My name’s Ian Rogers, and when I was young I knew I wanted to create things that people would enjoy while also making them think. I just didn’t know what those things would be or how to go about making them.
I also worked a lot when I was younger, first at summer jobs in middle school, then at after-school jobs in high school, and eventually at work-study jobs in college. In college I also realized that writing was the best way for me to create things that people liked, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write yet and still didn’t know how one became a writer. This led to my working a lot of internships and odd jobs after college to (barely) keep my student loans and other bills paid. This was a crazy time, but it taught me a lot about being self-reliant and pursuing different opportunities as they come up.
My first full-time, salaried job after college was teaching English in Japan at an eikaiwa (conversation school) where I wore a suit and tie every day and taught grammar and conversation lessons to adults. This involved both talking to Japanese students about their lives and more complicated stuff like explaining the difference between whether and if. I worked a lot during those two years, but I also saw a lot of things I’d never seen before and navigated the entirely new and unexpected world that is Japan. I also experienced how the Japanese divide their work and home lives in a way that’s entirely different from how Westerners do, which became the basis for my first novel.
After I came back, I had a novel manuscript in progress but also more bills that needed paying. My big problem was that my new resume seemed to narrowly pin me as an uncertified English teacher and nothing else, so I had trouble finding full-time work and went back to doing odd jobs. When I finally found full-time work it was in a busy office with lots of unpaid overtime and a long commute, but the people there really cared about their jobs, making it a rewarding but stressful place to work. Meanwhile, I was also trying to finish my novel draft in the evenings and on weekends—which I eventually did, but it took a long time.
Somewhere along the way I heard that everyone in the 21st century who wants to be a writer goes to grad school, which sounded a whole lot better than working in an office. This led to my applying to a lot of writing programs (also in the evenings and on weekends) and getting a teaching assistantship at the University of Nebraska. In plain English, this meant that in exchange for teaching first-year English writing classes, the university paid my grad tuition and gave me a living stipend so I wouldn’t have to take out loans. It was a good enough deal that I packed up my Volvo and moved to the Midwest.
Grad school was pretty helpful in that it gave me a lot of guidance for improving my writing and let me structure my days mostly how I wanted (i.e., writing in the mornings instead of spending those mornings at a Day Job), but stressful in that it required fitting into an academic world that I wasn’t sure was for me. Plus, well-paying jobs in academia aren’t too easy to get right now, and the struggle to get those jobs is, to put it mildly, fierce.
The biggest things I got out of academia were inspiration for my second novel (still in progress), a lot of contacts, and tons of opportunities: a job in a greenhouse that gave me lots of time for writing, editing work that brings in extra cash, and some credentials that helped me snag the Secret Office Day Job where I work now. Grad school also showed me that I get about the same amount of writing done as a grad student as I do when I work full time—though not as much as when I work part time.
All of these experiences inspired this website. I wanted to explore how creative people make their way in the world, the challenges they face, and the way they keep the bills paid, especially in the 21st century, and especially when they’re just starting out. (SPOILER: There’s no one way to make your life work as a creative person.)
So stick around, check out the Day Job blog, the list of books I’ve been reading, the Art Swap exchanges, or my other projects. I hope you find something that inspires you—or helps you get your shit done.