• Writers at Work at Work: Raymundo

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Writing at Work     Comments 4 comments

    Workplace frustrationLast week we asked for brave volunteers to tell us their stories about writing at work on company time—be it at a becubicled office, a busy restaurant or bar, a factory (a la Ben Hamper), what have you—for a new series called “Writers at Work at Work.” I expected a small handful of responses, but instead, I’m scrambling to keep up with all of the wonderful worker-writers willing to share with us.

    If you care to be one of them, drop me a line and I’ll get you started.

    Our first writer at work at work has asked that we call him “Raymundo.” Raymundo recently left a state agency in the South where for 13 years he worked in IT; “an unhealthy situation,” he tells us, where his “growing contempt for that workplace was vented in creative writing.”

    Imagine how much great writing there would be if more frustrated workers used creative writing at work as an outlet.

    Raymundo was kind enough to answer some questions about his experiences writing at work, which he told me ended up being a therapeutic exercise. I’m glad of that, because his responses, while often amusing, definitely hint at lots of workplace dissatisfaction, a feeling shared by many millions of workers.


    Please describe your work setting: do you have privacy in which to write, or are you out in the open? An inspiring view of nature, or cubicle walls?

    I was a supervisor so I had a corner office (buffered by a large storage/work area) with a commanding view of the city center. The view was inspiring at times, but mostly from the standpoint of prompting my longing to be anywhere else. That feeling came out in a number of blog entries and in a short story that was published by a local arts magazine.


    Computer or longhand?

    I worked mostly off a flash drive using a work laptop, so it was easy to transport files between home and work. I sometimes used Dropbox, which was safer for my data but a greater risk for discovery. I also wrote in a small notebook I kept with me, but that was mostly for general notes and brainstorming.


    Have you ever been caught writing at work?

    No, although there was always that risk. Management there loved to catch people working other jobs on agency time and I know of at least two firings for it. But as I said, I was overlooked and stuck in a corner so I didn’t arouse suspicion. Boredom and resentment pushed me to take the risk.

    [Tweet “”Boredom and resentment pushed me to take the risk [of writing at work].””]

    Do your co-workers know you write at work?

    I never told any fellow employees that I was doing personal writing at work, though it would not have surprised a few of them. It was not uncommon, however, for employees to do personal Internet surfing and personal IT work on the job, so they would not have viewed my writing as anything different.


    What would your boss say if he/she knew?

    My supervisor would have been angered at knowing, because she was totally taken with the “good and faithful servant” syndrome that is so common in the U.S. Deep South. That view is tied to the predominant religion there and is deeply and unquestioningly hierarchical/patriarchal. In practice, it works out to be the attitude that the worker owes his/her life to his/her betters (i.e., the managers) and that doing anything other than “the job” on “their time” is sinful or unethical at best. I have even seen it lead to boasting about working a lot of unpaid overtime (sacrifice is a big part of the syndrome). So I was very much at odds, though underground, with that philosophy.


    Do you ever feel guilty for writing on company time?

    Perhaps at first, but I quickly lost all guilt because I was doing all the little menial work they required of me (which was all they really wanted), and I came to believe that while I was stealing time from the job, the job (i.e., “the system”; “the dominator culture”) was stealing life from me.

    [Tweet “”I was stealing time from the job, the job was stealing life from me.””]

    Are you forced to write in fits and starts between tasks, or are you able to set aside blocks of time?

    Usually I was able to work for one or two hours straight with little interruption. Of course, that would depend on what was going on with the job. Mostly, though, the environment was not conducive to work on a big project, like a novel, so most of my on-the-job writing was short stories, book reviews, and blog entries—stuff I could write to completion in two or three hours.


    Does your writing style/process at work differ from your style/process at home?

    Yes, because I seldom could afford the time for deep concentration at work that my primary projects (novels) required. The heavy work of plotting, research, characterizations and such for a major project was best done at home for me.


    Does your job involve any writing? How do your personal writing and your work writing impact each other?

    It involved low-level business and some technical writing. I often pushed it to higher levels, however, by writing regular status reports with essays stuck into them, and technical documentation in the form of a several-volumed manual that also contained lengthy prose sections and an introduction that was an essay.

    I also had to fill out time-sheets that accounted for every minute of the workweek—that was mostly fiction.

    My bosses were sometimes amazed at the writing work I did, since technicians are usually not prone to write anything beyond programming script or documentation that is much more than screen-prints. I stood out in that regard, but I can’t say I was ever rewarded in any significant way for being able to write decent prose.

    [Tweet “”I had to fill out time-sheets that accounted for every minute—that was mostly fiction.””]

    Do you have any advice to pass along to anyone who wants to start writing at work but doesn’t know how, or is scared to try?

    Don’t do it unless you have a unique work situation that allows you to do it openly. Otherwise, don’t put your employment at risk. If you feel compelled to steal time from your day job to write (as I did), then I suggest you look closely at your situation. It could be that you are working a job you are unsuited for. In my case, it led to utter job burn-out, which is a serious condition that can lead to depression. My self-treatment was my writing and, eventually, counseling. Fortunately, supported by my loving wife, I was able to leave the situation that was bringing me down and now I don’t have to hide my writing. That’s the best way.

    If you can’t be a full-time writer, then I suggest you find a day job that you can work honestly at and that doesn’t cause you pain. Do your writing by night.


    Many thanks to Raymundo for sharing his story. If you want to tell us yours, email me at david[at]writebynight.net, or leave a comment below.

    Now get back to writing at work!


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    McKenzie K.

    Are you and I related Raymundo? This sounds almost exactly like my setup, right down to the corner office and the contempt. Problem is I’m still in that same situation. Congrats for getting out of yours.


    I think it’s a common worker’s problem, Mac: Can’t quit and can’t go on. Breaking the deadlock usually incurs great risk, and it has for me. Until you can get out, you need something to sustain you, like writing. It should just be something that you know better defines you and that is more “real” than the job. Family support is also invaluable if you have it. Hang tough!

    […] getting a lot of great feedback on our Writers at Work at Work series, particularly in light of Raymundo’s interesting experiences stealing time from an unnamed state agency to write short stories and book reviews in his corner […]


    […] volunteers to share their experiences with us of writing at work; so far we’ve heard from Raymundo, Jake, and Dana. Today we’re talking […]

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