Okay, so it turns out I’m about as consistent with my blogging as I am with keeping a diary. (I’m not very good at it at all, for those of you who don’t know how bad I am at keeping a diary.) I’ve planned many a blog post over the past few weeks (and months…), but I haven’t actually got around to writing them yet, and here’s why: about two months ago, I put on the Suit. Now, I could have just said I got a job – a full time non-writing job – but that doesn’t really encapsulate the totality of the Suit, which is actually, you’ve probably guessed by now, a metaphor and not a garment at all (although it is that too).
So, what exactly is the Suit? Well, it’s this thing I put on every morning before going into the Office. No, I don’t mean the office that sits three feet from my couch, and the Suit is not a metaphor for my writing pyjamas (I’ve told you all about them, haven’t I?). The Suit is what I wear when I go into what my circle of friends and acquaintances refer to as my “REAL JOB”, which is to say that it isn’t a part time gig I do to scrape by while waiting for something else to come along. It’s a real, permanent, stable, full time, ongoing, time-sucking job.
Every writer (unless independently wealthy, married to money, or lucky enough to actually hit the BIG TIME) needs to work a non-writerly job, mostly because we like to eat, but also because we like to live in a place with at least four walls, a floor and, gods willing, even a roof (a ceiling may be asking too much). The latter is particularly important if you happen to live on the ground floor of an apartment block and don’t wish to be intimately familiar with your upstairs neighbours (I’m looking at you, Mr & Mrs we play loud music until all hours of every night – yes, I can hear everything you’re doing up there – everything). The goal is, usually, to balance time spent working (i.e. doing as little as possible to earn just enough money to ‘get by’) and time spent writing (obviously the more, the better – more on that in a sec). I’ve been doing this from the week I turned 17, though, so what makes the Suit so different?
Well, two things lend the Suit its metaphorical weight. The first is that I’ve just come off a glorious 6 months spent working full time as a writer (thank you, Arts SA!!!). This was such a magical time, and it confirmed to me that what I’ve spent the better half of my life pursuing is, indeed, what I should have been doing all along. Coming down off that and landing in the Suit (and consequently saying goodbye to my work pj’s) has been a bit of a shock to the system.
The second thing is that I’ve been avoiding the Suit my whole life. Everything I’ve done has been to avoid ever having to put the thing on. The Suit is a symbol of the commitment of a large allotment of my time to a job that isn’t writing. A friend of mine asked me recently how I’m going balancing working and writing. Usually, I’d laugh this sort of question off with a flippant remark about how it’s not going at all, but for the first time I actually stopped to think about the question, and here’s the thing – writers don’t balance working and writing time. That’s a false dilemma. Writing is what we want (and need) to do, but work is what we have to do, and it usually involves a steady, ongoing, and fairly constant sort of commitment of our time to do it. So, it’s not a matter of balancing writing and working, but rather of balancing writing and all that other stuff everybody else does outside of work; namely, catching up with friends and family, having hobbies, and just generally getting a life. That’s where we make our sacrifices. Work takes up a set amount of time each week (that’s why we resent it so much). What writers are really trying to balance is having a life and being a writer, and that’s what the Suit really symbolises for me. It’s a metaphor for all the time I don’t get to spend catching up with friends. It’s every missed family meal. It’s every holiday I’ve never taken. Were it not for the Suit, my writing time would be my working time, and all of my ‘free time’ (I’ve heard the phrase but never really understood what it means) would be spent doing all of the things regular people do after work.
None of this is being fair to the Suit itself, or to the Office, either, which actually doesn’t require me to wear a suit at all, but I wear it anyway because if I didn’t the whole metaphor would crumbled down around me. As I slip into my polished shoes every morning and tie that godsforsaken strip of fabric around my neck (the noose metaphor is just too obvious), all I can think about is how I’d rather be writing. And here’s the kicker – writing actually is my “REAL JOB” now. Working in a Suit at the Office is just my way of paying for it.