Michaela McGuire - How to sabotage your career
A series of odd jobs at a casino's high roller room, a law firm, and the office of a federal minister inspired a blog and eventually a published book for young author Michaela McGuire.
Her columns have appeared in the Sunday Age and her memoir Apply Within: Stories of Career Sabotage was released in 2009 by Melbourne University Press, for whom she is currently researching and writing a book of essays.
On April 12 2010 Michaela read from her book at the State Library of Victoria's new Wheeler Centre (new window) before catching up with roving reporter Josh.
How did this book start?
Apply Within started from a really lame blog I wrote while working for a federal MP. A friend of mine who edits a literary mag cobbled together a 'best of' of those blog articles, and it sort of started from there. I'd also written a lot about my time working at the casino and other jobs.
How many different jobs have you had?
I've waitressed at a casino and a strip club, as well as working at a law firm and a federal minister's office. I'm working at another law firm at the moment.
What was the most interesting job?
Working in the federal Minister's office, just because it was so ridiculous everyday. It was like working in Basil Fawlty's hotel. Constantly amusing.
Which was hardest to write about?
The casino experience was universally horrible and difficult to translate into a chapter. I was working in the high rollers room as a glorified waitress. The hours were horrible, I was doing it at four or five in the morning, it was a weird haze. Six months was definitely enough working there. I think six minutes would have been enough.
What's the process like adopting a blog to a book?
I'd sort of badly drafted it in blog form already and had a lot of the ideas in my head but I knew it needed to be written another way to what I was doing the past two years.
With a memoir it's not as difficult - just putting down what was in my head onto paper. It was a matter of adding insights and making the sharp bits of dialogue more suitable to a book. Defamation lawyers also took to the entire manuscript with a red pen.
Are blogs a useful writing experience?
Definitely. I think it was helpful to just keep doing it. If it's good for nothing else, blogging is a way to get you to write most days and it's definitely harder getting back into it after you leave it for a few days. It sets you up with good writing habits even if it's not the most polished style.
What's the best advice you can offer young writers?
Something I was taught is stopping writing at the point where you think you can start again. I always write horribly to start off with but as long as you can go back to something you've written, that's better than trying to force it.
What are your thoughts on changing careers?
I've had a pretty horrible career so far. Working at the casino was horrible, the strip club was horrible, working for the Minister was horrible. It was pretty much as much as I could take, then I would just leave.
The experience has sort of made me less open minded, I'd never go back to hospitality or politics, but at the same time I don't mind trying different things out.
Is your experience typical of young people?
I think the baby boomer mentality is you start working in a company and you work your way up for 40 years and then you retire. But it was never in my best interests or even possible for me to work my way up through the ranks of a strip club or casino for 40 years.
A lot of young people, especially at uni, are just working at odd jobs so I don't think we should be blamed for not sticking with those jobs.
What writing do you have planned for the future?
Well the best writing material, or my best material, often comes from the worst experiences. So I don't know how much of my life I want to spend having a horrible time just so I can get a chapter out of it. But I'll definitely continue writing.
Articles Written by Josh F
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