Office Therapist | What if I hate the career I’ve been building for the past decade?
Q: After getting my MFA in creative writing, I started working in the creative agency world as a copywriter. I landed at some great digital shops and boutique brands where I got to work on big ad campaigns with great clients. But each time, I could never really find ways to bring my cultural interests together with my professional writing, and something would inevitably happen within the organization that would leave me looking for new work.
Now I’m working on a freelance magazine story that doesn’t pay that great but I really like what I’m doing. I’m also realizing that, I’m not really a manager and I don’t like managing people. As I’m looking for full time jobs again, I feel like I’m at this crossroads in my career where I’m trying to figure out what the path forward is in both my role as well as my industry. I don’t think I am a Creative Director nor fit into the advertising world. What if I hate the career I’ve been building for the past decade?
A: Let’s start by just accepting the fact that we all have various financial obligations and goals that we have to fulfill and achieve. With that said, this is what I’m hearing you say; you hate working as a copywriter and you hate being a manager, the two things you would need to do to continue your rise up the corporate career ladder you are currently on. It sounds to me like you really want to be a magazine writer, so given that activity doesn’t make that much money, what else besides copywriting could you do for work? Or said another way, do you have to love your job or make that much money? Or said once more, can you detach your ego from your profession?
I’d start by defining what your priority is at this point in your life. If your priority is to make a lot of money, well then I’m sorry to say you may have to just suck it up and do the aforementioned things that you hate. But if your priority is spending time on things you are genuinely interested in, well then you could find a job outside of writing that allows the emotional space for creative work or even choose to live on the limited means that magazine writing could provide. Know how much money you actually need to both provide and be content.
I’d also try to be really honest about what you are good at and feel like doing all day everyday. Is it the act of writing that you love or is it the researching and interviewing of subjects, or editing complex pieces into a cohesive narrative? Is it really worth the time and energy to change course now or could you determine some other work that could be interesting to you based on your expertise?
I know this is contrary to the contemporary perspective on finding purpose and passion in your career, but I actually think it can be a mistake to work in your creative field. I think we have over-learned that as a culture and it is actually having the inverse effect of causing us unhappiness and leading to burn out by trying to merge our creative passions with our professional careers.
There are lots of ways to make money, I’d suggest you find a way to pull out some of the aspects of what you like about writing and find them in something else, that’s just like a thing you do for money. Then you could do the creative writing that you love on the side where it would add real joy and intrinsic value to your life without the pressure of financial attainment and feelings of accomplishment. You don’t want to end up hating writing because you work in it all day.
At a certain point in all of our lives, we have to ask ourselves, is my life’s energy best spent, giving to a corporation or working on my own creative product? I’m giving you permission to be free from whatever achievements either creative or financial you think you need to make and just do whatever the fuck you want.