Does the Dream Job Exist? (Why I’ve Started Writing Again)

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No, it doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job as a writer; to this day it amazes me that I actually get paid to eat, play and write about eating and playing. It’s a job that gives me much satisfaction because I get to create. So perhaps some context would be helpful in unpacking one simple reason why I don’t think the ‘dream job’ exists, notwithstanding all of the above.

I started freelance writing in my second year of uni because I’d just changed majors from Psychology to Sociology, which meant that I had to think of career prospects other than becoming a Clinical Psychologist. The more I wrote, the more fun it got, and the more viable a full-time career in writing seemed. I’d excitedly head back to my room on campus after lectures/tutorials/study sessions in the library so that I could write food, travel and lifestyle articles every few weeks. Heck, I was writing them even when I was supposed to be studying. Writing these articles gave me a distraction from the dense 400-page kernel of weekly Sociological readings, something different from the mundane (SGAG’s Annette wrote a really comprehensive piece on this and calls it ‘The Side Project Syndrome’, go check it out).

But that’s just it. Now that I no longer have academic journals to read nor essays to write, my creative juices are no longer pent up. In fact, the converse is true. As a day job, content creation requires that I dig deep to come up with novel ideas throughout the week, not just when I’m bursting with fresh perspectives, as was the case back when I was a freelance writer.

Sure, this idea of a brain drain may only apply to certain industries. Sure, I’m still at my first full-time job and have yet to explore the millions of other options out there. But I’m not referring to the specifics of every job there is in the world. I’m pointing to one fundamental, epistemological difference between a dream and a job:

A dream is something that flows freely. A job is something that has to be done – not just when you feel like it.

In other words, the concept of a ‘dream job’ is one that is inherently ironic. Bloggers and influencers who are paid to travel the world have to come up with content within a set framework and a set time if they wish to get remunerated. Recording artistes face pressure from their labels to come up with a certain number of songs for their next album, not just however many songs they feel inspired to write. Business owners need to please their clients and meet their clients’ deadlines.

So unless you’ve got a trust fund or some form of substantial wealth – in which case, you’d be talking more about a hobby than a job that you depend on for your livelihood – you’ll eventually wind up taking on projects that aren’t 100% spontaneous, even if they’re where your passions lie.

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Paradoxically, this brain drain is the first of three reasons why I’ve started writing again. By this I don’t mean writing per se, but writing spontaneously in my free time.

#1. Writing to overcome writer’s block

This might sound like a contradiction, but it’s a paradox that works.

The first editor I’ve ever had the privilege of working under once told me as a friend that writing for an organization will never be the same as writing for oneself, because the former involves aligning to the organization’s message, tone of voice and style – “that’s why many writers keep a personal blog, personal gratification”.

In fact, writing about anything and everything in my personal life (which I obviously can’t write about for work) doesn’t just gratify. It aids in the constant flow of (rather than further drain) creative ideas – something that I depend on at work everyday.

#2.  Sociology & Karl Marx

Despite all the controversy surrounding how his work has been (mis)interpreted, Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation is probably one of the most fascinating theories students of Sociology come across. Man, he posits, has an innate need to create because it gives him psychological satisfaction. Obviously, writing does this for me.

#3. I don’t want to let life pass me by

My thesis supervisor always emphasized how writing is one of the best ways to reflect, to think about the condition of humanity, and to concretize one’s thoughts. Now that I’m more than a quarter of a century old, I don’t want to let life pass me by without processing what’s going on around me.

But neither do I want to feed a negative spirit of self-entitlement. That is why I’m committing to not posting any rants, only reflections, in the ‘Musings’ section.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this (lengthy) first post! I hope this means you’ll be coming back for more.

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