Thoughts of an Author in Training
Am I a writer or a bartender? That is a great question because the traits for both sometimes seem interchangeable. I’ve been working the service industry for almost ten years. I’ve had other jobs sprinkled in between, working retail, sitting at a desk, peer education, but none of them really qualified as making me feel happy and nothing so entertaining as what I do now. I’ve begun to make a living doing two things, serving alcohol and serving the words that stream out of my mouth.
Being a bartender and a writer are strangely similar and both allow me to speak my mind. You might be wondering how two very different things can go together and I will so gladly point them out.
First and most obvious similarity is that being a writer and a bartender both involve booze. One job is a service to give out alcohol in exchange for paying my bills and the other is a service consumed in order to dull my sadness and rejection. With a degree in English I still can’t spell and I’m only mildly published. Not to say I’m at the level of Capote, Poe, or Joyce for my liquor consumption but I have steadily noticed the tragic trend with any creative profession is through a bottle. But hey, sometimes you need Jameson to write a 700 page stream of consciousness.
Night time is prime time and when the sun comes up it’s really just the world reminding me how not normal I’m being by staying up so late. Bar life can last until 4:00am with last call and clean up. After an eight hour shift most people wind down and relax before they crawl in to bed. This doesn’t change with working in bars. Even though the sun is going to rise fairly soon after I get home, some weird voodoo happens that I’m unbelievably tired but I can’t seem to wind down enough to lay in one spot. Similarly as a writer it’s hard to stay in one spot and write, especially as I know I should being doing it every day. Some people write in the morning but my thoughts flow better when the owls are out. And like a 13-year-old boy, I’ll either crash in front of screen or fall asleep on top of the covers in my clothes right as the sun is about to rise. I’m either starting or barely finishing my assignment the night before so the sunrise means that it’s time to edit the terrible spelling and grammar mistakes made while writing during unconventional hours. Night equals get shit done. Sunrise equals regret that I should have been sleeping.
Always waiting. Whether it’s waiting for inspiration to spark or waiting for people to show up so you can do your job, there’s a level of zoning-out that happens. Sitting at my writers’ station, passing the time means delaying my hands from actually typing and generating new words. This could be re-reading the same paragraph 15 times, scribbling in my notepad or surfing the internet to find more successful writers. Ideally I’d love to be moving, working, creating and constructing things at all times of my waking hours, but if I did that then I wouldn’t fell so accomplished in completing the little things. I guess you could say I’m passing my success.
Both stations of employment involve some sort of fluff. The fluff learned in College never really goes away, it just sort of transforms. In the bar it’s learning how to keep a straight face and engage with patrons when they tell you their conspiracy theories, start stories with a bad racist joke, or brag about being a true cowboy from Texas. All things you don’t care to hear about but at work, I’m paid to listen to it and requires a little creativity and practice when knowing full well I’d rather be wiping down the bar than hearing about Texas, no offense. In writing, there are plenty of opportunities where my editor assigns me something I don’t want to write about. Writing about things I can’t even define, but with fluff I can make that sarcastic tone sound inviting and informative to create exactly what my editor wants.
They both provide a level of entertainment and socialization. If I didn’t have this I would just read books all day and stay in my fort. The drunk customers are endlessly offering me literary gold and quite frankly just putting on a show. Alcohol allows people to be everything that couldn’t be as a sober introverted person. For extraverts I would argue that it sometimes makes the situation worse, but regardless the barrier comes down when you add a little liquid courage. Surprisingly writers are quite social as well. It may be through a medium like the internet or e-mails, but we have a whole bunch to say most the time whether people want to listen or not.
Mostly I’ve discovered that the work is relatively the same, more difficult than I would have assumed on the surface. Bartending seems simple. Just moving alcohol from behind the counter to the customer, a few quick words and exchanging of money. But I quickly found out it’s fast paced, follows a specific recipe and people can be whiney if they don’t feel taken care of. Sure there’s not a whole lot of thinking involved in the job. You don’t have to use calculus or use physics to know how quickly gravity while bring down the stumbling blonde in heels, but it still takes work.
I used to think writing was easy. Anybody could do it and I thought that everything I wrote was just glimmering with authorship, but it’s not easy. It’s been the practice and different failures that have made me work harder. If I could easily use magic and become David Sedaris or Ira Glass, I would definitely do it. But I’m not a sorcerer, just an author in training that’s trying to respect the hard work it takes to get there. Right now it’s just fun and seeing how the two jobs pay the bills I’ll continue to make my way as a write-tender.