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Writing in the Real World: Bohemian with Benefits

By Tony LaScala · October 17, 2012

A few months ago I looked at one of my meager paychecks after a seemingly endless week of work. On my desk were a small pile of bills; student loans, car insurance, cable, water & power, and rent was just a few days away. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I had decided that an artist’s “Bohemian” lifestyle meant that I shouldn’t have medical insurance and should panic every first of the month and engage in that mad dash scramble to move money around and search for loose change in my car seats.

I began an Internet job search, just to feel out my options. I was looking for something that would allow me to quit my day job but still leave me time to work on my writings, including these little therapeutic “Odd-Job” ramblings. Within a few minutes I had discovered something that I had been too naïve or to stupid to realize for six years, I was qualified for several better paying jobs; specifically, Copywriting.

In my arrogantly ignorant mind I had dismissed being a copywriter as someone who files technical paperwork to “copyright” things. It made sense logically (at least to me), but I should have realized that there was no way that ad agencies were always looking for someone to file copyright paperwork. How many things could possibly need to be copyrighted every week Tony!?  How was I supposed to know that copywriting WAS writing? (It’s only in the title Dip$#!+)

I began the presumably tedious process of writing a resume, only to discover it was much less tedious than I had imagined (certainly less so than waking up and trudging off to my unfulfilling day job every day)

If my current boss is for some reason reading this article… you knew what this was when you hired me…

I may have just become unemployed.

With some help from my parents, I had what I thought was a professional resume and was ready to apply for positions in the film industry. I searched every imaginable website for keywords like “writer, copy writing, write, content creator, etc.” I came up with a lot of options, most of which were either across the country, payment was “deferred,” or in an industry I was unenthusiastic about (or downright morally against: who wants to be the guy who writes copy to promote high fructose corn syrup… it’s killing us people!)

I turned up one job that I was REALLY excited about. It was with a small Social Media Marketing firm in Beverly Hills that handled film studios. I already had a lot of experience in Social Media Marketing (advertising through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc and creating engaging material for my current day job), and I would be working in an industry I’m clearly passionate about. Fourteen minutes after applying for the job, the big boss texted me. It’s been awhile since I applied for a “real” job because I had no idea potential employers texted. (It’s kind of like finding out your second grade teacher drank and fraternized with men.) I set up an interview for a few days later.

Job interviews are a lot like auditions. I had to spend hours picking out what to wear, self-interviewing myself, and scanning the Internet for information on the position. I was nervous because in a few of the skill areas I didn’t have as much experience. I waved that all off because I knew that while you can teach someone how to use a computer program, you can’t teach creativity and ingenuity.

On the way to the interview, I got lost. Thankfully, I had awoken at the butt crack of dawn and had left incredibly early for the interview. I was able to sift through Beverly Hills traffic and arrive at the agency on time. The minute I stepped into the building, I “hearted” it. It was cozy and overlooked the city. Everyone in the small, casually dressed staff looked happy (didn’t know that existed). I was greeted by Adam (too nice to be a real person, probably a friendly cyborg from the year 2154) and jumped into the interview.

I was rusty, despite all my practice. I was trying to answer all of the questions without talking too much but making sure to say enough. There’s a fine balance between the two and I was trying my hardest to find it without appearing I was trying to find it. I thought that the interview went well, the one snag being that they were looking for someone who could handle Photoshop.

I had used Photoshop a lot in High School, but I had a feeling the program might have changed a bit in the last decade. I assured Adam that while I hadn’t used the program in awhile, it was like riding a bike and I would pick it up again easily. We shook hands, he assured me that they would be in touch, and I raced home and collapsed on the couch in a nervous slumber.

When I awoke, I immediately began re-learning Photoshop. I had to take a break because my arms were trembling as I worked. At first I thought that I was just nervous, but then my stomach reminded me that I hadn’t eaten a morsel of food in 28 hours. After inhaling a bizarre concoction of leftovers that was mysteriously tasty (beans, goat cheese, soy-sage, veggies, a little homemade barbeque sauce, and two leftover butternut squash ravioli stirred together in a trough), I returned to Photoshop and created an ad for the film Expendables 2. I sent the ad to Adam and said something about how Photoshop wouldn’t be a problem. He sent back that it looked great and my heart started racing like we had just shared our first kiss.

The most nerve-racking weekend of my life went by sllllooooooowwwwlllllyyyy. I felt every tick of the clock and checked my email every few nanoseconds, despite my inner voice telling me that there was no way they would contact me on a weekend. I tried to watch football and do my movie reviews but couldn’t focus. (Full disclosure: I may have had other things on my mind when I wrote that Solomon Kane review).

I was at a Black Keys concert on Tuesday when I finally got the email from Adam. They had hired someone else, but really liked me and wanted to know that I was second in line for the position. The person they had hired had years of experience working with movie advertising. Adam was going to keep me in mind for future positions because he thought I would really fit in at the agency.

I almost cried.

I’m lying. I did cry, but I didn’t want to sound like a wimp. Also, I was at a rock concert, and I didn’t want people to think I was THAT moved by the music. (Sorry Black Keys, that guy weeping in the second row was misty eyed over a missed opportunity and not your killer drum solo.) My wife said all the right things to comfort me, but nothing could take away the sinking feeling of missing out on a job that felt so right. In the immortal words of the great Jedi Master Yoda, “Try not. Do or do not!  There is no try.”

I wanted to wait to write this article. I kept pushing back publishing because I wanted a happy ending (FOR ONCE!!!!!). It seems to me that so many of my writings end with me failing. I suppose the silver lining (blah blah blah) is that failure is just a part of this business. You have to have a thick skin (blah) and a short memory (blah blah). If I went into a deep depression over every failure, I would have jumped off a bridge by now, because I fail A LOT. (Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah-dy blah blah)  

What came out of that interview was confidence (I think). I know I can do that job, and I know that I can do it well. I just applied to a few more openings in similar fields, and I know that I’m going to get something eventually; I’m too driven not to. I’ve reached a point in my life where I just want more, and I’m no longer willing to compromise. I want a car that isn’t embarrassing to drive around. I want to be able to take my brothers to a football game and not worry about the cost of a hotel room. Above all, I want to take pride in what I am doing, and be able to apply my skill set to a job that I actually care about.

Bohemian, Schmomemian; I’m going to be the Bohemian with benefits.



#Tony LaScala@Coloropolis