Everyone Has To Wash the Dishes: Five Things Having A Job Is Teaching Me About Writing7:00 AM
Having a job comes with many perks.
those books aren't gonna pay for themselves.
Having been employed at a pasta restaurant for about a month now, I can safely say that I'm becoming an expert in all things having-a-job. Obviously. I know how to do the things and do them with minimal mess-ups. I know how to do my job and think about writing at the same time which is, of course, a very helpful and not at all distracting thing. A few nights ago at work I was thinking about my writing methods, and the things I want to be better at from now on, and it occurred to me that there are lots of things about my job that can be applied to writing to make my process better and make me a better writer in general.
So, since I love lists and talking about writing, guess what we're doing today.
(If you want more on this topic, the lovely Liz has written about this before and happens to be a little more eloquent, so do check her out.)
Without further ado: 5 things work has taught me about writing. or, things i already knew about writing that are also important when you have a job in the restaurant biz, which is a way less catchy title.
1. be nice to the people you work with.
Like, extra nice. For no reason. It's tempting to keep your eyes ahead, do your job, see everyone else as idiots, and get out of there as soon as you can. But in the writing community and in the restaurant, you're not working alone, not really. (In writing a lot more of it is solitary, of course, but still, when it gets down to publishers and agents and editors and such...not so much anymore.) Establishing yourself as a pleasant person who's willing to be patient and smile when things are stressful, as well as compliment people when they've earned it, people will, y'know, actually want to work with you. And it can't hurt to be someone who's known for being nice when extra favors come along. Putting the work into being a good co-worker, or a good fellow member of the writing community, just makes it a little easier for everyone.
|a captain jack sparrow gif had to be used.|
Really more of a life lesson than anything else.
Whatever you do, approach it with an attitude of doing it well, even if that's something like editing a paragraph or wiping off a table. It's easier to take the simple route, get it done, and move on with your life having not put too much work in, but excellent work for the sake of excellent work shows, and you can only go up that way. It's a good habit to go above and beyond what you're asked to do and be helpful in the workplace. It's a very very good habit to force yourself to treat your writing as something that deserves to be done with care and value. Even the little things become so much better when you treat them lie they're crucial, and hard work for the sake of doing well is nothing but good, good, good.
|unfortunately, working hard is tiring. coffee is needed.|
3. sometimes you've gotta do the dirty work.
Unfortunately, you have to do the dirty work most of the time, so buckle up and get 'er done, kids.
Dishes have to be done. Line edits have to be done. Both of them end up with you elbow-deep in crap that needs to be cleaned, wishing you could just get out of here already. If you're doing your job and taking the work seriously, whatever that work happens to be, you're going to end up with the dirty job no one wants eventually, and you're going to want to slack off. This part of the job is important too.
Everyone has to do the dirty work. Get over it. Take a deep breath, wallow in, and clean that stuff until it's shining because trust me, you'll feel better afterward, and the finished product will look great. In the meanttime, complaining and procrastinating just makes you look bad and you won't feel any better for it.
|even when ultimately this seems easier.|
4. ask questions. look like an idiot.
When you start a job you are going to look like a total fool. I learned this the hard way.
You don't know where the dishes go. You don't know how to use the register. You don't know how to string together a sentence to save your life, or how to properly use a semicolon, and you sure as heck don't know how to write in a way that doesn't make you want to impale yourself on a dull pencil rather than edit what you've just typed.
Everyone starts out this way going into new things, like writing or having a job. If you're writing the I-don't-know-what-i'm-doing period lasts, well, for your entire writing career. This is inevitable. But it does get better.
Don't be afraid to fail. Try what makes sense and if that's not right, apologize and move on. Learn the tricks. Observe the people who have been here longer than you and imitate what works for them. Learn your own styles. Ask plenty of questions and don't be too proud to take feedback. You look dumb right now, but trust me, it pays off eventually.
|this gif makes me laugh every. single. time.|
5. keep showing up.
In writing and working at a restaurant, showing up is the most important part.
It's tempting to quit sometimes. You've had a rough, tiring day, where nothing went the way it was supposed to go, and let's be real here, the easiest thing would be to not even bother anymore, quit, and go home. Probably watch Netflix instead of dealing with your problems.
Sometimes, though, the best possible option, the smartest and most helpful thing, and also the hardest thing, is to get up the next day, put on your uniform, and show up anyway, determined to do better. Sometimes you do better. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes you get free food. Either way, you can't fail or win unless you keep coming back, and every time you come back, you get better.
You also get paid.
Keep showing up. It's worth it.