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Friday, May 7, 2010

Day Job Benefits

I was thinking about how my work experience has helped me with writing (and how it's held me back).  Here's a rudimentary list:

  1. I've got the whole professionalism thing down.  I know how to craft an email and letter so it's concise and relevant.  This will give me an advantage when it comes to querying.  A query is different from a business letter, but it still must maintain a professional tone.  Got it.
  2. In one of my former incarnations, I had to help pull together government proposals. You think following query submission guidelines are tough?  Try reading a government RFP (request for proposal).  Their instruction book can be over 100 pages. They are excruciatingly specific about page counts and font size and everything.  We actually measured to make sure we didn't exceed X number of characters per vertical and horizontal inch.  You mess up anything on a government proposal and you are tossed out.  Font too small? You're out.  Over page count by even one line? You're out.  Forgot the table of contents or resumes?  You're out.  Most agents are way more forgiving!
  3. I've been an administrative assistant for almost 20 years, have worked in just about every department there is.  This doesn't necessarily help my writing per se, but the skills you develop as an admin certainly help manage a writing career. I know how to use the whole suite of Microsoft Office software.  I'm relatively organized.  If I wanted to create a newsletter down the road, I can create it myself and do the mail merge.  I can even apply for a reduced postage permit from the post office!
  4. I've had to do tons of research over the years.  Research can be a lot of fun...and let's face it we all have to do some research no matter what we're writing about!
Now, for the negatives:

  1. Work is a huge time sucker.  'Nuf said.
  2. Because my work is not creative in nature, I feel sometimes it takes me a while to get my head into a creative space where I can actually write.
  3. Because I work in a small office (just the two of us), I don't get the opportunity to interact with people face-to-face.  Let's face it people are a wonderful source of inspiration. This is a downer.
  4. I had another one....but now I can't remember.
So, you tell me:
(a) What is your day job?
(b) How does it help your writing?
(c) How does it hinder you?


I've decided -- because I'm in a giving kinda mood and because Mother's Day is this weekend -- I'm going to have a little giveaway.  It'll officially start on Sunday, but since a lot of us aren't around on the weekends, I'll keep it open for a week to give everyone a chance.  I'll post the details of what you gotta do to qualify on Sunday (cuz I'm still thinking that part up!)

I'll be giving away my favorite junk food in these puppies: 
(get it junk food in garbage cans?)


Matthew Rush said...

I do tech support. It basically sucks. Sending emails to clients does help technical and professional writing - a little bit. But most of my creativity gets sucked away.

Thanks for reminding us that it's not ALL bad though. Good post MissV.

Today's guest bloggers are Lisa and Laura Roecker!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm a stay-at-home mom now, but I used to be a pharmaceutical sales rep. This is how it helped my writing:

1. I'm smarter about marketing than I would have been otherwise.

2. I learned about writing fantasy. Every year, we had to write our business plans for the following year. A lot of creative writing occurred at this point . . . until head office realized most of the fabulous plans never happened. ;)

3. I learned the importance of networking.

4. And most importantly of all, I learned the skill of waiting. There's a lot of waiting involved with being a drug rep. Contrary to popular believe, we don't just waltz into the doctors office and have a 15 minute chat with him. We usually wait 5 minutes to an hour for a mere 30 seconds of face time. Even agents spend more time on our queries.

Have a great weekend, Miss V!

Angela said...

Oh my gosh, I love those cans! And what a great idea for a giveaway.

I'm very blessed to be a SAH, but I tell you, I do miss the interaction of other people. I find that I'm not as balanced as I could be and so I need to seek out opportunities to be with others as much as possible. :)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Oh those little cans are sweet.
Working in a bank has given me patience, but not much writing help. Damn the computer age and it's databases. heehee.
Although it hightened my observation and interpretation skills. :)

Wendy Ramer said...

My day job is professor of ESL (English as a Second Language). It helps me be reminding me of what bad writing looks like ;-) It hinders me b/c I tend to write too technically since I teach academic writing. When I sit down to write my novels, I have to force myself to loosen up. It's hard b/c I'm more like a yo-yo in that I can let out my line but then too quickly I bounce back until I'm tightly wound again ;-(

Creepy Query Girl said...

Great give away idea!

I teach english to primary school french children. I have to be creative- inventing games, coming up with lesson plans and creating documents for them to work on with imaging, etc...

But when it comes to writing, I feel like it's a completely different side of my creative spirit that shines through. With my job, I have to be very extroverted. If I'm not entertaining enough, attention starts to wane. It's exhausting.

When I write, I can let my imagination go wild while my body just takes a chill on the couch.

Steena Holmes said...

I'm a receptionist - but I used to be an Exec. Admin. Here's what I have learned - the job isn't what's important, it's the passion. NO matter what you do - if you have a passion for it, then it will work. On the practical side - I'm not only organized, but I've discovered the need to be creative in just about everything I do. Now - I love my job (for the most part). Only because I've learned how to block out all the 'outside' noise and concentrate on the 'good stuff' and write. Yep, I write at work. How awesome is that!

MissV said...

Matthew, You're support is an unappreciated field. When things aren't working it's somehow your fault (I doubt your sneaking in and breaking things when people aren't looking, however tempting it might be).

Stina, I did the SAHM thing with my first. Sometimes I miss it. I used to think sales reps had it made -- traveling, schmoozing with doctors over long lunches (don't laugh!). Then I started working here and part of my job is to keep the financial sales reps at bay. Your job was TOUGH!

Angela, come back on Sunday (or next week) to find out how you can win one of the cans! I know exactly how you feel. I used to take my little one out 'window shopping' at the mall just to be around other adults!

Lindsay, don't get me started on the evils of databases! I understand how useful they can be but sometimes they are just a giant pain in the watusi, aren't they?

Wendy, I have this image of you slouching at your desk then sitting stiff-backed, then slouching again as you yo-yo from one extreme to the other. hahaha.

Creepy, keeping kids' attention is exhausting absolutely. My second year of French in high school all we did was play Trivial Pursuit in French. Didn't teach us anything because our teacher would translate everything so we didn't have to decipher. Wasn't a bad idea, just poorly executed.

Steena, you get to write at work? I am totally and completely jealous! I agree about being passionate about your work. I tell this to my kids all the time. I don't care if they mop floors at the school, as long as they do it with gusto.

Slushpile Slut said...

Hey Miss V! I work with autistic children in their school, home and community! Gives me that warm fuzzy feeling but doesn't pay the bills to well! However I do get tons of ideas for pic books and Middle grade, kids are sooo funny! Looking forward to the giveaway!

Also I have a little something, something on my blog for you! Have a super weekend!

Shannon said...

Great reminder Miss V! I love your positive attitude!

As for me:
1) I am a writer and a researcher. I have two jobs, one as a writer for SEO web content and the other as an HR researcher and writer (mainly organizational reviews and job descriptions).

2) It helps my writing because my hands never leave the keyboard and I am always in writer mode.

3)It's time consuming and dissimilar to writing fiction. When switching gears, I really have to force myself to get in the right mindset. Also, since I work from home with a lot of deadlines, I miss human interaction during the day. A lot.

MissV said...

Slushy, kids are a great source of inspiration...and frustration; but let's keep this positive :D

What age group do you work with?

Shannon - I can see that as a double edge sword. Yay for working from home (saves on gas, lunches and snazzy new clothes), but do you find you're just 'typed' out by the time you get your for-pay work done?

Julie Musil said...

I'm a co-winner of the Blogger Momma award with you over at Slushpile Slut! Glad I found your blog!

Wendy Ramer said...

OMG MissV! You can see me! That is exactly what happens with my posture...for real.

Lydia Kang said...

I'm a part time doctor. I love my job and it comes in handy on my blog for Medical Mondays and also in writing fiction. I don't have to ask anyone about how a person dying from a stab wound would die. The science-y part of my life also enters into thinking up good plots for urban fantasy.
Great post, and I'd love some junk food!

MissV said...

Julie, thanks for popping over. Congratulations on the award!

Wendy, hahaha...I'm slouchy most of the time. Hunkered down on the couch or hiding in the bedroom.

Lydia, how cool. I may have some questions for you, I have plans to kill my villain at the end in a different kinda way....

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there!