Posts Tagged ‘writing about jobs’

Close Gates, outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Close Gates, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

On Friday, February 27th, 2009, I became a national statistic — I lost my job. Like most writers, I write for a living. I also have a part-time bread and butter job that helps pay the bills. In January, when all of the temporary employees at the corporation where I worked were laid off (except me), I saw the writing on the wall. A month later, after a 5-year stint at a company that paid well, offered independence, flexibility, and respected my work, poof! I was gone. Monday of the same week, 45 permanent employees got the ax; some had been there 25 or 30 years.

In Minnesota alone, 55,000 people lost their jobs over the last year, a staggering number that, according to one news station, could fill two Metrodomes. The second week of March, when I put in my claim for unemployment, the Minnesota Unemployment website crashed from the volume of new claims. It’s predicted that 72,000 more Minnesotans will lose their jobs through 2010, including 15,000 in construction, 42,000 in manufacturing, and 15,000 in professional and business services.

Of course, Minnesota is not alone. The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February 2009, seasonally adjusted, up from 7.6 percent the prior month and from 4.8 percent a year earlier. In February, total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 651,000 over the month and by 4,168,000 from a year earlier. According to a CBS article at the WCCO website (a local news channel that has also experienced layoffs) the February job loss numbers look something like this:

February 2009 U. S. Job Loss Numbers

Temporary help services ……………………………78,000
Factories ………………………………………………168,000
Construction ……………………………………………104,000
Retailers …………………………………………………40,000
Professional and business services  ……………180,000
Financial companies ……………………………………44,000
Leisure and hospitality firms …………………………33,000

At times, I’m scared. Some nights I can’t sleep. And the reality of not having steady income slips into my thoughts on a daily basis. It puts added strain on my relationship, even though I have an understanding partner who is loving and supportive. Responsibilities shift, and any part of my identity that is wrapped up in what I do for a living takes a beating. The structure of my life has completely changed.

I had to create new daily rituals to keep myself from spinning. I spent the first week unemployed scrambling to make changes to money-related items I used to take for granted: research guidelines around continued health insurance, apply for unemployment, reduce payments on my car insurance by checking with my agent about a different policy. I updated old copies of chronological, functional, and artistic resumes. I’m still working with the temporary agency that on the very day I was laid-off, closed their nearby office and consolidated to downtown Minneapolis.

Yet I remain optimistic. The flip side of the coin is that I’m a writer, an artist and photographer, with all the usual complaints about not having enough time for my creative pursuits. Now I do. I have been given the gift of time. What will I do with it? Will I be tossed away, fret and fume, worry that I don’t have a job? Or see it as an opportunity, a gateway to reinvent myself, to focus on my writing.

   Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It depends on which day you ask me. I realize there are probably many other red Ravine readers who are going through layoffs, are stressed-out or down about money. Not knowing how they will pay their mortgage or put food on the table. What about people who have been out of work for many, many months. Or have taken jobs they would not ordinarily take, just to have money coming in.

How do you deal with the pressures of not working (or working but not making enough money to make ends meet). Is there anyone who has been laid off, lost their savings, posted their resume 1000 places and gotten no bites. If you are a writer or an artist, how are you coping with extra time and no money. Is it easier to work on creative projects? Or harder because of the stress. How is it affecting your children. What about health insurance?

When I start to feel crazy, my practices help sustain me: red Ravine, Writing Practice, mandalas, haiku. It’s helpful to get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, and eat lunch at noon. I do business related items, then have time to write, refill the well, revisit creative projects. But that nagging Monkey Mind. What if I’m in the same place months later?

      Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Open Gateway, in the flow, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, all photos © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The unemployment rate is predicted to peak out around 9.5 percent next Spring. Yet the state of Colorado shows a decline in layoffs for the first time in 6 months. It’s true that 91.9% of the population still have their jobs. And a few areas such as education, health services, and government, which boosted employment last month, have been spared. F. Scott Fitzgerald might say that a “vast carelessness” has caused this money mess. But maybe there is a silver lining. Is the glass half empty or half full? What do you say?


NPR Announces Cuts To Staff, Programs
MPR Midmorning: February Layoffs Take a Toll
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mass Layoffs in February 2009
WCCO U.S. & World: Unemployment Hits 8.1 Percent, Highest Since ’83
Denver Business Journal: Mass Layoffs Decline in Colorado for 1st Time in 6 Months

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 24th, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – JOB! WHAT JOB?, Make Positive Effort For The Good

Read Full Post »

By Sharon J. Anderson

Fantasy Jobs (in chronological order)
Miss America
Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”
Maria in “The Sound of Music”
Nancy Drew
Sherlock Holmes
Barbara Bain in “Mission: Impossible”
Stephanie Powers in “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”
Diana Rigg in “The Avengers
Margaret Mitchell and/or Scarlett O’Hara
A keyboard player for Carole King, Judy Collins or Joni Mitchell
Ayn Rand
A gang member in “A Clockwork Orange”
Lighthouse keeper
John, the beloved disciple of Jesus
Barbara Jordan
Flannery O’Connor
Vanessa Redgrave in “Julia”
Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” and/or Newt, the child she protects
A mother with two children
Cherry Jones’ lover
Mary Oliver and/or Anne Lamott
An Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker

Actual Jobs (in chronological order)
FBI Laboratory File Clerk
College Student Newspaper Editor
FBI Crime Laboratory Digest Editor
Book Editor
Book Marketing Manager
Director of Communications
Senior Marketing Writer
Freelance Writer
Part-time Music Store Employee
Part-time Gas Station Attendant
Independent Creative Director & Storyteller

photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Here I Am – Miss America

By Sharon J. Anderson

The first job I was determined to have was Miss America’s. In the early 1960’s, the crown came with an eye-popping $10,000 scholarship, plus Bert Parks announcing to the entire world precisely where and who I was. For my talent, I would play Beethoven’s, “Fur Elise” on piano, and then hope for an in-depth question about current events that I could tie to the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations, my obsession at the time. I pictured myself wowing America with a detailed explanation of the amazing similarities in the bullet trajectories inside the Presidential skulls.

There I was, embodying both beauty and tragedy on a stage. And here I am, still pretty much doing the same thing. “Drama, drama, drama . . . always such drama with you,” my mother would say whenever she passed me nose-deep in The Day Lincoln Was Shot or newspaper accounts of the 1966 kidnapping of 17-year-old Peggy Ann Bradnick on her way home from school in Shade Gap, Pennsylvania, not far from our house. Holding Peggy at gunpoint, William Hollenbaugh, the kidnapper, led police and FBI agents through the thick mountains of central Pennsylvania for eight days. An FBI agent with my same last name — Terry R. Anderson – and a police dog were killed in the final shootout with the deranged loner, who was also killed. I was both entranced and frightened. I was lonely, too. Would I kidnap or shoot somebody one day? I needed to know.

I gave up the Miss America track and became an investigator. I had questions. I wanted answers. I wrote letters. I wrote to the makers of Lifesavers candy: “How do you get that hole in the middle?” I wrote to NASA: “How do astronauts go to the bathroom in outer space?” I wrote to Betty Crocker: “Why do you always look the same?” I wrote to the U.S. Mint: “Why is Lincoln on a penny? Don’t you think he’s worth more than that?” The answers came in large envelopes or boxes that included free Lifesavers, autographed photos of all seven Mercury astronauts, boxes of muffin mix and a spanking new Lincoln penny on a special card with my name on it, as though the coin had been molded and pressed just for me.

Intent on developing my investigative skills, I began to read detective stories and watch detective TV shows. I fell wildly in love with “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.,” Cinnamon from “Mission: Impossible,” and, most of all, Emma Peel from “The Avengers.” I secretly carried their pictures in a small file folder that also included newspaper photos of Barbara Eden (in her genie outfit) and June Lockhart, with a desperate look on her face, talking on that wall telephone in a scene from “Lassie.” I began to practice kung fu kicks and comb my hair to one side so I could fling it back seductively. Walking to and from school and while on family camping trips, I stealthily wrote down the license plates of suspicious cars and trucks in a small spiral-bound reporter notebook like the ones I saw on “Dragnet.” Once I tallied 1,967 licenses (the same as the year), I was going to send the notebook to the FBI for further investigation.

My fantasy sleuthing ended abruptly during my senior year in high school. That year, I pretended to be an undercover “student” cop a la “Julie” from “The Mod Squad.” To the members of my lunch table I whispered enough details about mysterious drug dealing to pique their curiosity, and later, their cruelty. One day, I opened my hall locker and discovered a plastic bag filled with white sugar labeled, in embarrassingly large black scrawl: ILLEGAL DRUGS!!! An attached note said, “You are such a liar!!!”

Yes, I was. Why? Why did I lie? Why did I create a fantasy life so believable that when I first saw the white sugar in my locker, I pulled out a pen that I had told others concealed a two-way police transmitter?

Investigating my behavior now via this writing exercise (using a pen) and with years of living and therapy behind me, I see that my fantasy life was safer than my real life. When the fantasies stopped at age 20, after a born-again Christian experience (I was dressed like Alex from “A Clockwork Orange” at the time, complete with white jump suit, bowler hat and one false eyelash), all hell broke loose. I came face to face with my profoundly disturbed and wounded self. I became suicidal, wanting to be with Jesus sooner, rather than later. Thanks to grace (embodied in countless beloveds demonstrating inhuman patience and unconditional love) and my own steely determination, I turned my investigative eye on myself.

The tools of my investigation are on display for all to see when one enters the stage of my home. Peer closely at a bookshelf and see The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller or Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture by Armando R. Favazza or I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 or Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton or The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich or The Illustrated Gospels. See The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright on my nightstand. See a documentary movie camera on a tripod in one corner. Hanging or propped against walls, tables and chairs, see more than 230 original paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture – collected over 30 years — focusing primarily on the female form.

See beauty and tragedy embodied together. See me. Crying one minute and laughing the next. See me. With exquisite taste in art and women and lousy taste in clothes and home furnishings. See me. A small independent creative director for large public corporations. See me. A lesbian Christian. Look. Here I am: Miss America.

About writing, Sharon says:  My regular writing process is similar to the one undertaken to complete this post. Pairing dissimilar words together (such as “wizened” and “baby”) always sparks ideas. My first thought when I read about this “Help Wanted” topic was how much I wanted to be Miss America when I was younger. I then compiled a fantasy list of jobs I’ve wanted during my life, followed by a list of actual jobs I have had. Next, I literally placed the two lists next to each other and stared at them. Then, I actually heard myself say out loud, “Well, there I am,” and began to write.

To begin a writing exercise, I often compile word lists based on two contrasting words. The time I contrasted “death” with “joy” led to a story that begins, “The first time I talked out loud about death was with a girl named Joy.” I also force myself to sit with images. One simple, stark image haunted me as a child: a black rectangle. Go to my website: www.sharonjanderson.com, click on the “Read” link and read my published story, “Black Rectangles,” to see where my pen went after I wrestled with this image.

I see writing much like my matron saint, Flannery O’Connor, who once said, “I work from such a basis of poverty that everything I do is a miracle to me; however, don’t think I write for purgation. I write because I write well.” And for that, I give simple thanks.

-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – JOB! WHAT JOB!

Read Full Post »

Help Wanted Sign from printfree.com

Make a list of all the jobs you’ve had, from allowance to adulthood. Reach as far back as you can remember. How long did each job last, how much did you make? What age were you? What were the spaces, smells, and textures like in your work environment.

Is there a job you’ve always wanted to try and never have? Astronaut? Physicist? Teacher? Electrician? Backhoe operator? Whose job would you love to steal.

Tell me the weirdest job, the most fun, the strangest, the one that paid you the most. If you had the opportunity not to work, would you stop altogether and write or do your art? What’s keeping you from pursuing your creative dreams?

Are you or were you ever a workaholic? How do you strive for balance? When you have time off, what do you do? Did you have to work to put yourself through school? Or did your parents take care of that.

Our work history tells us a lot about our relationship to money, work, scarcity, and abundance. How have these relationships changed for you as you’ve gotten older or matured? How have they stayed the same?

  • Do a post of your Job List
  • Grab a couple of jobs, and do a 10 minute Writing Practice on one of these:

                  What I loved about this job…
                  What I hated about this job…

  • Mold any emotional, intellectual, and social information you glean from the Job List and Practices into a short post.

Have fun with it. Let it be wild.

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Read Full Post »