One of the things I love about being a writer is choosing careers for my characters. This is when I think back over the things I wanted to be when I grew up and allow myself to dream a little. I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a research scientist, flight attendant, architect, farmer, astronaut, witch, wife (no, those two are not related), artist and an accountant. Yes, some people actually want to be accountants.
I’m sure there are more careers I investigated, even if only briefly, but these are the ones that stand out in my memory. Interestingly enough, I only ever pursued education toward two of these goals and have found work in vastly different fields.
My characters’ careers cover a wider range, but I’ve found I have a few standbys. When I examine them, I’m not at all surprised by what they are.
This one is pure wish fulfillment. My yearning to be an architect has never quite gone away. I am fascinated by the art of architecture. The engineering aspect intrigues me, but it’s the design part that really captures my imagination. The use of space and the statement of a building. What it means to the architect who designed it, and if it conveys the same message to all who look at it.
Whenever I am writing, I will spend days researching the architecture of a region (for an overall feel), before narrowing my focus to relevant buildings, houses and landscapes. I clip pictures and take notes. I have also invested roughly 10,000 hours designing houses and neighbourhoods in The Sims. I really ought to have a degree by now.
Mickey (Less Than Perfect) is an urban engineer. She’s an architect of a sort. All of the other architects I have written reside in works in progress. One day, I’ll get them into print!
I have written three accountants. Jared (Out in the Blue), Henry and Marc (Counting Fence Posts) are all accountants. Jared is a forensic accountant and his experience is based on the job my husband held when we got married. The traveling lifestyle of all three of these guys is as well. In fact, Jared so closely resembles my husband that I mentioned the fact in my acknowledgements. My husband chose to be flattered by this, and he should be! Jared is a great guy.
I did actually study accountancy—for a single year. I went to night school. Not sure if they still call it that. 😉 I excelled at contract law and computer skills, but failed the math class. It was pretty disheartening at the time. I can do math, but I have a huge disconnect when it comes to applying the right formula to the right problem. Through my guys, however, I can pretend for a little while that I’m not mathematically challenged! Also, my Google-Fu is awesome.
The I Haven’t Figured It Out Yet
I have two of these. Mac (Best in Show) and Max from another work in progress. Yeah, I have a few of these. I like writing guys who haven’t figured it out yet because, honestly, that was me in my twenties. I’d tried college three times and failed. I’d worked as a waitress, sandwich hand, in door to door sales, phone sales, as a courier, receptionist, file and mail clerk, in data entry and network engineer, as a finished artist, copy writer and book reviewer.
I don’t think Mac and Max are necessarily directionless. Instead, like me, they’re simply looking for the spark that ignites. For the career choice that clicks and makes them happy.
I have enormous respect for teachers. I have written two of them: Fin (Out in the Blue) and Reg (Less Than Perfect). A project I’m planning out right now has a teacher as a secondary character. I find writing a teacher somewhat challenging in that I feel I need to know something about the subject they teach in order to write them believably. Fin teaches social studies (this was my daughter’s favourite class last year because her teacher obviously loved his subject—I took notes), and Reg taught history. I say taught, because Reg’s world is post-apocalyptic and it might be a while before he gets back to teaching. He’s a bit busy dodging press gangs and aliens.
My own teaching experience is broken into two categories. I used to teach adult word processing classes—back in the days of Word Perfect! My fondest memory is of a student being afraid to use the Ctrl-Z command. They thought the computer might explode. I also taught general computer literacy to the teachers at the school where I worked for a little while. Email, internet, filling in the networked grade book I had designed for them, and producing reports. While at that school I taught two electives to the kids in computer skills and graphic design.
My teaching position was one of the few opportunities I’ve had to actually use some of my many bits and pieces of college education. 😉
I have two writers. Julian (Best in Show) and Charlie from yet another work in progress. Charlie’s story also has an architect and a teacher in it. It’s the holy trinity of my dream careers.
Writing writers feels a little self-indulgent, but also somewhat scary because writing is such a personal career and the way I represent my writers may clash with the way others do. I suppose that’s true of all careers. Writing writers is also restful in a way, because we’re a pretty quirky bunch, so you can’t really do anything wrong. It’s also a way to explore aspects of a writing career I haven’t discovered on my own yet: being a bestseller and writing good mysteries.
Writing is another career I have actually pursued education toward, and those were the courses I had the most success in. I guess I found my niche! As with any career, though, writing comes with plenty of opportunities to continue learning as I research jobs for my characters and build the worlds they live in. I really do learn something new every day. More than that, I get to dream, and that’s not something I’d swap for anything else.
Well, except for being an architect. I do still really want to be an architect one day.
Or maybe an astronaut.
(Featured image credit: http://spacecenter.org)