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Can Your Day Job Inspire Your Writing?
By Dr. Liz Hardy
July, 2007, 07:55

Allow the dreary day work to inspire characters and storylines in your creativity.
When you'd rather be spending your day working on a novel, it's hard to see how a day job could be a source of inspiration. But that day job can sometimes surprise you. See your job from just the right angle, and the office stops looking so much like a lifeless desert that threatens your creative survival. It's transformed into a lush oasis just bursting with colour and energy.

How can you bring about such a miraculous development?

The secret is not to check your personality at the door when you clock in every morning. You're a writer all the time! You don't have to lock that part of you away for eight hours every day.

Of course, you don't have to talk about your real identity in meetings, or offer lunchtime readings of your work. But, you can be secretly creative all day long.

Next time one of the cubicle-dwellers pulls up a chair to regale you with the details of what she had for lunch with her elderly parents on the weekend, control your impulse to run away screaming. Look at her with new eyes, instead. What can you take from this exchange that you can use for your creative work? Has this lifer developed an interesting speech pattern? Does she scratch her armpit without a trace of self-consciousness? Is she wearing strange shoes your main character might yearn for? What is interesting or unique about her, and how could it benefit your writing?

Instead of wasting creative energy fantasizing about a possible sticky end for your most hated manager, try thinking of him as potential material. Why does he make you so angry? Keep digging down beneath the surface of his expensive suit and the handfuls of hair product. What's going on there? Why does he act like he does? And is he anything like one of your fictional characters?

Could he be? Do you have an obnoxious character in your screen play that needs a little more fleshing out? When you look at your manager this way, every exchange (even the nasty ones) can be the source of a new idea.

When you're a writer trawling for new material, the office world can be a kaleidoscope of creative inspiration. Where else could you be exposed to such a dazzling and fascinating array of maladjusted human beings? You certainly wouldn't have access to these warped worldviews if you were comfortably tucked up at home with your laptop.

With this perspective, going to work can become more like going on a daily field trip. OK, it's not the most thrilling trip you've ever taken. You couldn't call it a holiday. But it's really a form of paid research. You have the opportunity to observe a range of weird and wonderful creatures at close range.

And as if this wealth of potential inspiration wasn't enough, there's one more benefit of looking at your working environment this way. You stay in close touch with your creative side. Your powers of observation are sharpened, instead of numbed. Your spark of curiosity about human nature continues to flicker. That's so good for your writing!

When you're constantly on the lookout for unexpected sources of inspiration, your imagination springs back into life. You're more motivated to dash off a character sketch in your lunch hour, or rewrite some dialogue that needed a little extra something.

You may still stop short of describing your day job as inspiring. But you have discovered a way to make your day job creatively satisfying, and that's almost as miraculous.
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Dr. Liz Hardy is a published author and professional Day Job Monster tamer. If you're a writer being eaten alive by the demands your day job, check out the free resources at DayJobMonster. They might just save your creative life.

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