I realized the other day I have had, in my lifetime, 25 jobs. There are some repeats here, but, stick with me, there’s a point here:
Paper boy. This back in the day when Paper Boys were actually kids. You don’t see that so often any longer. Most of the guys delivering papers are driving around in vans.
Dishwasher: Exactly as awesome as you might imagine. But this turned into
Salad ‘chef’: which was slightly better because I got to watch someone else wash the dishes AND it turned into
Sous Chef. Yes, at tender age of 15, I became ‘a sous chef’. Which led me to get a job at
Gas station Jockey: These guys used to exist. They filled your car with gas. Just four of us standing around waiting for cars to come in then filling them up. Tons of fun in the rain. I also remember the mis-use of a fire hose.
Pizza ‘chef’: Pizza Delight. A couple of years at this place at the end of my high school. The owner, a wonderful woman, left us to our own devices fairly frequently. And, somehow, we (rarely) abused these powers. I used to bring my guitar and amp into the take-out only place and play when things got slow. It was a great job to have at the end of highschool
Then in University I worked the phones calling alumni, asking for money. The summer between my first and second year was a mess:
door to door salesman (coupons. who buys coupons?)
More ‘Chef’ work
Back to calling people (this time for survey’s.)
Then; DJ. I loved DJing. I worked at a great club in Ottawa called Zaphod’s. I was there again recently and it seriously hasn’t changed (not even the carpet). I also DJed at clubs in town and eventually in Toronto and other cities. Techno, chill, drum and bass. This experience influenced my new book ‘Coming Clean’. I only quit DJing because of a near-death experience. I’ll have to write a post about that some time as well.
Then I answered phones again. This time for Netcom, one of Canada’s original internet providers.
Then a web designer and tech writer for ‘Games Trader’ which turned into working at EA Games coming up with concepts for games. Though this didn’t last long.
Finally, professor at Algonquin where I remain today. Which was always, somehow, my dream. Writing and teaching. It seemed like a great combo.
And it is.
What I’m getting at here is that I had a lot of experience while growing up. I didn’t stick to one job, for a lot of different reasons, and I learned that failure happens. I failed a lot at those jobs. I made dumb mistakes. I got fired a few times for good (and bad) reasons. I met a lot of people. I felt frustrated on a daily basis. Felt like I was going to crack. But most of all, I learned what I didn’t want to do and this drove me to do what I wanted to do. To really work at writing and at teaching.
I don’t know how many jobs people go through today. More, less, who knows. But I do know that had I not had the jobs I have, not had these experiences, I wouldn’t be writing the books I am.
The old idea of ‘write what you know’ is truly what I’m getting at. The things in my reluctant readers sports based books are not totally ‘realistic’ but there is a basis in reality. In people failing and getting up. In people seeking out their dreams. In people doing what they feel they really need to do to try and understand the world. To understand who they are.
So, no, I doubt I will write a book about someone answering phones or cooking. But without these experiences, I wouldn’t have been able to write about kids surviving an avalanche or racing down a mountain road.