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April 20, 2017

Love hurts, actually

CityMag's editor, Farrin Foster, tackles misconceptions about doing what you love for a living.

  • Words: Farrin Foster

About a year and a half ago, CityMag was on the rocks.

Our whole team braced for the end of the thing we had spent years building. We waited for the jobs that had become our lives – so time consuming that it over-powered all else – to disappear.

Farrin is CityMag’s editor

I knew that without CityMag, I would feel like I’d been thrown into outer space. My life would be a vacuum – rendered almost purposeless and totally blank.

Despite that, and despite the hours spent sobbing into the couch while an entirely unsympathetic #frederikthesausage tried to make me throw his ball, there was a tiny corner of my brain that was relieved.

There’s a lot of internet think pieces with titles like, “You’re Not Really That Busy”, “Stop Saying You’re So Busy”, and “Work Addiction is the New Smoking” (well, actually, the headlines are catchier – but I’ve always been terrible at headlines. Sorry guys).

Well, over here at CityMag, we actually are that busy. Around deadline time at least.

Here’s some things that indicate how busy we are:

– Around the deadline for each print edition I will usually work for five weeks (that’s 35 days for the mathematically challenged out there) without a day off. This happens four times a year. In total, that is 20 weeks without weekends each year.

– I have developed a recalcitrant stomach that hates stress. It only ever settles down if I go on a three-week holiday – and even then, it is only in the third week that it stabilises. Then I come home and go back to work and it is right back to stabbing pains.

– On the subject of holidays, I always work through them. Never have I had a holiday free from work. Honestly, what is a plane ride for if not a 14-hour stretch of uninterrupted working? Related: Joshua Fanning has only been on one holiday since CityMag was launched, and he worked throughout the whole thing – I know because I was there.

– I often sleep for a total of four hours a night.

– For three weeks over deadline, I ban all (non-essential – I’ll still come to your wedding / birthday, of course) social engagements (I don’t think I’ve ever actually told my friends this, but I guess they noticed. Thanks for being patient, Olga).

– The idea of even reading all the emails I receive is totally foreign to me. I’m sorry, everybody. Current unread email count = 3,667.

So, when CityMag was in peril, I thought I might get a job in a bar (if anyone would have me), and think about what to do next. It was at once a pretty sad proposition, and one that was an incredible relief.

Fortunately (not for my stomach), CityMag’s dip turned into a spike. We survived to battle through at least a few more exhausting deadline cycles.

It sounds a lot like I’m complaining about my job, or intimating it’s special. That’s not what I’m trying to do (no gold stars for writing clearly and effectively this time around, I guess).

I know a lot of people who really are as busy as they say they are. They’re the ones – like Jessica Clark, like She Shi, like Matt Stuckey, like me – who are trying to make their passion their job.

It’s a very privileged position to be able to live off what you love, but it’s also destructive.

When I was imagining myself in a post-CityMag world, working the bar at night, I envisioned days spent rediscovering a love of writing. Afternoons of playing with words, pushing what I write into new spaces, experimenting – a whole different scenario to using my skill as a means to an end, like I do on the daily.

I interview people who have left their job to pursue their side project full time often, and I can see that they don’t know this is going to happen. They don’t realise that what they’ll actually be doing is killing something they love so they can live.

Still, I wouldn’t tell them not to do it.

And I wouldn’t let go of my job – to remove me you’d have to unstick every one of my fingers as I clung to it desperately, and then drag me off kicking and screaming, like a child being dropped off for its first day of kindergarten.

Yes, I love my job. But I really am that fucking busy. So shut up, internet, you don’t know me.

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