All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

If you follow me on Twitter or read the September projects post, then you’ll know that the day job is no more.

It didn’t work out for various reasons. To be honest, the whole deal was a hot mess from the beginning.

The same day I got the job I was diagnosed with anemia, which I didn’t tell anybody about because, hey, it was just continuing to function with the extreme fatigue I’d been dealing with for months while I waited for the iron pills to do their thing, no big deal. My second shift I was offered a promotion because the store had been operating with only three people and they desperately needed anyone with experience to step up. I took it because even though it wasn’t what I really wanted for a day job, I wanted to help out and the responsibility didn’t sound too bad.

I was given maybe a week of training and then given my own shifts, call us if you need us, which probably would have worked out better if they answered their phones more often. Anyway, after about a week of being on my own and getting the hang of things, the tiniest Wal-Mart in the world, the one in my town, announced it was closing. Oh goodie. Now the small, two-register store I worked at was inundated with their business and complaints. The computer system was too old to keep up with the increase so it crashed at least once a shift, sometimes just needing the pinpad for the card readers reset and sometimes needing the entire register rebooted.

We were also still operating understaffed and the people we did have were new. I’d been there less than a month and was considered a vet. I was training the new cashiers. So, we had all of this new business and under-trained employees. When we had employees at all. I ended up working several of my shifts alone because nobody showed up or somebody called in. I also got called in early or on my days off pretty regularly.

There was also an increase in freight. Quite simply we were drowning in it. We couldn’t keep up with it because we didn’t have enough people to put it up and/or were too busy to put it up because of all the customers.

Meanwhile, I’m barely writing because I’m wiped out. The whole point of the day job was to supply me with a steady income because I wasn’t making enough by writing alone. This was supposed to take some pressure off of me. Instead, I was stressed and my anxiety was so bad I was having trouble sleeping.

There was a stretch when things were improving. First of all, my anemia got better so I wasn’t totally exhausted all of the time. We started getting two trucks a week, which made the freight easier to handle. The people we hired were getting better and showing up and sticking around. Business slowed some after the Wal-Mart finally closed in July because people stopped panicking about having to go out of town to get toilet paper. Someone that had hired in at the same time I did finally decided to become a key like me.

But then I found out that I was going to be training. From her. The night I was supposed to start training her. And I was given less than a week to do it. She called me on her first solo shifts because she couldn’t get a hold of either of the managers. One day included four phone calls, one text message, and two trips to the store to help her out.

And finally, we got a new district manager who wanted pretty much everyone, including yours truly, fired because we weren’t doing our jobs well enough.

That was all she wrote for me. I called it quits.

The thing is that I didn’t feel at all relieved about quitting. I felt like (and still feel like) a failure. If I had been better, I would have been able to make it work. I would have been able to handle that job and write. I wouldn’t have been tired and stressed and anxious all of the time. I let everyone down because I couldn’t hack it. I couldn’t do what everyone else does: go to work, do their job, go home and function there. I couldn’t fucking do it.

I expressed these sentiments on Twitter after I turned in my keys and made it official and everyone was very kind (because I follow some awesome folks there) and assured me that I wasn’t a failure, but if that were true…I wouldn’t have quit, would I?

Yeah.

Since my last day, I’ve been struggling to right my emotional ship as well as everything else. I finally got my sleep schedule adjusted closer to where I’d like it to be and I’m actually sleeping most of the night instead of fighting sleep for hours because I keep dreaming I’m at work and not really sleeping until dawn. I’m working on getting off the retail diet, too. And, of course, my writing is happening more like normal again. Yet, I’m still frustrated that I’m not doing all of this faster and better.

Because the feeling of failure lingers.

I can’t quit it. It won’t take my notice.

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September Writing Projects

Some good news on the Murderville front. Season 2 has come to a successful close and I hope all of my patrons enjoyed it. I also finished writing the first draft of Murderville Season 3. It’s a damn mess and it’s going to need a lot of work and that’s what I’m going to focus on this month.

Last month I also revised and polished the Season 3 preview story. Normally, I’d put that out next month, but until I get a good handle on where I’m at with Season 3, I can’t commit to that. Unless I’m sure that I can have Season 3 ready to roll on time, I don’t want to get ahead of myself with the previews and such.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that the day job is no more. Due to various reasons (some of which I may detail in another post), it didn’t work out, so I’m back to where I was at the beginning of May. In theory, I should be able to play catch up this month and put everything Murderville-related back on schedule. But again, I don’t want to commit to anything considering I’ve basically been disappointing if not everyone, then at least myself all summer with my ability to live up to my commitments. It’s been a very frustrating season for me.

But, it’s not frustrating for my patrons because the ebook of Murderville: The End Of comes out this month. Become a patron now and get in on this sweet deal.

The Retail Diet

When I worked at Wal-Mart for the last time, some ten years ago now, my diet was pretty terrible. I believe I once compared it to eating like a racoon raiding a dumpster. I drank a lot of soda, ate a lot of fast food, Hot Pockets and microwavable beef stew being the extent of my cooking. By the time I quit that gig, I had cut down on the soda drinking, but that was about it.

After I quit, I made some dietary improvements, mainly by actually cooking meals instead of microwaving whatever I could find and making soda and fast food a rarity. And I managed to continue with this for the next ten years or so, despite the different day jobs, even while holding three day jobs at once, and even while technically working in retail.

But doing floorset isn’t the same as working retail. I wasn’t dealing with customers on top of resetting an entire store; I was just doing a lot of folding, rearranging, and swearing. Working retail means dealing with customers while trying to put up freight, answer the phone, and keep the store in order. It means walking two to six miles during any given shift and never leaving the store. It means having registers crash during busy times, people calling in and leaving you to work a Saturday shift alone for several hours, listening to customers say the same things over and over again thinking they’re the first to be so clever. It means answering the same questions over and over again, listening to the same complaints over and over again, and holding your tongue during both.

In short, retail can be (and currently is for me) a high-stress, low-wage job.

And it kills my eating habits.

In the past few months of my new retail day job, I’ve drunk more soda and eaten more junk food than I have in years. I’ve craved soda and junk food more in the past few months than I have in the past ten years. Working retail triggers in me the need for a garbage diet that I might be able to get away with in my twenties, but not when I’m pushing forty. Yet, here I am, despite all wisdom, going right back to it.

I’m guessing the combination of stress and anxiety is the trigger for me here. I can’t say that I’m much of an emotional eater. However, I think that the stress/anxiety combo wears me out to the point that my willpower is gone and I’m too tired to care about what I’m ingesting. That’s definitely how it feels. It’s not a particularly healthy mindset, but it’s hard to maintain one when all of my energy is focused on getting through another shift. It leaves little energy for the effort of making good choices.

Right now I’m struggling with it. I can only hope that the stress recedes soon (the anxiety, I don’t think, ever will) and gives me a break that doesn’t come in the form of a Kit Kat Bar.

I Shoulda Been…

Do you ever think about what you could been? Or shoulda been?

Being a writer is a natural choice for me in many respects. I wrote my first story at six. I wrote and produced plays for the neighborhood kids in the summer. I wrote a radio play and we recorded it on a blank cassette tape using our old red radio. I’d make up stories for us to act out when we were playing pretend and then I’d try to write them down later. I was always starting stories that never got finished (that discipline came later). I read a lot and enjoyed living in those worlds, marveling at how those stories were created. Writing is something I’ve always done. I’m plagued with stories that demand to get out of my head even if I’m just telling them to myself.

However.

I probably shoulda been something else.

If I’m going to be honest, I shoulda been a bookkeeper or an accountant or a professional budget creator or something. Because I like money. And I like math when it relates to money. Since my mother first paid me to work in her daycare, I’ve tracked my money, estimated my paychecks, created budgets for myself, figured out payment plans for debt, figured out savings plans. I am annoyingly enthusiastic when it comes to finding new ways to manipulate and math my money. I’ll even math other people’s money.

Right now, I keep a monthly spreadsheet to track my income and spending. And I like it.

When people talk about making money by doing things they love, it’s usually said sort of wistfully, like what they love to do couldn’t easily be translated into a steady income. And here my love of crunching numbers is not only an actual job, but you can get a whole college degree in it.

I’m not exactly sure why I never thought about it as a viable career route, especially considering my limited college options at the time. My great-aunt had been a bookkeeper for years as well. It would have been an easy opportunity to explore. And yet…

It never came up. Never even crossed my mind as I budgeted the paychecks I collected from working in retail and worked in a credit union. Never thought much about it while I worked in the cash office of a store, calculating deposits worth thousands. It was right there in front of me and I never saw it.

If I had, maybe I’d be enjoying a day job of crunching numbers to pay my bills while I wrote.

Maybe I still can.

August Writing Projects

Wow, look at that. August already. This year is just rolling by.

And I’m still working on stuff that I swore I’d have done in June.

Yeah.

So, this day job is turning into one of the hardest retail jobs I’ve ever had and what was supposed to be an easy part-time gig to help pay the bills is actually a huge time and energy vortex that I’m getting swallowed up in. My plan was to write at least a page on all of my current projects on the days that I work and then really rack up the words on my days off. The struggle with that, though, is that sometimes I don’t have the time (or energy) to get in my one page on everything, and then on my days off, I can still only manage the absolute minimum because I’m recovering from working.

If there’s going to be anything new, then August will see a shift in priorities. As much as I hate to stop working on a project in the middle, The Coop Run rewrite has to go on the back burner for now. Season 3 of Murderville needs to be my focus until I get it done, and I need to get it done as quickly as possible. Ideally, I’ll have it finished in the first couple of weeks of the month so I can let it rest a bit and then revise it in September. Because here’s the thing. Season 3 needs to be done all the way down to the eBook before NaNo. I’m already way behind my usual schedule. Now I have to play catch up and hope I don’t fuck up.

I also need to make some time to revise and polish next season’s preview story. But that’s a problem for next month me.

Right now, it’s all about finishing Murderville Season 3.

I’ll work out the rest later.

Speaking of Murderville, the very last episode of season 2, The End Of, goes live on August 14th. Don’t worry! It’s easy to catch up. Just become a patron and you’ll get access to every intriguing moment. $1 an episode let’s you read; $2 an episode lets you read AND gets you swell bonuses every other month, like whatever is happening on the 28th. Don’t miss out!

Writing with a Day Job…Again

When I set my writing projects for June, I didn’t have a day job.

By the time it posted, I did.

Life comes at you fast.

I’m back in retail, working at one of the local dollar stores. Every store does things somewhat differently, but a lot of the basics are the same. It’s like riding a bike. I haven’t forgotten.

Now I have to hope that I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to write with a day job. It’s been a while since I’ve been working out of the house for 15-20 hours a week. It’s been a while since I’ve had to write around that kind of schedule (as well as the other life things I have to write around, too). Right now everything is crazy because this day job happened very suddenly during an already busy time, both for writing and for real life. No doubt it’ll settle down and find a groove, but for now, I’m a little stressed and very tired.

I plan on keeping my June writing plan. The Coop Run is on a deadline, so it will get first priority, but I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to get a good chunk, if not all of season 3 of Murderville written. Hopefully, my productivity will be as high as my hopes.

Though the day job will alleviate an immediate need for financial support, like all of my day jobs, I view it as temporary. My goal is to make a (decent) living by writing.

I still intend to do that.

Now I’m Just a Slacker with Only Two Day Jobs

slackerYou read that right, kids. I quit working one of my day jobs. I am no longer kid-minding.

During my semi-vacation from teaching home school, I was asked to consider taking on more subjects. So I considered it. I considered it and I considered it. It wasn’t really the actual teaching that was in question, though. A big part of my considering was trying to figure out how to schedule the additional subjects into my work week. If I wanted to keep working all three jobs (as well as the little online plus jobs I do for a few bucks throughout the week), then I’d have to cut into a significant portion of my writing time.

Writing is my career. The day jobs just pay the bills so I can pursue that career. In other words, writing is the priority.

I chose to quit kid-minding and do more home schooling.

There are a few motivations for this.

One, I’ll be teaching science in addition to taking over the reading assignments (I already teach English/grammar and Spanish). I may possibly take over math later on. It’s more lesson planning, but I’ll get to do science, which I love. Plus, I get to make the children read the books I had to read when I was in school. Revenge really is some kind of sweet. Plus doing the reading projects with the kids may prove beneficial for my own writing.

Two, one less job means less stress. Not that kid-minding was hard. The boy, for the most part, was well-behaved (at least with me) and his randomness was quite entertaining. But that three-job schedule could be a bitch to juggle sometimes and to be honest, I was pretty burnt out on it. It’s not fun to be working all the time, even for a workaholic like me. Yes, working one less job means less money, but the bills still get paid, I get a little bit more time for writing, and I’m a little less frazzled thinking about running from one job to the next while trying to squeeze in the household obligations and my own writing deadlines.

Three, this move sharpens my focus on my writing career. It’s time that I stepped it up. Now if I want to make more money, I either need to go back to working three jobs (or worse, get a “real” job) or I need to sell more books. Which would I rather do? Consider this the kick in the ass I’ve long needed.

So, there you go. My reasons for being a slacker and only working two jobs. Not that I need to justify my slackerdom to anyone, but sometimes people like to know the why’s and what for’s of my life as they are generally interested in my existence.

I know. It’s weird.