Sunday, July 30, 2006

My Anti-Career

I've rarely talked about my job over the course of the past six or so months I've had this blog. The reason for this is simple: the therapeutic impetus for the creation of the White Bear's Blog sprung from the fact that I write day-in and day-out reams upon reams of proposals, analyses, memoranda and the like, all in the most uninspired, basic prose possible. This is in stark contrast to my college days which were spent nose deep in literature for seven long years. My passion was English literature of the Anglo-Saxon and mediaeval periods, and I learned Latin, Anglo-Saxon and a smattering of Old Norse along the way.

I dreamed of a career of college-level teaching and scholarly writing; however, my classics professor kindly put an end to this idyllic future by suggesting that, unless I felt I had a unique gift to give the world of academia, I should think twice before going after my PhD. At that time most PhD graduates were driving taxi cabs, teaching ESL or in rest homes, so I heeded his advice and joined the regular labour force after getting my MA.

My entry level job was as the editor of a national magazine. It was a trade periodical specializing in sporting goods, especially hockey and skiing. Serving a relatively small market of sporting goods retailers in Canada it could not afford to pay contributors, the upshot of which meant I ended up writing the whole thing from cover to cover month after month. I spent half a decade discussing the minute differences between certain models of jock straps and hockey sticks in mind-numbing detail, striving to be original and creative on a subjects which were hideously repetitive.

Before my cerebral synapses suffered a complete shut-down, I embarked under rather serendipitous circumstances on phase II of my anti-career path. I left Montreal and came up to the Arctic to teach secondary school subjects to adult Inuit. Although exhausting I found teaching much to my liking, but since all the materials we had at hand were culturally and academically irrelevant to students whose parents were born in igloos and tents, I started to write my own lessons and texts. This led to a relatively short career in curriculum development, wherein I wrote grammar exercise books and edited other texts regardless of whether I had any background in the subject matter.

One of these texts was an introduction to bookkeeping, and I had to learn the basics of double-entry accounting in order to make any sense of the material I was editing. At that time I was on a 9-month revolving contract, and during my down time I attempted to bring the books of several companies up-to-date, a virtually impossible task since many of the source documents were missing. Personally, I found bookkeeping to be a very satisfying alternative to writing and teaching: zero creativity, but a great sense of symmetry and conclusion, and, given the state of the organizations I was working for, a lot of detective work.

My efforts were noticed by my present employer, a regional government, which asked if I would be at all interested in business development. So for these past sixteen long years I have cranked out business plan after market study, blending writing acumen with with basic (and sometimes shaky) accounting skills.

To be honest, I am relatively proud of my business-writing skills: I try to be as concise, pointed, clear and well-argued as possible, and as a consequence my employer shoves other "important" writing jobs my way on a fairly regular basis. However, part of me yearns to try something more gutsy than straight expository prose, hence the start-up of this blog which I had hoped would be a sort of experimental notebook for creative efforts.

Here is my fundamental dilemma in this: how do I find the energy to write for myself after spending my days writing for others? Shouldn't my free moments be spent doing other things as remote from writing as possible?

The sad fact is that there is precious else to do up here other than surf, blog and drink. I am profoundly envious of you to whom blogging on a daily basis seems so effortless and fun: often I have absolutely nothing to say and writing, both at work and on this blog, are nothing short of a chore.

Popular wisdom has it that Inuit have over fifty words for snow. This is a myth: they ran out of new words after about three since there is little remarkable about this substance other than it is cold, white and, up here at least, useful. So perhaps it is my life which is in need of shake-up.

Maybe a career change would be just the catharsis to get me back on track and writing with more joy and enthusiasm. Any ideas?


Blogger Eternally Curious said...

I know there are (must be) plenty of bloggers out there that do what you yearn to do, but I have two personal favorites: Charlie over at Highland Dreams ( and Suburban Turmoil ( Both are quite prolific, and each has their own style of writing. Both are wonderful at being able to take everyday subjects and write about them.

As to your blockage quandary, something a friend once said to me comes to mind and I myself refer to it each time I find myself wondering whether I really want to write or not: "A writer simply must write. They don't have a choice in the matter. Some days only a line or two. Other days words might pour from their fingertips until they are exhausted. Other days the words will never make it to paper or screen - they'll be written only on the mind's chalkboard. Still other days words will flow, only to fill up garbage can after garbage can or to wear down the delete key. Nonetheless, writing occurs and the writer has absolutely no choice in the matter." What I have found is that writing has inevitably happened, just as my friend has described, even when I'm certain it has not. Maybe not on paper or screen, but it is there nonetheless. I have a sneaky suspicion this holds true for you too, Nanuk.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

I agree with EC. You write so well and your bloog is a pleasure to read. Perhaps something that steps away from reports, memos, minutes etc and a bit (a lot?)more creative would be a very good thing?

5:44 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

What an interesting life. I deal with computers all day long and come home to, well, deal with computers. It is a little cute, but I would like to say the hell with it all and try something else. Anyway, sounds as though you are the type that can do anything you put your mind to, so re-invent the Great White Bear once again. Maybe Tea and Books can add something since it looks as though she is set to throw in the towel.

Or maybe you just have seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

7:57 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Eternally Curious: You are right, of course - you can't be writing without being physically in the act of writing. Sometimes I just write crap for the sake of getting something up on the screen that I can edit later despite having this "thing" standing over my shoulder commenting immediately on everything I think and write. Funny thing is, when I go back to look over my "crap", most of it isn't half bad - I just have to learn to turn off the invisible editor riding my back all the time.

Fuff: Thanks for the compliments. I do have a dream of becoming an "observer/communicator" at the local airport one of these days: one week on/one week off and plenty of down time between taking readings. And now that the Internet extends that far out of town . . .

TPK: Sort of like a busman's holiday, eh? I think the SAD I'm suffering from now is Severe Alcohol Deprivation.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Timmy said...

Much like yourself, I originally started the whole blogging-thing 'cause I was bored at work (and I don't even own a computer, so I kind of HAD to blog at work if I was going to do it at all). Fortunately, however, my job doesn't require much writing so it's not quite as easy to get burnt-out...

3:01 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...


5:28 PM  
Blogger Eternally Curious said...

Nanuk - about that entity on your shoulder? My advice? Shoot it or duct tape its mouth shut! I have both a pellet gun and/or duct tape that I'll readily send you if you're short of either! <|:))

8:05 PM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

I think you've been up north long enough to have forgotten how interesting your posts are to those of us below the tree line.

But I know the feeling. Some days, the words just won't come and others, they just flow out of your fingers.

9:41 PM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

And sometimes? We click on the publish button before we mean to...

Run for public office. You think you need to drink now???

9:47 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I suggest events planning as your next career. If nothing else, it will generate something to do other than surf, blog and drink. Of course, you could find yourself surfing the bloggers convention...

3:28 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

How's the soul searching going??

2:00 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Thanks, guys, for your helpful suggestions. If I could typify my life, almost all change has been the result of external circumstances. I can barely think of a proactive change in my life, just a bunch of reactions to circumstances.

I'll be honest: this technique has served me well so far. I'm basically a happy person. But maybe it's time I took the bull by the horns (or walrus my the tusks).

5:26 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Walrus Ivory??

1:53 AM  
Blogger Fuff said...

Come on Nanuk! Get bloogin!!!

8:12 AM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Where u @ ??

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you say 'the rest of us'?
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9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good day to everyone
tahk u

11:23 PM  

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