Monday, February 16, 2009


I just received my second paid writing job, and I am thrilled. Who knew a $200 gig could mean so much?

It may sound strange, but I don't think I worked so hard when I worked in a law firm. Sure, I worked long hours. I remember many stretches when we rolled out of bed at 6am, rolled into the office, and rolled back into bed at midnight. And there were nights when I stayed up researching, trying to figure out the best arguments, preparing for that deposition, sweating over the right answer to provide to the client. Oh, and never mind some miserable holidays when I was stuck alone in the office.

But this feels different somehow. Less detached. As if it will take all of me to get it right. As if something within me is at stake, not just a job, not just a paycheck. That it wouldn't be enough for someone else to say it's good, that I need to know that it is. And that feels satisfying somehow.

There are times when I feel slightly embarrassed to be exploring career choices at my age. I'm almost middle aged, for god's sakes. Am I not supposed to have figured it out by now? And I feel silly when I feel excited about the things that used to excite me when I was in college. Like being a part of a group of writers who have things to say. Being excited to learn about things, and the thought of taking up some issue to try to make some point, even if they fall on deaf ears. Regression, perhaps?

Quite likely, yes.

But then I think of some people who turn old before their time. And that's not a pretty sight either.


  1. That's ok. I graduated college and worked as a paralegal for 2 years and left to figure out what to do and wanted to do something creative and went to advertising and it turned out NOT to be creative but very boring and mechanical so I took some CLE credits and rediscovered why I had thought about law school and applied thinking it would be as intellectually interesting as college and it wasnt and I graduated in 08 never actually having worked as an attorney but still working in a legal capacity that I would HATE being a lawyer and now I am trying to shift my career into one of the few passions I actually have by applying for non-paid internships at the hope someone will give me the chance to...start all over again :) I may never have practiced as a real attorney but Im already grateful I may not have to with the legal market imploding and all.

  2. You see the issue - either explore now, or be one of those people in law firm land who appears to have given up all brain wave activity that does not produce billable hours. What kind of a life is that?

  3. Congratulations. I know what you mean about the excitement of the job not neatly correlating to the amount of compensation. I have collected some big firm paychecks for work that left me feeling pretty empty and received nothing for hard work that left me fulfilled.

    Personally, I think the law has warped my perspective on both time and money. If one has been fortunate enough to collect a big firm salary for a while, it is easy to lose sight of how much money people make in other jobs. Similarly, when viewed through the spectrum of the billable hour, efficiency becomes overrated. I know I often feel pressure to bill all the time I can because it is one of the few variables over which I have some control. Though that feeling comes less often as time goes on. Now, I am just as likely to be embarrassed by not spending less time at work. Perhaps the need to feel like I am getting my personal time is the counterpart to the need to feel productive that you wrote about a while back about.

  4. Isn't there some statistic that says most people change careers five times during their lives? The ability to change paths -- especially after one has put much investment into the old one -- shows courage and resilience, not immaturity. Good for you for making these changes right now!

  5. I think what you're doing is great.

    I think writing is something you - by which I mean, one - invest yourself totally in, if you're someone who is a natural writer (which you are).

    And I don't think you're regressing at all. You're simply seeing what you really enjoy and what really motivates you in this world. $200 isn't the motivation, it's seeing your name in print, it's knowing you used your words in a way to convey as best you could exactly what you thought and saw and how you felt.

    Journalism may not be art - it's perhaps (probably) first and foremost about getting your facts straight, and then triple-checking - but writing of any sort (including journalism) is, or can be.

    Did I contradict myself in that sentence? Maybe - but I got my point across, I hope, and that's the whole goal of this endeavor, isn't it? It's more than fun, it's fulfilling, it's *satisfying* in a deeper meaning of the word.

    Fellow U of C alum

  6. I've always said I feel like an 86 year old trapped in a 32 year old's (or whatever age I have been at the time) body.

    Now quiet down and get the hell off my lawn, ya whippersnapper, you!