Sex and the Ivy

Addendum to Previous Post

Filed under: Work — Elle March 29, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

“Kermit” commented in my last entry:

I highly doubt that freelancing will allow you to write what you want because you still have to cater to the requests of your publisher. So it’s whoring no matter which way you go. With the other option, at least you have the luxury of choice to pick the second option at some time in the future (or become the Man rather just work for him).

My response:

Unless you’re the CEO, you have to cater to the requests of superiors no matter which occupation you choose. The same goes for freelance writing, but hey, at least I’m not busting my ass 70 hours a week at a job I hate (I’m not generalizing either, 90% of people I know in financial services loathe the lifestyle). Writing, with complete editorial control or not, is still more satisfying to me than crunching numbers. As for an income that offers “the luxury of choice” in the future, I say fuck that. By the time you get out of your two-year contract, finish business school, and pay back those loans, you’re pushing 30 and ready for the next great financial strain: marriage and kids. Sure, it’s easy to say that you can do what you really love in a few years, but the reality is that it’s now or never. And I’m not exactly known for my patience.

Besides, who says writers can’t enjoy comfortable lifestyles while honing their craft? The only gig cushier than working for the Man is fucking the Man and getting all the benefits of a six-figure job without actually, you know, doing the job. After all, great artists have always had their patrons.


Lit Whore With Better Hours Than Yours

14 Responses to “Addendum to Previous Post”

  1. Karl Says:

    Wallace Stevens sold insurance for almost 50 years, he found the time to write poems when he was commuting to his office (after he won the Pulitzer Prize Harvard offered him a job but he turned it down because it would have required him to leave the insurance company). Kurt Vonnegut wrote his first novel when he was working in the PR department at GE. William Carlos Williams was a doctor who delivered over 3,000 children during his 50 year career. Very few of his patients knew he wrote poems. Dante was a politician, he didn’t even start writing the Divine Comedy until he was 43. Rimbaud stopped writing poetry all together at the age of 19. He spent the rest of his life as a gun runner.

    Just because you work for the Man doesn’t mean you serve him.

  2. Elle Says:

    Receptionists by day audition for acting roles by night. Mailroom workers are honing their screenplays during lunch break. But there are exceptions to every rule and let’s face it: Dana Vachon is one of the few bankers to ever turn literary. For the most part, the finance/consulting/generic ivy post-grad route affords no free time for writing a book proposal.

  3. Rezolution Says:

    90%? High. Very very high.

    Hmmm, working along side brilliant, passionate, motivated people everyday on interesting and challenging projects… Sounds awful.

    I wonder how many receptionists and mail clerks love their job?

  4. Em Says:

    I’d actually think it would make sense for an emerging writer to have some other job. Wouldn’t it help give them something to write about other than writing?

  5. Honestly Says:

    As a creepy observer, I agree. A writer must experience before they can write.

  6. kermit Says:

    Oh, for the love of sanity, I didn’t mean to imply that:
    (1) I was/am a business student
    (2) I am in any way “better” than you or somehow morally superior. Sheesh.

    If having a “patron” to maintain what appears to be a lavish lifestyle by some standards is okay for you, then by all means don’t let me stand in the way of your happiness. I admire your honesty in calling it for what it is.

    All I meant to say was that one option affords you the luxury of choice and that neither option is somehow morally superior to the other. Just because this choice means nothing to you doesn’t mean that it may not be valued by other people. Some people may not be okay with the idea that they can be thrown out on their ass at the whim of their financier. But they may be okay with the idea of putting up with shit for a while if it leads to them being their own boss, with their own bank account, and their own freedom to walk out on it all whenever the mood strikes them.

  7. kermit Says:

    And I hardly think that churning out works of art can be considered a less than 70 hrs/week job either.

  8. Elle Says:

    To clarify again, I’m not comparing full-time freelancing to a typical 9-to-5 gig or even a part-time job that supplements income; I’m comparing it to highly demanding, lifestyle-restricting occupations that are typically chosen by Ivy grads (i.e. the expected route for most kids in my position). My original post was about my disdain for “pressure cooker” recruiting events and my awareness that a cubicle at a bulge bracket firm effectively means not having any time to write for the foreseeable future.

    And yes, these are 22-year-olds making 100+ grand a year, but very few people — at any age — actually NEED to be making that much, nor are most people I know in financial services passionate about their career. Banking is a means to an end, but “putting up with shit” until that end is not something worth the time or salary. That’s the difference: I view writing as a worthwhile pursuit in that more writers WANT to be writers for life but no one grows up eager to perform discounted cash flow analysis.

    And just as someone might tell me that I am an idiot for giving up lucrative opportunities by refusing to go down that path, I think it’s a shame that so many of my peers are leaving Harvard uninspired. I interact all day with bright, ambitious, motivated people whose talents are more diverse than imaginable and yet a huge portion of them (and a big chunk of my closest friends) choose a typical path and forget that they are not typical people.

  9. Business Boy Says:

    KERMIT WROTE: “neither option is somehow morally superior to the other”

    I don’t agree. Being an “artist” and having a “patron” in nothing more than being a whore and having a pimp or a regular john. There’s something extremely honorable and moral about being able to stand on your own two feet and take responsibility for yourself as opposed to living out your bullshit fantasy of being an “artist” while you live off of someone else. What a pathetic existence. Artists can say all they want about what they do for the sake of their “art”- unless you’re really working in an honest way with personal accountability to make the world a better place you are wasting your human form of life.

  10. Michael Ward Says:

    I agree. Fuck the man!

  11. most_impressive Says:

    Even CEOs have to pander to stock holders and the like. Or their wives. ;)

  12. lordavery Says:

    I’m skeptical about your claim of “22-year-olds making 100+ grand a year.” I can’t imagine any company paying $100k/year for someone with a bachelors and no post-graduate work experience, even if you are from Harvard. Additionally, it doesn’t seem consistent with starting salaries of grads from Harvard’s business and law schools, who “only” start in the mid-$100k range.

  13. Rody Says:

    After a good year on Wall Street, first-year investment bankers, many hired straight out of Harvard College, can haul in close to $150k. Hard to believe, lordavery, but true.

  14. Joseph Says:

    “The only free press belongs to the man who owns one.” - A.J. Liebling

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