A regular job, that’s what I wanted when I was a child: a proper office, consistent hours, regularly appearing paychecks. I wanted to walk out of the house in heels and pantyhose and go off to work in a place that was not also my home. In short, I wanted the opposite of what I saw on the farm.
I was not simply craving the white-collar work world that appeared so glamorous on TV and so unlike anything around me. What I was longing for, I would not be able to articulate until older, was a life of structure and certainty.
I wanted to make money in a comfortable, consistent fashion so to avoid the stress of intermittent paydays that came, maybe only a few times a year, when truckloads of corn and wheat and soybeans were sold. I wanted a consistent workflow instead of the extremes of grain farming, the near round-the-clock labor during planting and harvest and the vast empty stretches of time to fill the rest of the year.
So what did I do? I became a freelance writer. And today—just like the farmer I swore I’d never be—I have no office to commute to, no externally imposed hours, no consistently appearing paychecks, no employer-funded health insurance or sick days or vacation, no structure, no certainty, and, thankfully, no requirement for pantyhose.
Writers, like farmers, can wear jeans to work. They are independent contractors, keeping their own hours, making their own way, and honing their craft through time and effort and solitary work. They have periods of intense, exhaustive work, followed by periods where nothing seems to be happening. They spend a great deal of time alone with their own thoughts (and perhaps because of this both show a predilection—anecdotally if not epidemiologically—for substance abuse). Farmers and writers are their own bosses: some do the minimum amount of work they must to get by, but most wake before dawn and work harder than people ever realize.
For farmers, it seems, were the original members of the creative class. Is it any wonder that the terminology of agriculture became the metaphorical language of creativity, that seeds and stories and ideas germinate, or that creative minds like fields can be fertile or fallow?
I have become a version of what I vehemently resisted, and I’m okay with that. I can embrace that irony, just as I do the uncertainty I once rejected, because the flipside of certainty is freedom. A farmer looks at a blank field and strategizes what she can grow there. A writer looks at a blank page and determines the same.