If you want to write professionally, hustling for work is all part of the process. 'Zip up your rhino suit' as Vadim Jean once said, prepare to shrug off any rejections and put yourself out there. From what I've heard from you all recently, a lot of you are - attending conferences, submitting stories for the first time, giving talks on blogging. Bravo. A good starting point is to have a think about all the skills you've picked up in your working life and see where you can apply them to your new career as a writer.
I spent years as an art consultant - million pound projects, embassies and palaces, pitching artist's work. It was a great career, but I wanted to write. The last time I worked for someone else, (the pilot had just retrained, we needed me to work full time to support the family while he got his hours), I ended up in one of those toxic workplaces we all have the misfortune to find ourselves occasionally. Now, I've worked in some tough jobs (chased round desks by randy bosses, cleaning up after disturbed children staged a dirty protest and kicked out a loo in an inner city playgroup ... it goes on), but this place took the grand prize. Everything seemed normal during the interview. But on the first day, the other woman who started at the same time as me in the London gallery ended up in A&E being treated for a massive panic attack. It didn't get much better - I lasted seven months, enduring the Director storming through the gallery screaming 'Sell! Sell!' as we lowly consultants cold-called prospective clients. It was like no other art job I've encountered - we were put through a kind of sales bootcamp, marched off to be instructed by a wild eyed American with a Madonna style microphone. It wasn't about art, it was about making money. I finally walked out after the Directors had a slanging match, screaming at one another to F-off. I vowed I'd never work with people I didn't like again, and set up my own company.
If you're looking for paid work, a good place to start is 'The Freelance Writer's Handbook'. It gives good guidelines about how to set up professionally and pitching to clients. In the UK the Monday Guardian is always good for arts jobs, and why not subscribe to the Arts Councils 'Arts Jobs' daily email. (Though the other day the only paid job out of thirteen ads was for an amputee actress/dancer. I guess it depends on the missing limb). Internationally, there are sites like Elance, Mediabistro job alerts ... if any of you can think of other good sources for job ads do suggest them in the comments today.
So, what have you learned about yourself from your jobs? Even from the worst situations, you can extract the good. I learned I can survive, can pitch and sell, run a business. The couple of years temping at university mean I can touch-type at thought speed - see, all those letters about suspended ceilings and share options had a purpose. All the business and life skills you've picked up will be invaluable. Writing is creative, when it's great it is an art - but it is still a business, only this time you're selling you and your work.
TODAY'S PROMPT: Yesterday's quote about the 'writer as hustler' reminded me of this video clip - it's Friday, are you feeling funky, functional or flaked out? Why not step away from the desk and fend off that 'writer's bottom' we all dread by hustling along with the headless wonder. At the very least it should give you a good laugh (the three year old is rolling around on the floor giggling after trying this out). Have a great weekend.