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Getting Inspiration from Employment

Getting Inspiration from Employment

Does employment happen at all in your writing? It probably should, even if you just mention it in passing.

Working Stiffs

Employment colors most people’s lives (or the lack of a job). And whether your job is a creative one, or has to do with business, athletics, science, the Internet, or anything else, it can help propel your creative spirit to new heights.

Employment as Metaphor

So let’s say your characters are on a spaceship deep in the Andromeda Galaxy. Hence the time frame, pretty obviously, is the deep future. Yet even if you feel we’ll all be part-cyborg pod people, you can still see your current position (or a past one) as a kind of metaphor. Because even your heroes in space suits might become peeved if someone else uses their favorite ray gun.

Or maybe they have a conflict over a meal – even if that meal is an alien carcass or a mess of nutrition pills. Since it’s your show and your universe, why not show someone who resents the person in charge?

Repetitive or Unpleasant Work

For even the most exciting and glamorous occupations, there can often be a great deal of repetitive work. Actors have to memorize lines or go to cattle call auditions or autograph stacks and stacks of head shots. Models have to travel a lot and miss their families, and they wait around a lot at photo shoots. And singers get colds. In addition, lawyers have to answer emails and phone calls and travel to court.

Furthermore, doctors – even world class ones – sometimes deal with less than cooperative patients. And politicians deal with the polls and the press.

Most noteworthy, you’re a writer. So you know all about artist’s block.

Hence consider what you do, over and over again, at work. Maybe it’s running database queries. Or filing papers. Maybe you fill out tax forms or dig holes to embed fence posts or you clean animal cages or perform oil changes.

Now, please keep in mind, I want you to stay safe at all times! However, doing a repetitive task can sometimes lead to your mind wandering. So why not let it wander to and then linger on your writing? Maybe you can envision one of your characters performing your repetitive task.

Never mind if the time frame is wrong; this is just an exercise. And then start thinking about other tasks your character could be performing. While writing about a repetitive task might not make it into the final cut of your work, it could give you insights into your character’s personality and motivations.

Maybe your character makes mistakes. Or maybe they’re perfect at executing the task. In addition, some character might rebel or be repulsed by your task. So, can you extrapolate that to your work and your universe? Maybe you can.

Employment Isn’t Always 9 to 5

With all due apologies to Dolly Parton, sometimes people pour their cup of ambition at 4 PM their time.

My characters Josie James and Peri Martin are pretty much workaholics. Ceilidh O’Malley is a servant for most of the Real Hub trilogy, so she is at anyone’s beck and call. When she starts to work for Dr. Devon Grace, she is even more on call than before. Marnie Shapiro is the captain of a spaceship so she gets no time off at all.

In Mettle, Craig, Noah, Elise, Mei-Lin, and Olga are all on the job when we first see them. The only reason Nell, Kitty, Mink, and Dez aren’t on the job is because they’re still middle schoolers. And Eleanor, who has Alzheimer’s, doesn’t work any more.

Finally, in Untrustworthy, Tathrelle works as a government liaison but she’s being used. As for Ixalla, I think she’s the only working character I have ever shown getting fired.


Whether you’re an accountant or an astronaut, you might be able to use your employment as a vehicle for writing inspiration.

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