"You can't make a living as a writer," says Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany in this month's National Geographic, explaining why he continues to practice dentistry when his book The Yacoubian Building has topped Arab best seller lists for the last two years.
The sad fact is that, like members of other creative professions, most writers have to make a living through something other than their art. The up side is that our day jobs provide fodder for our imaginations, as well as the grounding in reality that any good book needs to be believable.
I've learned something from every job I've held, and I have held a lot of them. I started working as a store clerk when I was 16 years old, then went on to a broad spectrum of positions -- everything from waitress to movie extra, dissertation editor to door-to-door seller of encyclopedias, inventory taker to cotton-candy maker. Along the way, I co-authored two non-fiction books and wrote case summaries for a legal periodical. For the past thirty years I've practiced law in a variety of settings -- as a solo practitioner, in a small firm, for a legal services program, as a temp, and, most recently, in a corporate law department. I've represented clients in thousands of hearings before trial courts and administrative agencies and written gazillions of legal documents.
In the months ahead, I will be blogging periodically about these jobs. Meanwhile, keep reading every day to keep up with the fascinating professions practiced by my fellow bloggers.