The Day Job Life à la Clark Kent

I think a lot about how certain stories stick around through the generations because they reveal universal truths: Romeo and Juliet says a lot about first love, Gulliver’s Travels satirizes mankind’s stupidities, and 1984 explores totalitarian societies across all time (hence the novel’s sudden spike in sales after Trump’s election).

The best superhero stories do the same thing.

I have a friend who can school me in all things Batman and comic book hero-related (Hi Dan), but today I want to talk specifically about Superman, the precursor of them all.  Or, as this entry’s title suggests, I want to talk about Clark Kent. Continue reading »

You Have to Find the Value in Your Work

I think a lot about where confidence comes from, and why sometimes I’m absolutely full of confidence about the work I’m doing (creative work, Day Job work, and everything else) while other times everything I’m working toward feels meaningless.

It’s amazing how quickly these two mindsets can switch back and forth in the same week, or even the same day, even when nothing’s really changed.  I’m still the same person, I still have the same job, I’m still working on the same novel, and I’m still trying to get my writing out there in the same ways.  Big successes usually deliver equally large boosts of confidence, while rejections usually set me back more than I care to admit.  But most of the time, though, there’s Continue reading »

Bonus Essay: Painting’s Just My Day Job

A few months back I painted a bedroom as a present/favor to my old housemates, which brought back a lot of memories from my old Day Job as a housepainter.  I like painting because it keeps me ridiculously focused while leaving my mind free to wander, and it provides a good amount of exercise without being too labor intensive.  In a lot of ways it’s the ideal Day Job, and if I could find a decent painting position, I’d probably scoop it right up.

This essay I wrote for Four Ties Literary Review sums up my feelings about the relationship between work and writing pretty well, and explains why painting puts me in the ideal frame of mind to do both.  The essay’s part of Four Ties’ issue about work in general, so I totally encourage you to check out the other pieces too.

Also, for those interested, I talk a little bit about the novel I’m working on, plus I reveal the identity of my old Secret Work-From-Home Day Job and talk more about how it affected me—since that kind of honesty’s important.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling so you can check out the real essay, which you should right now.

Why I Use a Different Pen When I’m at My Day Job

Those who know me best know that I’ve been using the same blue medium-sized Bic pens since high school, even though Bic redesigned this particular model six or so years ago.  (When I saw that the originals were getting harder to find I bought eight boxes of them from a reseller in South Korea and I’ve been using them ever since.  Don’t ask me what I’m going to do when I run out, because I’m honest to God not sure.)

From a practical standpoint, I prefer writing in blue because it forms a clearer contrast against black printed text, especially when I’m revising a draft by hand.  I also like that the cap on these pens comes off without sticking and that Continue reading »

“I Put in My Headphones and I’m Gone” – One Man’s Perspective on the Day Job Life

A few weeks ago I met a guy who worked in a large corporate office.  I don’t remember his name, and I’ve changed a few biographical details here to protect his anonymity, but I’m writing about him today because he was able to describe his job in one of the most perceptive ways I’d ever heard.

This guy—Mel, I’ll call him—had been working for the same company for ten or so years, and looked to be in his early fifties.  Before that he’d worked in restaurants, owned a business, managed a ski lodge, and even been a private investigator.  Now, though, he had a family, and lived Continue reading »

Why I Keep My Day Job a Secret Online

I get asked about my Secret Work-From-Home Day Job a lot.  Like, a LOT.  I think it’s because people are curious about how I keep the bills paid, but there’s also a fair amount of mystification: What kind of job could possibly be so important that Ian feels the need to hide it with such exaggeration?

First off, my Day Job’s nothing special or important—it’s actually pretty boring.  But I still don’t talk about it online because I think it’s bad form for anyone (creative person or otherwise) to talk about their Day Jobs online in ways that aren’t pertinent to their professional lives.  It’d be one thing if I were starting an amazing new job Continue reading »

The Perks of Being a Renaissance Man (or Woman)

Renaissance Man (ren-uh-sahns man), n, also called polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”)

    1. a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems (Wikipedia)
    2. a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas (Merriam-Webster)

I had a friend who was obsessed with the idea of the Renaissance Man (or Woman)—the ideal of gaining expertise in several different areas that you could then use to live a more well-rounded, versatile, and diverse life.  Meriwether Lewis, he insisted, was chosen to lead the Corps of Discovery Continue reading »

Book Recommendations for Creative People

So part of the reason I started my 99-word book review blog (besides giving me incentive to read more) was to share all the cool books that are out there and help people find new stuff to check out.  To summarize Aziz Ansari, the internet’s given us a ZILLION options for things to read, watch, listen to, visit, eat, and do, which can be overwhelming when you’re not sure where to start.

But if you’re reading this blog, odds are that you’ve got a creative mindset and you’re interested in trying to balance that with the rest of your responsibilities.  Here’s three books I’ve read over the past few years that you might find helpful for deciding what kind of creative life you want—they were definitely instrumental for me.
Continue reading »

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: An Interview with Poet James Crews

I met James Crews at the University of Nebraska where he worked as a mentor for my first-year teaching class while finishing his poetry PhD.  We kept in touch, and when we both found ourselves in the northeast I drove out to southern Vermont to the farmhouse he shares with his partner in Shaftsbury (which, coincidentally, is just up the road from Bennington College, where I did my undergrad). Continue reading »

Is Your Workplace Socially Toxic?

I’m an introvert, which means I gain energy from being alone and I exert energy whenever I’m around people, especially large groups.  This doesn’t mean that I hate being around people—in fact, a lot of people who know me will tell you that I’m at my most boisterous when I’m at parties or giving speeches.

This relates to work (specifically Day Job work) in that Continue reading »