Saturday, 3 March 2012

Previous Experience Necessary

07:31:00 Posted by Ashley Lister 4 comments

by Ashley Lister

I’m a writer. Or, as my mother would say: I can’t hold down a job.

I’ve been a bingo caller. A nurse. A funeral director’s assistant. An admin assistant in a company that was involved in nuclear decommissioning. An IT manager. A cleaner. A reporter. A student. A stay-at-home-Dad. The manager of a charity shop. A teacher. I spent two years working in the civil service. I spent one hour working as a secret shopper. I spent a few years working in an accounts department. I spent twenty eight minutes working as a door-to-door-salesman.

And of course, I’ve been a writer.

I once flew an aeroplane – but only for half an hour. I’ve driven limousines at weddings and I’ve driven hearses at funerals – it’s helpful to do it the right way round with those two: there are less complaints. I’ve driven ambulances. I’ve performed poetry on stage before dozens. I’ve addressed a live audience of hundreds. I’ve spoken to a radio audience of thousands.

But, throughout each and every one of these jobs and occupations and diversions – and throughout the countless others that have proved too banal to stick to the self-protecting gloss of my memory – I have remained a writer.

I have a CV that reads like a pilot script for What’s My Line? It’s a career that’s more accurately described as paisley rather than chequered. I’ve had more jobs than And all the time I’ve only ever been a writer.

Sometimes I’ll find myself doing other things for the necessity of finances. As I mentioned last week, writing doesn’t pay huge amounts of money. Sometimes I’ll find myself doing other things for the pleasure of the role. Teaching can be quite rewarding spiritually – it’s particularly satisfying to teach creative writing and see the subject afresh through the approach of new learners.

But, always, if I’m not doing something that helps feed my face, I find myself doing things that will later feed my writing.

So in answer to the prompt of this week’s theme, if I wasn’t writing: I’d be doing more research with a view to doing some writing later.



Lindsay said...

I reckon it must be obligatory for a writer to have a wide variation of jobs. Mine aren't quite as widespread though, mainly music shops and clothes shops. (Oh and McDonalds as a teen) I think I need to find an interesting job. Well other than being a mum that can be pretty out there at times.

Ashley R Lister said...

I think music and clothes shops would be an interesting way to see how people construct their own characters from their tastes in fashion.

And, of course, it would be a good way of earning money too.

Parenting is probably the most fun occupation I've ever had - well, the most fun of the ones I'm going to list on here :-)


Ian Marchant said...

I worked in secondhand bookshops for many years. People ask writers 'Where do you get your ideas from?' Not always easy to answer. But in a secondhand bookshop you find out where your answers ed up. In the bargain bin for 20p.

Ashley R Lister said...


It's heartbreaking to think that a writer's efforts can be reduced to the sort of change we wouldn't bend down to pick up from a rainy pavement.

That said, it reminds us all that no matter how profound our literary aspirations - most of them aren't even worth 20p to the majority of people out there.