Not a starving artist.

I am 30 years old and I am nowhere near accomplished in my goals as a writer. Or as a sewist for that matter. Or in any other freely creative aspect of my life. And I am completely okay with that.

When I was about 18 or 19 years old I made a decision. I had finished school with poor marks and zero direction due to the truest of teenage distractions (boys and booze). I had toyed with many career paths. I was jobless, had no money and limited support, and just wanted to make a steady income. Deep down I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t going to burden people who couldn’t afford it with the task of propping up my dreams. So I had to shelve them. I had to get a job. I didn’t just have to get a job, but I also needed a career. Something that could eventually keep my head above water so much that I could maybe afford to write as well. Something that would carry me through being crap at my craft, then mediocre, then maybe one day good. Something that could carry me through submissions and rejections. And maybe even through a book deal or a writing contract that paid me money, but never enough to live off. Something to fall back on. Something to keep me from mounds of debt.

So I got a job at the local BigW and enrolled in a uni entry course. I fumbled my way into a social science degree: interesting enough to keep me engaged, but with enough majors available that might actually guide me to a job. I majored in Human Resources. I got a plum job in a graduate program for the state government in Sydney. I bounced around for a few years through gruelling, dull, busy-work and being tasked with managing trumped up projects. I had relationships and heartbreak. I moved house many times, got home sick for Newcastle and went running back there to a job I didn’t really want, giving up lots of money in the process. I dealt with trauma, death and ill health. I suffered.

Then I interviewed for a job doing what I was finally good at, at a place I could find meaning. I now work for a disability service provider, in HR, doing work I genuinely enjoy. I’ve done it for long enough to be confident in the advice I give.  I won’t for a second suggest that I have “made it” in this career. I could learn to do this well for the rest of my life. But I can now finally say that I am in a place where my career is not penetrating my every waking moment.

So, I am writing again.

When I was young and quite stupid in all other aspects of my life, I made a decision that the starving artist path was too hard. It was a very difficult decision to make but I take no shame in it and I don’t regret it. It was a choice that gave me power to now write with freedom and to not become disenchanted when my craft isn’t good enough to put food on the table. My creativity will never have that burden now.

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And here I was thinking ‘slashes’ were just kinky fan fiction match ups

But alas, there are other slashes in our lives. Those who pursue multiple careers.

I recently finished reading a book called One Person/Multiple Careers: A new model for work/life success by Marci Alboher. I tell you what I was impressed. Impressed and relieved. Turns out I am not just being a bratty Gen Y-er for not wanting just one thing in life, hundreds of people do it, many of them one or two generations older than Gen Y.

I think one of the key parts of this whole concept, for me at least, is the fact that I have no desire to climb any corporate ladder. I just want to be good at what I do and enjoy what I do, taking it as far as a choose. I want to know, at the end of my life, that I tried alot of things, that I was truly happy, not just happy enough, and that I contributed something to the world, one way or another.

The same can be said for most successful slashes, who do so many things well. The most common of all slashes, of course, are working mothers. I want to acknowledge that and go further and say that they are probably among the hardest working of the slashes. But they are not the only ones. In this book I read about a lawyer/film maker, a real estate agent/professional french horn player and a pilates instructor/art consultant. I actually heard about multiple careerers a few years ago, in an article which listed a biology researcher/butterfly breeder (for weddings etc) and a lawyer/secondhand wedding dress dealer. And then there are people in my own life. My colleague balances professional work with her role in a string quartet, others balance day jobs with party planning or demonstration work they truly love such as Thermomix or Tupperware. Still more run their own minor craft businesses on Etsy or create custom artwork alongside retail employment and parenting. Some choose to have two careers, some  have no choice as the finances demand it, others are using their ‘base’ career to support the early days of their ‘dream’ career.

This bodes so well with me! I envisage so many things I want to do with my life. My interests change frequently and I can’t imagine myself tied to one path for the rest of my life! I have already professionally worked in HR and Communications, I now work in Industrial Relations. My biggest, most pulling goal in life is to write teen or young adult fiction, and I would also love to start my own business, somehow related to sewing or tea. I would love to return to uni to study something completely different such as biology or teaching. There is every chance, with more experience, I could become a consultant in the IR field, tailoring my work hours to suit my needs. I would also love the opportunity to return to communications, or try public relations, journalism, or freelance writing.

Anyone who feels this way should read this book. It provides many examples as to the different lives slashes lead. You will come across real tips and guidance to making a slash life work. The prose is a blend of anecdotes and case study. A number of reviews I read of this book seemed to decry the lack of point by point guidance as to how to become a slash, but as every case will be different I don’t think this was possible or necessary. If you read the stories, you can extrapolate alot of meaning and advice and when I finished reading I felt no question went unanswered.

Most importantly, this book made me feel less flighty and more capable of one day achieving an exciting and rewarding balance of multiple careers. It also was a good reminder that in order for my future vision to work I need to be solidly good at my base career before I take the leap into any new one. This was valuable advice to counter the risk that inherently comes when first attempting to slash.

Absolutely a great read and at a great time in my life. Highly recommended!