Friday, June 25, 2010

A Question...

For those of you who don't know, my current job is at a local bar, where I barback and work the door. I work five nights a week (Fri - Tue) and the shifts last from 8 PM till around 5 AM. Five days a week in an industry like this is different than five days a week in a normal industry with a normal schedule. The reason I say "normal" industry is because the bar industry is, for the most part, a lifestyle and not just a job. People who work in bars get hung up on how much money they can make and then often begin to lose sight of other goals that they had in life. This isn't always the case, but often you find bartenders, barbacks, servers who work in bars, hang out in bars and only have friends who work and hang out in bars. It transcends work and becomes how you live your life. This is an easy trap to fall into, as the bar industry is one of the few places that people like myself (intelligent and hard working but otherwise under-educated workers) can find work that offers a decent amount of money.

Despite the amount of money I make (it's good), I'm burning out pretty badly at work. The three shifts a week where I barback don't cause too much stress, but my two shifts working the door (Friday and Saturday) are so stressful that I spend all week dreading them. Adding to this stress is the fact that I feel I have to cram all my creative work, my friend time and my time with my wife into the two days off (Wednesday and Thursday) that I currently have. There just doesn't seem to be enough time.

You might be asking yourself, "Why not just get up and do a lot of creative work before going into your job for the night?" Well, I just don't sleep. Sleeping during the day, being wired at the end of work, etc, etc. There are plenty of factors that lead to insomnia, so I'm constantly trying to catch sleep where I can. And, when I am awake, I don't feel I have a great deal of energy or creative fire.

You're probably thinking to yourselves that I should just find a new job, and I'm trying, but the job market in Nashville is still pretty terrible so opportunities are few and far between. I'm hoping to scale back the amount of days I work at the bar and that would certainly help, but the level of stress right now is flirting dangerously with breakdown levels.

So my question to you friends and readers is this; how do you do it? I know that many of you have wives, full time jobs, kids, and other obligations which no doubt cut into your creative time. How do you balance it? How do you find time to do your jobs, work on projects and still maintain the obligations to family and fellowship that you feel are important? Do you exercise, meditate, drink heavily, do copious amounts of recreational drugs? Inquiring minds want to know.


  1. Meditation helps a great deal...seriously. Even if it is just taking some time out to sit and let the sun hit your face, or close your eyes and switch off, it can leave you feeling so much better.

    Day time naps with ones wife also help.

    Most importantly, be realistic about your aims, don't take on too many projects just because they are opportunities, otherwise you will spread yourself thin and not bring anything to any of them.

    Set aside a scheduled amount of time for each thing, and work hard at time management.

    Best of luck with losing one of those bar days (or rather door days)!

    Jamie Gambell

  2. You can improve your imagination while you work and it will help you to enjoy your job more and make you a better writer. Play “What if”. What if Bruce Wayne came into my bar? Why would he be there for? What would he do, how would he behave? Would there be bat crap on his shoes or would he be in million dollar duds? Would it be a trap? What if this random drunk frat boy pulled out a gun and shot this other random drunk frat boy in the head? You get the idea. I also like to imagine stranger’s personal histories – where they are from, what kind of person they are, what they will do after they leave the bar.

    Most writers
    get insomnia. I’m no expert but I know it’s a common problem. Meditate to empty your head, do some research, and if it’s chronic go to a sleep doctor. Don’t take sleep pills and avoid caffeine. In my experience, strenuous exercise and plenty of water is probably the best thing you can do to help get sleep and increase your energy.

    What works for me - I always carry a 30 cent notepad in my pocket so I don’t forget ideas. Going to the library. Time management. Block a set time each day to write, make it a habit. What might work for you is to make it the first thing when you wake up. I paint after I take a shower. My wife writes after she drinks coffee. You have to make it the top priority each day, no matter what’s going on. My wife helps me get going when I don’t “feel like it”. I close the door and turn off the phone and the internet and shut out everything. Block out a different time for reading.

    One day at a time...

    Andrew Walker

  3. I'm a primary teacher by day to pay the bills, it's out the door by 7:30am, usually back by about 5pm. I wake each day at 5am to work for two hours before waking my wife with breakfast in bed, just cereal, nothing fancy. We ALWAYS spend breakfast together. When I get home I walk the dog instantly, sometimes with the wife (which is nice) and othertimes with my iPhone and a decent podcast to keep the brain churning along in the frozen temperatures.

    I make dinner with my wife, we watch the news, that sort of thing, she's completely into this MasterChef business so I usually disappear around then and hide on the computer (emails, blogs, writing, etc) and if she goes to bed early I stay up until about 9:30pm to write and then read in bed for half an hour before sleep, or I take the laptop into the lounge and write/surf while we chat about whatever.

    That's how we get through the weekdays and I manage to hold down a relieving promotional position at work (assistant principal) and also write novels/scripts as well as the occasional blog post and weekly articles for comic news site The Weekly Crisis. It's a busy schedule, but bloody hard work and a good timetable and persistence make it happen.

    As for weekends, it's really a crap shoot. Right now the missus is napping because carrying a kid around inside you all day is tiring, i wouldn't know, I've never done it. So i work while she naps, about to go read my comics right now. Last night we went to a birthday dinner for an old uni mate, came home by 9, the missus was asleep so I stayed up until past 11 reading in bed. It's not the crazy life but I managed to fit in work, wife, mates, food, and comics in a standard Friday. It can happen, but you have to be okay when it doesn't.

    I hope that helps some, don't want to make it sound easy, it certainly isn't, but if your drive is there then you'll make a way.


    I typed this long-ass reply and there was an error posting it. Let's grab something to eat sometime soon and I'll try and do it in person. I have to go be a daddy now.

  5. Just send me a FB message and let me know when you'd like to grab something. My days are all free since I work nights and I'm off each week on Wed/Thu.

  6. You can act like a man!