Friday, January 23, 2009

Careers in arrears

Let’s be honest: in this time of global financial catastrophe I’m glad I’ve got a job. And even happier that it’s one I enjoy for the most part (yes, I do grumble every now and then, but then who doesn't?). That said, there’s always been a part of me that can’t help thinking that it’s a shitty world we live in where people can’t fully embrace their passions as a full time career. As anyone who knows me or has read this blog will tell you, it's my ultimate goal to be a full-time writer. I'm fortunate that my job has given me - and continues to give me - the opportunity to write and edit text on a subject I love, but at the end of the day I ultimately want to create my own sandbox to play in. That said, writing wasn't always my first choice as a career.

When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be a bus driver.

(You at the back - stop laughing) 

OK, to really understand my mindset you need to know that I was utterly obsessed by buses as a kid; I had hundreds of toy buses, from little tiny ones to a big plastic routemaster I could pretty much ride (although in hindsight it probably looked like I was dry-humping the thing). Every bus journey was an adventure, every ticket stashed away in a bus-shaped tin as a historical record. It was a natural evolution of my obsession to want to be a bus driver when I was old enough. 

I even said to Sparky Ma once that when I grew up I wanted to buy an old bus so that I could live in it; she frowned and told me that was what gypsies and mentalists did, wisely and subtly putting me off the idea.

My little silver Raleigh Chucka bike served alternately as the 116 bus to Hounslow, complete with stops to let imaginary passengers off, and a Klingon Bird-of-Prey (these were the days after I’d seen Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, after all). Eventually, though, the bus-lust faded and I started to think about other career paths that wouldn't necessarily require me to deal with the general public.

Growing up I'd always enjoyed drawing and everyone told me I was good at it, so I decided I wanted to be an artist of some kind. With the passing of my bus obsession I soon became obsessed with Garfield (what!? Don't look at me like that!) and announced that I would become a professional cartoonist like Jim Davis. I practiced drawing Garfield for several years, and if I do say so myself got pretty bloody good at it; I can still draw him now, albeit 1989-era Garfield rather than the slightly more exaggerated cartoony style of today's version. Having mastered someone else's creation I turned my attention towards creating my own cartoon strip masterpiece. The result was Mits, a fluffly seal cub who wore a fancy bobble hat and shared an iceberg with a carnivorous penguin who was always trying to eat him, and a lady seal cub who appeared identical to Mits save for rosy red lips and a pink bikini top. I built up quite a collection of Mits strips based on the fact that I figured if I started early enough I'd have several years worth of strips ready to roll when the newspapers came a-calling. It was HI-larious, really. But you'll have to take my word for that as all 20-odd Mits strips I amassed were tragically lost when I binned them after throwing a creative, pre-pubescent strop. In hindsight I should've brought it to a natural, if dark conclusion with the arrival of a violent seal-clubbing expedition; I'm thinking the last panel could've shown Mits' iceberg tinged with blood, but with no sign of our hero or his pals, thus leaving their fate open to interpretation…

In early 1992 I saw Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country at the cinema and decided that for my next career move I wanted to be William Shatner. Shortly after that I realised that the position was taken. And anyway, it would appear now that Chris Pine has dibs on it next.

By the time I was nudging toward my GCSEs and really having to make some serious career choices I had veered back towards the arty side of things. I've always been more of an arty person anyway, and I loved sketching things. The trouble was, though, that while I *am* arty and can draw, I'm awfully restless and simply don't have the patience to meticulously draw panel after panel of artwork; I put this down to being the product of the NOW NOW NOW instant gratification generation - which is why I leave the drawing side of things to talented and chilled-out people like Grum.

Nevertheless, while I shared the honour of being the joint-first person to gain an A-grade at Graphical Communication at my senior school, I was still dabbling in writing. I particularly remember a slightly disturbing comedy rewrite of Snow White and The Seven Dwarves that I produced around the age of 14 which I seem to recall recast Snow White as something of a slut. Still, my English teacher liked it so much that she kept talking about trying to get it published (I really don't think she got the double entendres and overt smuttiness of it), and at her insistence I even wrote a sequel that expanded slutty Snow White's universe out to encompass other fairy tales that I similarly bastardised. In hindsight, I think the producers of Shrek might've ripped me off a bit.

Anyway, after leaving school I had what I can only think to refer to as my lost weekend, which was in actuality just three months of me sitting around watching This Morning with Richard and Judy, talking about writing a proposal for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and pissing off Sparky Ma who was clearly having horrifying visions of me living in a bus with a dog wearing a jaunty neckerchief and spending my days drinking Special Brew from a chipped teacup. Truth be told, though, I actually did - write a proposal for Star Trek: Voyager, that is. I even handed it around to a load of non-Trekkie mates to get their opinion, as I was adamant it had to work as a good story first, and as a Star Trek story second.

Never sent the thing off, though, despite applying for the writer's submission guidelines that the Star Trek franchise sent out to all and sundry at the time.

Shortly after that I scored my first real job. I'd been aiming for a junior editorial position, but ended up getting a design job based on the sheer awesomeness of my A-grade winning A-level graphics project (which was based on Star Trek). I suspect I initially came across as something of an annoying little tit when I started work shortly after my 19th birthday, as I was unfamiliar with the protocol of working in an office and was constantly trying to get some banter going. That said, seeing as I actually didn’t change my ways by the time my two and a half years there were up it’s entirely possible I was viewed as an annoying little tit for the entire time I was employed there and they were glad to get shot of me. Who knows? I do recall, however, that I was so unfamiliar with the ways of working a proper office job that at the end of my first week I came *this* close to asking my boss if he could write a short letter to my mum to let her how I was getting on.

And as regular reader will know, from there I headed over to my present job, blah, blah, blah, where I've been shacked up in my little Star Trek bunker for - EEK! - 10 years now.

Anyway, as much as I like my job there’s part of me that really wants to forge my own path at some point and start my own little business. To be the queen bee rather than a drone. OK, bad analogy. To be the shepherd, not the sheep. That’s better. And by little I do mean little. I don't want to run a massive multinational or anything. I'd love something run from a small office with a handful of mates working for me (I know some people say you shouldn't work with your mates, but seeing as I met a lot of the really good ones through working with them I think we'd be OK).

For years I’ve been trying to come up with some idea for a business that would be a) enjoyable, b) present minimal risk of failure, and c) be profitable (not necessarily to the point where I’d be rubbing myself in cash like Scrooge McDuck, but enough so that I could live comfortably and without any great financial concerns). A few years ago Mr. Chunt and I spent several evenings in a pub talking about setting up a t-shirt company. Fired up by, I believe, several pints of Guinness on his part, and far too many orange juice and lemonades on mine, he researched sourcing plain t-shirts we could print some funky designs on, and I set about designing a startlingly shitty logo.

That's not to say that a company is the only thing I've thought about doing. A couple of years ago I met the actor Tom Hardy and after complementing him on his performance in a production of Festen I’d seen him appear in the previous year, I was a little taken aback when he asked me if I was an actor. He’d obviously mistaken me for Chad Michael Murray or something. After rolling my eyes and laughing like a mentalist for a second or two I said no, then told him I was the editor of some Star Trek magazines, which, give him his due he sounded quite interested in and we chatted for a couple of minutes. As I walked off, though, his words rang in my ears once more: was I an actor? And for a while there I seriously thought about giving it a whirl. To be honest, I still am; inspired by how It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia came to fruition, I keep thinking that I might try my hand at writing and shooting a short film at some point.

The current crazy idea of the moment, though, comes in the form of an urge I've developed to set up a small independent press - one that focuses on helping new and emerging talents get their work out there, whether it be graphic novels, prose, or poetry - whatever, really. I think I’ve been looking at the Fantagraphics Books and Drawn and Quarterly blogs a bit too much. I love their books, and because I love books in general I figure it’s something I could quite easily get swept up in. The thing is, would it work? 

I'm fascinated by the whole print on demand thing that Createspace, among others, offers, which kind of cuts the financial risk of printing and distributing books because they only print what's needed and the thing is listed on bloody Amazon (and if they can't distribute a book I don't know who can). And then there's nothing to stop me trying to get copies into independent book shops and local branches of Borders and Waterstones. It's just an idea, and I'll no doubt get a better idea of the possibilities it does or doesn't offer when I get round to uploading my long-promised novella to Createspace (yeah, I *still* plan on sorting that out - tut, stop hassling me! WHATEVER!) - till then, though, I'll just be thinking and scheming…


M said...

Finally! WillowC and I have been waiting for ages for you to set up your own business, so we can all work together again!

PS. You'se a little bit psychic, I've been drafting a blog on my dream job this week.

Tara said...

I'm in total support of your new idea, it's wonderful. In fact I wouldn't mind being a client of a business like that so I can get off and start creating something to publish. I'd know who to turn to!

When I was younger I wanted to be a maid because I liked cleaning our house. My mom eventually persuaded me to pursue other avenues of careers.

the projectivist said...

i love Tara's comment about wanting to be a maid - hahha! (please can you ask your mother if she can please pass on to me the secret of making your children enjoy cleaning?!)

i'm sorry for laughing at you Tim, but that whole bit about wanting to be a bus driver, and your mum's visions of you living like a gypsy-mentalist was hilarious!


T-Bird said...

I probably don't say stuff like this enough, but you are a wonderful writer and a funny and creative person.

Follow the dream, babe. We'll be here cheering you on!

missy&chrissy. said...

wow! we similarly went through a few-year phase of drawing late 80's era garfield, which then morphed into us creating the little cartoon character of Wilbur, the tap-dancing pig. our comic strip didn't make it very far, either...

and we'd love to see excerpts of the smutty snow white tales here!

CyberPete said...

This was a really great post!

For about a second when I was 12 I wanted to be a glass blower, making beautiful vases, or perhaps it was the thought of blowing long hard rods. I don't know.

I'm not an arty person though, so being an office drone works for me (except I've had a million ideas of starting my own business)

Tim said...

M - Well don't go resigning just yet, it's still just a dream at the moment!!

Tara - Isn't it interesting how as kids we wanted to fulfill relatively menial yet nevertheless rather important jobs?

The Projectivist - Laugh away! I can still see the look on her face when I told her, and funnily enough we were on a bus at the time!!

T-Bird - Awwww, bless you dude!

Missy&Chrissy - Maybe we could write a Mits-Wilbur crossover?! That would be awesome!

Sadly, I think the Snow White stories went the same way as the Mits comic strips…

Cyberpete - That's a very, um, specialised field you were looking at there!

Marcosy said...

Tell the nice ladies and gentlemen exactly why your bus-lust faded.

CyberPete said...

I also had a brief "I want to be a shopgirl" phase. It lasted until I had to pretend to sell myself something and found out I don't deal well with difficult customers.

Yes, tell us why your bus-lust faded. Or maybe Marcosy should tell us, it might be more fun that way.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Well, Queen Bee, I think you should re-draw some of those Mits strips and post them on this here blog - They sound highly amusing!
And that slutty Snow White story: You hadn't fallen over the Cusp as a kid, had you? (Not that I'm saying Dinah/Snow White is a slut, of course.)

T-Bird's right: you are a wonderful writer and a funny and creative person. You've totally got my support!

WV is 'wishe' - I wish you'd strip. I mean, post some Mits strips.

Tim said...

Marcosy - But I did. What else is there to say other than a bastard bus closed its doors on my face!?

Cyberpete - Yes, probably wise you didn't go through with that particular career choice.

Inexplicable Device - Ha ha, no. I can only remember one panel, and that was Mits being chased across the ice by a carnivorous penguin brandishing a knife and fork. There was quite a dark undercurrent going on there, the more I think about it.

I'm ignoring the whole strip request, you perve.

CyberPete said...

Oh, I was thinking it had to do with you having an accident while dryhumping the bus. My mistake.

It's all for the best I'm sure.

You are, like they are all saying, fabulously talented and I 100% back you up. I'd buy your novella. It could be one of the 12 of this year too. You are getting me excited.

missy&chrissy. said...

a Mits-Wilbur cartoon would be awesome. maybe they can meet at the zoo - wilbur wanders off from the petting zoo/farm area, and lost near the arctic enclosure, he bumps into Mits.

this has endless cuddly merchandise opportunities. we can see kids clamoring over the Mit and Wilbur puppets already...

Tim said...

Cyberpete - Bless ya, sir! Don't get too excited!!

Missy&Chrissy - THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! I'm picturing toys, t-shirts, a TV show, A MOVIE!!

If only I could remember how to draw Mits…

missy&chrissy. said...

a movie would be SO awesome! dust those pencils off, and start drafting Mits again, pronto!

Tim said...

Oh, geez, I'll see if I can remember how to draw him!