Tis the Season

photoNo, I don’t mean that season. At least not yet, although they are already constructing the Christmas tree tent outside the local Kmart. I am referring to the South Florida tourist season, which runs roughly from October to May. This is bread-and-butter time for many of us hard-working residents, even those of us who don’t work with the tourist industry. That’s because we rely on the snowbirds, those wonderful people who grace our shores and give us work.

Here’s the thing: These days, I am telling stories and teaching about storytelling and writing about the above all the time these days. I’m talking more or less 24/7. (What I meant by that line was “I mean 24/7,” but frankly, I am talking 24/7.) And during this glorious season of work, I am finding that, indeed, it is work. 

Let me explain. I once worked at a newspaper with a very talented editor who had previously been employed as a copywriter. She told me that copywriters for Bloomingdale’s or Saks get paid a lot less than those at Walmart. This was not because Walmart was a more profitable company, but because everyone wanted to work at the elite stores, so those employers didn’t have to pay as much.

The analogy is that artists do what we need to do, what we love doing, and that is one of the reasons that employers, audiences or patrons don’t value it as much. (Of course there are exceptions: tickets to the Rolling Stones, a work by Damien Hurst, etc.) If you didn’t want to do it, the theory goes, you would be doing something else. This is soul-satisfying work, unlike churning out widgets or punching a timeclock.

And of course to a large extent that’s true. When I am feeling great and the audience is great and the stars are in perfect alignment, storytelling certainly is soul-satisfying. It is truly energizing to have all those good vibes of co-creation (what we say happens during a storytelling event) swirling around. Unfortunately, there are also times when it doesn’t all work perfectly. When the storyteller has to drive an hour to and from a gig in rush-hour traffic. When parents at a family concert interrupt your show to take photos of their darling children from the stage on which you are sitting, or speak to you from the middle of the hall in the middle of a performance. When students text in class or walk out of the room to take a call. These things happen; it’s human nature. And it makes the job harder. Enervating instead of energizing.

It also makes the job harder to have three or four gigs in a day. Am I complaining? Not about the amount of work—I’m thrilled. Like many of us in this part of the country, we rely on the busy months of season to pay for the slow months of summer. It’s just that it can be challenging, enervating work.

Yes, theoretically I could get into another line of work that is never soul-satisfying but pays the bills. But just as there are folks out there who consider themselves incapable of becoming professional performers or writers, I can’t fathom how I would do a job like theirs unless my life depended on it. Which, given the way things are going, it always could.

I’m not complaining, honestly. I’m just trying to explain.

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