Monday, March 31, 2014

Careless Indifference

As you sit in your cubicle on this Monday, feeling put upon by a world that forces you into menial labor when you'd be happier writing, take heart in the early career of Brendan Behan.

Not too early, of course. Not all the way back to the beginning when he was an IRA volunteer trying to blow up British things.

Before the storied author became known as a poet, playwright and novelist, he was trying to get by as a house painter. How could such a dull profession compare to what he had known as a younger man? From an early age he was a courier for the IRA, an activity that led to his arrest and subsequent incarceration in a juvenile detention center in England. Following his deportation and return to Ireland, he kept at his nationalist activities and was arrested again, this time for trying to kill a couple of gardai. He served time in the 'Joy for that one.

After being freed, Mr. Behan had to earn a living, but his head was filled with words that needed to be released. Like you, he went to his job but he was not happy. One of his clients, the lighthouse keeper in County Down, fired off a letter of complaint about the painter's slovenly habits and lack of ability, asking that Mr. Behan be fired. 

The man was no painter. He was a writer.

When he realized that, he lit out for Paris to become a writer. He continued to earn his keep by painting houses, writing in his spare time.

The fact is, unless you have a pool of money to draw from, you have to do something to keep a roof over your head, no matter how much literary talent you have. Until you write your own Borstal Boy, and people pay you for writing instead of slogging away at the day job, you have to slog away at the day job.

You could perform your job with careless indifference, like Brendan Behan, but you'll just have to find another equally dull job if you lose the job for behaving like Mr. Behan at the lighthouse. So, nose to the grindstone. Your writing will have to wait until you get home at the end of a long, dull day.

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