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.
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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 »

Unpaid Overtime is Not Cool (and What You Can Do About It)

There’s a lot of things I hate (rude people, traffic jams, being called “buddy” in conversation), but not getting paid for the work I’ve done takes the top slot.  This isn’t because I’ve been stiffed on a paycheck, but because I’ve had jobs where I had to face off against my arch nemesis unpaid overtime.

Check out this graph from the Economic Policy Institute showing Continue reading »

Working for Your Passion vs. Working for Your Weekends: The Pros and Cons

As far as I can figure, there are two ways to think about the work-life balance:

In the first model, people spend most of their working time (or at least as much time as possible) doing work that’s meaningful to them.  That work can be creating something powerful or unique, doing something to better the community or the world, or simply providing a service that makes people happy.  In return, Continue reading »