Thursday, January 26, 2012

It may not look hard, but it feels good

I have the best day job on the planet.

I get paid to take journalists out for fancy lunches, or to escort people on beer-drinking adventures around the Bend Ale Trail. I've gone ice skating, snowshoeing, bloody mary tasting, camping, mac-n-cheese sampling, hiking, standup paddleboarding, and bar hopping – all required by my job in marketing/PR for my city's tourism bureau.

I love my job. But there are times I feel guilty.

There's been some PR chaos this week, and since I only work part-time, my attention has been spread thin. Tuesday evening, I checked my calendar and groaned (not in the fun way). My entire Wednesday was blocked off for a tour of local farms, ranches, and wineries specializing in organic and sustainable practices.

In other words, I'd be paid to spend the day petting animals, eating amazing food, and drinking wine. Not exactly a hardship.

But I worried about it. Could I spare a whole day with so much real work on my plate? Would my boss consider it a waste of time? Would my co-workers envy my day of play and band together to give me a wedgie in the break room?

I considered canceling, but since I'm already contracted to write a freelance article on the experience, I decided to go.

Good thing.

Yes, the day was fun. It felt great to get out of the office and suck down fresh air, good food, and great wine. I had fun petting the animals. On a scale of 1-10, my stress level was minus-3.

But it was also one of the best learning experiences I've had in a long time.
Hello, I'm an alpaca. Want some socks?
In seven hours, I packed my brain full of useful information about culinary tourism. I learned the differences between grain-fed and grass-fed beef, and which local restaurants are best suited to food critics who prefer one over the other. I visited one of the nation's largest alpaca breeding operations, and discovered the most amazing alpaca-fleece ski socks to suggest to winter sports enthusiasts. I saw rabbits and turkeys and pigs and goats in an enormous petting zoo I never knew existed, but I'll now recommend to tourists with young kids.

Sure, it seems like I spent the day eating and playing. In a way, I did. But you can be damn sure I'm more equipped to do my job than I would have been if I'd skipped the tour and written press releases until the dullness of my own prose rendered me unconscious and drooling on my keyboard.

This is something I need to remind myself constantly as a fiction writer. For the average debut author, there's a never-ending list of blog posts to write, email to answer, and manuscripts screaming for fresh words.

Still, I spent last Sunday afternoon snuggled under the covers with my gentleman friend eating pizza, skimming cookbooks, and talking.

That might be only a partial list of activities. Regardless, it was time spent connecting with another human being. A human being I'm quite fond of, as you might imagine.

Hard to argue that's not time well spent for someone who writes novels about love and laughter and the human experience.

It's taken me a long time to reach a point in life where I don't feel a constant need to be productive. Just because I'm not parked in front of my computer doesn't mean I'm not working. Just because I'm not cranking out media pitches or chapters in a novel doesn't mean I'm not supporting my career.

And just because it doesn't look like work doesn't mean it's not the most valuable thing I could possibly be doing with my time.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a glass of wine with my name on it. What? It's research.


Anonymous said...

OMG that is the silliest alpaca pic I've ever seen in my entire life and I laugh at it hysterically.

Harley May said...

You really do have a great job! Love this post

Caitlin Whitaker said...

"Want some socks?" Best photo caption ever.

Mandy Allen said...

I'm having to remind myself daily that if I don't make a point to get out of my routine and do something interesting once in a while I won't have anything to talk about on my blog! Thanks for reaffirming what I already knew!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Oh what a wonderful job you have. My advice is to never feel guilty about it and to enjoy all the benefits of it while they last!

~ M said...

That alpaca photo made my morning. Thanks for that!

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a great day you had and love love love the picture. Also thanks for writing such a great piece. I really needed to hear something like this today to get my mind to stop doing 1000s of laps in my head. Enjoy your wine :)

Lynnanne said...

nice job ya have there, tawna. most folks don't get paid to drink. lol

love, love, love alpacas. they're so soft whether you're feeling the wool on them, or on yourself. hypoallergenic wool to boot. i've heard they take about as much as a medium sized dog to feed, and don't go through too much hay. yeah... i want one. better yet, the hubby does too! one of these days!! :)

Suze said...

I loved this post... but I read the second half thinking: where can I buy the socks? Where can I buy the socks? :) Did the farm sell them? Enquiring minds need to know! It sounded like a truly lovely day :)