Thursday, October 25, 2012


Warning: It is entirely possible this post will be a load of old twaddle. Then again it's also likely to be highly personal and revelatory. Let's call it therapy of sorts.

First, the good news. I have been offered a full-time job off the back of an interview last Friday. My initial reaction is one of massive relief. We'll come to why a little later but it is amazingly good news. It also means major changes - I have not worked in a corporate job since 2010; have not worked full-time in a corporate job since 1998. The company is in the telecommunications industry where I have over twenty years experience. It will be a nice fit and I am actually excited about delving back into that world.

There is a nagging at the back of my brain though that due to the nature of the position my creative ambitions will have to be curtailed. Certainly they won't be extinguished but my current writer lifestyle will soon disappear. I have no choice. Right now, at this very moment, I am the poorest I think I have been. Ever.

It is a realisation that I have come to in recent weeks. Hence my utter relief at being offered the position. Being poor and living off unemployment benefits is humiliating, gut wrenchingly embarrassing, and debilitating in many ways. The reality is those benefits pay my rent and my private health insurance and leave me less than ten dollars a fortnight to live on. It's impossible.

I don't know how anyone does it. Just as well I paid off my credit card after my redundancy as it has been taking a hammering of late - buying groceries on credit, petrol, paying bills where I can. But then the monthly credit card payment has to be made. It's a cycle that spirals out of control and, in my case, was a few short weeks from seeing me with nothing.

It had me contemplating options I could not fathom - having to sell my car, whatever possessions of any value and, as an absolute last resort, moving back home. I know I would have been welcome even though it would have been difficult for all involved but at my age, simply humiliating.

Yes, I am cursed with pride. That's what makes it hard to stomach - I've never really had to worry about money before. I like to write in cafes - but that's expensive. I like to go to plays and shows to support actor friends and colleagues - often even more expensive. Recently buying petrol to get to these things has been a worry. I'm tired of eating rice and two minute noodles. I haven't bought new clothes in forever. Everything is a struggle. I'm also too polite. I buy people, especially women, drinks and lunches when I can't afford it. It's the way I was brought up.

Then there's been the job search. I have extensive experience over those twenty plus years including, at one stage, managing a call centre of some 220 people with a nominal operating budget of $14 million. Since March when I started with Centrelink I have had FOUR interviews. That's it. Get me in the room and I am fine - more than fine. The first interview the owner of the recruitment agency was sending the client a "highly recommended"... except the client withdrew the position. The next two interviews I was told it was between me and one other person and obviously I dipped out both times but was tantalisingly close. Until this latest one. Success! But the process over several months had left me despondent... or worse.

Depression is a word I have difficulty with. But if I was being honest with myself I would say there are times that's what I was going through. Unable to get out of bed. Unable to write. Not wanting to talk to anyone. Lost in a fog. The RU OK? initiative is a good one - but simply asking isn't enough. If anyone had have asked me I would have lied and said, "sure, I'm okay." That pride thing again.

It is a delayed reaction to having been made redundant back in 2010. Yes, I was shocked at the time but I think I was insulated from the worst of the ramifications because I had a reasonable payout shortly followed by a grant for a feature script. Money wasn't a problem - I paid off a car loan, all my credit card debts, happily went about my business. I didn't think - deliberately I suspect - about what had been taken away - security (or the illusion of this), routine, the camaraderie of the workplace, a certain sense of worth an achievement.

It's a hell of a thing to happen to you. Anyone going through it now - you have my deepest empathy. It sucks. The way mine was handled. The effect - immediate or otherwise - on your self-esteem. All of it.

The great irony is, as I sunk deeper into a funk about my financial prospects, the creative side started to take unexpected turns. I began to charge for script reads and notes; for monologues and scenes. This has started to provide a growing stream of money (albeit sporadic) without which I would have been in desperate straits. More than that, it has allowed me to exercise skills I believe I'm very good at, namely writing, script analysis and script editing. But on top of that I damn well enjoy being around creative people and talking story and script. To those people and teams, thank you. In many ways. the mental stimulation was as important as the monetary side.

I also recently finished a new feature script. It took way longer than it should have mainly because, I suspect - no, I know - of that D word. But when I finally pulled my finger out and completed it I was very happy with the results. Soon it will be time to work on the next draft. With the advent of me rejoining the workforce it will likely be the only project I'll be working on. Unless something hits that is sitting with potential investors. It's a worthy project with an excellent director so if it is to be the only one I have no trouble with that. No trouble at all.

Finally, people may think I was being a smartarse writing a short in two days and posting it online. But until this morning's news I kind of needed some sort of positive affirmation as things were potentially looking bleak. I have really been buoyed by the response. Thank you to those people who took the time to read it and offer such encouraging words.

I apologise for the length and content of this post. It has been written for me more than anything else. That's one of the reasons we write. To process and deal with things in our lives we may not be able to handle any other way.

My misadventures may take on a different flavour now but rest assured I'll always try and keep that creative spark alive any way I can...

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