caught up with me a few years later. The Group Sergeant Major discovered I could write and volunteered me for the Group reporter. This, by the way, was in addition to my regular military job, and both were fulltime jobs. That probably kept me from having the fate of my predecessor, who was actually a reporter by training and was put on every detail imaginable.

I hated the job and was running around so much that I burned myself out after six weeks. I couldn't even do my own fiction writing because it took too much out of me.

swvaughn
09-29-2009, 11:12 PM
You are not alone.

I work for a media magazine.

I am hoping against hope that by next spring, I'll be able to quit...

ChaosTitan
09-29-2009, 11:21 PM
I think one of the best things I ever did was go into retail right out of college. It wasn't what I wanted to do with my degree, but boy did it make me write. Writing became an escape from a moderately dull job that came complete with a regular stream of asshole customers.

I was able to go home, leave the job behind, and sit down to play with my characters and worlds. And sometimes take my frustration out on my characters. A writing job combined with novel writing would have wiped any energy I had to write fiction--not to mention it would have killed my wrists and my metabolism.

Red-Green
09-30-2009, 12:14 AM
Writing became an escape from a moderately dull job that came complete with a regular stream of asshole customers.


After I quit my writing job, this is what I looked for and ultimately found in a day job. I'm a secretary for an academic department at a big state university. It's pretty mindless stuff, but that means I don't take it home with me and it doesn't drain my writing energy.

icerose
09-30-2009, 12:29 AM
My husband asks me once why I don't take up article writing since there's a lot of good jobs out there for that.

Outside of the fact that I can't write articles to save my life, this is why. I don't want to hate writing. Writing articles and other technical stuff would make me not want to look at a pencil or word processor.

Bubastes
09-30-2009, 12:47 AM
After I quit my writing job, this is what I looked for and ultimately found in a day job. I'm a secretary for an academic department at a big state university. It's pretty mindless stuff, but that means I don't take it home with me and it doesn't drain my writing energy.

I think that's the key for a day job that works with your writing. My current day job is an energy and brain suck, which doesn't help my writing one bit.

The Lonely One
09-30-2009, 01:47 AM
but that means I don't take it home with me

bingo. People at work wonder why I didn't catch the fatal crash on the 6 o'clock news when they did.

It's because I don't watch the god-awful news at home. I CAN'T take it home with me to that degree anymore. I will burn the mother freaking building down.

Please people think of me this week; a lot of big changes coming at once.

You guys have been a huge support to my fiction and ultimately, for its sake and mine, it's the right choice to leave this job. I know it is. I've known it is. But I'm tired of using the economy as an excuse. It's time.

MGraybosch
09-30-2009, 01:56 AM
I don't know. I guess I just need someone to throw me a bone.

I can't really help you, but I've had similar experiences as a computer programmer. I used to code for fun, but coding stopped being fun once I started doing it for a living. You'll be better off with a day job that has nothing to do with writing, though it'll be hard at first.

KTC
09-30-2009, 02:03 AM
I could see how that would be draining, TLO...it would probably wear on me too.

In all my freelance writing I try to handpick my jobs...only write about things I have a passion for. It's not always easy. I sometimes take on articles that don't interest me in the least as favours to regular editors. I took on one a couple years ago that I hated so much it almost made me leave freelancing. Not that it was as weighty as crime reporting must surely be...it was just mind-numbingly boring and something I just did not give a shit about. It was the hardest 800 words I ever wrote. Now I'm even more pickier about the topics I write about.

So far...nothing has curbed my fiction writing enthusiasm. Knock on wood.

Maybe it's time for you to find something else. I really could see that something like what you're covering could tear away at you...one story at a time, until you're broken. I would probably get too emotionally involved in every case. It'd be like wearing concrete shoes in the pool.

Good luck...whatever you decide to do.

MsGneiss
09-30-2009, 03:27 AM
Good luck Lonely One, I know just how you feel. I do a lot of academic writing for money, as well as a lot of academic writing for school. I enjoy it, but it certainly leaves little time and little brain power for fiction writing. It's difficult to switch hats, and fiction takes a back seat to the technical writing, which consumes my time and will to live. I wish you luck in the transition, it certainly sounds like the right move.

Richard White
09-30-2009, 04:50 AM
I'm a tech writer for a government contractor.

Been doing it for 10 years now. Doesn't normally affect my writing any more than any other full-time job might. I mean, a stressful day at work is a stressful day at work, whether I was shoveling asphalt or humping a ruck-sack or translating Engineerese into English

CEtchison
09-30-2009, 05:09 AM
I totally understand, Lonely One. Out of college I worked as an oil and gas reporter for the business section. *snooze* Being in Oklahoma, it's a decent beat for a rookie out of the gate, but damn if I didn't want to slit my wrists from sheer boredom. I left within a year when I was hired to do public relations for a computer consulting company. I was one of those people out there like Chicken Little yelling, "The sky will fall if you don't do your Y2K conversions like asap!" LOL Then I got married, moved to Dallas, did marketing communications for an architectural/engineering firm. I thought oil and gas was boring. lol Moved on to do some grant writing for a pediatric specialist at a children's hospital and stayed there until my dream job came around. I finally landed a job working in the publications department for the Texas Rangers (baseball... not law enforcement). I worked there until I became a stay at home mommy.

Writing can take you lots of different places. Some are just as bad, if not worse, than some newspaper gigs. But there are others where you get to do what you like, dabble in a little something extra and still not have the stress you have in your current situation.

Me personally, I wouldn't rule out every job that has a writing element. If you're good at it, use it. And maybe you'll find a gig where the perks are season tickets or unlimited golf, if that's your kind of thing. I do, however, wish you all the best in your job search for something different.

The Lonely One
09-30-2009, 05:55 AM
Thanks everyone. I am realizing more and more what a bitter person I've become because of the place I am in in my life right now. It's toxic, and I believe now more than ever I need to break free. It's scary as hell.

I think unless something great comes along I won't be seeking out writing gigs (non-fiction). I'm still in college and have been compelled to finish a masters in Library Sciences, perhaps doing it online while working something else. I've proven to myself that a 40-hour work week and 9 hours of school a semester are doable, doubly so online.

It's very heartening to hear all the stories of working writers. I guess I've just recognized a divide; I have a friend, a fellow reporter, who would do anything just to have a writing job. I respect his efforts, as I know he's been through hell and back to be where he is now, which still isn't the greatest spot to be in (we're a low-rung, privately-owned daily who can't cover our costs). He's done freelance for shit and lived in his car with a cat. I can't say I'd do the same to pursue any kind of writing other than my own.

I wish you all the best in your endeavors, whatever they may be at this point in time. It does mean a lot that you folks have stopped in to put a hand on the ol' shoulder.

Whenever I can return the favor.

ideagirl
09-30-2009, 06:50 PM
I am at the cusp of quitting my job as a crime reporter, because, in all honesty, I hate everything about it. It's morally a completely bad fit for me as a person, it's emotionally draining and I've become a different person over the course of a couple of years. I'm bitter, I hope people don't die so I won't have to call and get cussed out by their families.

My editors are awful bosses (not saying this of all editors--just mine).

It's just, to me, an awful, awful job.

It's a writing job, sure, but the difference feels too vast for me to say "I like fiction, well, at least I have a day job writing." No, to me it's the equivalent of working at Walmart or any other job.

I don't think this problem exists with writing jobs in general. I'm a lawyer, I do almost nothing but write (well, read cases and write memos and briefs). I think it's making me a better writer in that I am continually forced to get the thing FINISHED by a particular deadline, which is not just a good habit to get into, but also a minor revelation: "Hey, I CAN write fast! I can completely ignore what I used to call writer's block and just get the damn thing on paper!" And this isn't just an impression--I wrote a novel while in law school and rewrote it during my first couple years as a lawyer, so obviously the day job writing did no damage at all to the kind of writing I really care about.

But I wouldn't feel that way if I were a criminal lawyer. I think I'd hate it as much as you hate your job--in fact I know I would, because I spent a summer in law school interning at the public defender's office, and it was awful to be writing about murder and rape and the depths of human depravity all the time. (As you can probably guess, I don't like reading that stuff either--I'm not a big fan of crime fiction or fiction in which a major character is cruel/criminal/otherwise evil).

So I think the problem for you is the content--the crime, that is. And also the context: you obviously despise the industry you're in. Can you move into a different topic area and still be a reporter or newspaper writer, as a way of getting different experience and making your job less painful? Imagine how different you'd feel if your job were not interviewing crime victims and writing about them, but, say, eating out on the company dime and then writing restaurant reviews. That would be a whole different WORLD. It still wouldn't do much for your urge to write something meaningful, but it'd be a lot more fun, and I happen to know a San Francisco writer who started out writing restaurant reviews, got semi-famous because her reviews were just insane and deranged and creative, and now has a short story collection out.

Or, can you parlay your reporting experience into some other kind of writing job? Grantwriting, for example--that's a pleasant job, because you're writing for a good cause, and most of the time everyone's happy to see you ("Oh, here's the guy who gets money for us!"). If you think you might be into grantwriting, check out the book "Writing For A Good Cause."