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I’ve Been A Googler, A Screenwriter, And A Bartender—And I’ve Ditched The Idea Of A “Day Job”

Source | FastCompany : BY TY SHEPPARD

My favorite movie is Romancing the Stone. I don’t always admit that. If I’m feeling guarded, the answer is Do the Right Thing or Dead Poets Society. But to get lost in the jungle, seduce a renegade, dig up a giant emerald, fly off a waterfall and live to write the tale? That was all I ever wanted to do with my life, starting when I was nine years old.

While writing was the safest part of Joan Wilder’s adventure, it has been the riskiest of mine—and not just financially. Becoming a writer also meant confronting the fantasy of a neat and singular career arc. Like many people with artistic passions, I’d started out imagining I’d have a “day job” that could keep me going until my writing career took off, then do that full-time in its place.

That never came to pass. Instead, I found an alternative approach somewhere along the way, one that lets me balance two careers as a storyteller—one as a screenwriter and one as a communications manager at Google. Here’s how I managed to make that happen, and what I’ve learned in the process.

EARLY DAYS DABBLING

In my first four years after undergrad, I cycled through a few different roles. I was a magazine editor (six months), a Hollywood assistant (one year), an ad-agency temp (six months), and a tech PR guy (two years). I liked PR the least, but somehow I lasted in that stint the longest. I hated cold-calling reporters. They usually hung up on me. But I kept showing up at work the next day, even when some of my colleagues didn’t.

In 2001, when the so-called “New Economy” crashed, I was working for a small PR agency that specialized in internet startups. One by one, our clients’ domains went dark. In the aimless days following my layoff, I became strangely obsessed with Animal Planet. The creatures helped me reconnect with my basic needs. I had water, food, and shelter, but none of my post-college jobs had nourished what I saw as basic career fulfillment.

So I decided the tech bust was a great time to refresh my artistic dreams, and followed a friend to Madrid. I committed to staying long enough to write my first book-length collection of short stories. For a year, I wrote every day from midnight until 4:00 a.m. I taught English in the afternoons and survived on caffeine and street kebabs.

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