Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 30 Aug 07 10:50
Josh, do you think of yourself as an escape artist? Also, even if you are doing your dream job, chances are you have sometimes fantasized about a different career path. What other path would you like to explore?
Josh Piven (jpiven) Sun 2 Sep 07 17:05
<<Have you followed up with him? For that matter, have you continued to follow any or all of the people you profiled in "The Escape Artists"? Have any of their stories changed significantly since you wrote about them?>> I got an email from Rich not long ago. He seems a bit worried that the prop making/replica business is petering out. Not sure how much movie work he's doing now. Re: the others, most of them are still happily living their escapes--with the exception of Chuck, who's out of professional baseball (as a player, anyway). <<Josh, do you think of yourself as an escape artist? Also, even if you are doing your dream job, chances are you have sometimes fantasized about a different career path. What other path would you like to explore? >> Yes, absolutely I do. If there's one thing I'd like to be doing but am not doing (or haven't done) so far, it's publishing more fiction. But I just wrote my first novel, which my agent is trying to sell right now. So far a few nice rejections but no bites! Some might contend that my humor books are fiction--and I suppose they are in some ways--but I'm speaking more of narrative fiction here. I'd also like to write for television, but it's hard to do that and not live in L.A. Lived there once, hated it, don't want to go back.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 3 Sep 07 06:15
A magazine assignment put me in touch with four winemakers in Washington state who all come from somewhat unusual backgrounds for wine. The wine industry in Washington, particularly eastern Washington, is still young and entrepreneurial, and one needn't follow one of the traditional paths for a wine career -- family legacy, wealth or education -- in order to succeed there. I interviewed a guy who'd had a cubicle job in Nordstrom's marketing department, a guy who'd been an LA cop and attorney, a guy who'd been a videotape editor for CNN and a guy from New York City who'd followed his love for music to Seattle in the grunge years. The note in all of their stories that rang in the same tone is that all of them had a moment when they asked themselves, "What the hell am I doing with my life?" and decided then and there to follow their passion into wine. In a couple of cases, they knew just about nothing about the wine business before they made the leap. For the cop/attorney, that moment arrived in the middle of stopped traffic on the San Diego Freeway; for the CNN guy, it happened after he'd read an article in the NY Times about the wines of Walla Walla. It made me think about how discontent can build up quietly and even unconsciously in a person to a tipping point. But then, to decide to change your life after asking yourself what's wrong with it may require a kind of predisposition.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 3 Sep 07 09:04
beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Mon 3 Sep 07 09:15
ok, i'm not the host here but, Scott, this is a publicly-viewable conference and it is not appropriate to port material from other conferences here. feel free to correct me if i'm off base here, hosts.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 3 Sep 07 09:27
You're probably right, Aud. I scribbled some comments that seemed apropos to this discussion. If you'd like to read them, join The Well and read the conference Spirit #283. :=)
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 3 Sep 07 09:31
Spirit #284, actually.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 3 Sep 07 09:56
Scott, can you paraphrase those comments without crossing the YOYOW/copyright line? As <aud> points out, the discussion here is viewable outside the Well -- but if the comments are relevant to the discussion, I'd think some off-Well readers (on-Well, too) may be very interested in the gist of them.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 3 Sep 07 10:52
Steve, I asked the person who wrote those posts to post them here, too, if she chooses. Didn't know I was YOYOWing--not sure what that means--but I'm not going to paraphrase her own story either. Thx.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 3 Sep 07 16:48
<scribbled by lrph>
Josh Piven (jpiven) Tue 4 Sep 07 04:19
Seems this post has been removed, so I don't know what the comment/question was. But in terms of the career epiphany experienced by the winemakers, yes, I think this type of realization is more common than we might think. Many educated Americans come out of college with major debt, and are forced (of that's the right word) to seek a job that will have them making lots of money right away to repay it--and escapist jobs don't always--or often--fit this bill. Thus, when people hit mid-career they may find that they have the financial wherewithal to try something else. That's not to say they've become rich, but simply that their career decisions are informed by things other than money.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 4 Sep 07 05:32
Josh, the "mid-life crisis" is typically ascribed to men, but in your research did you find that women just as equally experienced those what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moments that pushed them into being escape artists? And what about differences in culture/ethnicities? One of your profiles covers a Korean-American comedian, another a Chinese-American physician, but there are no African-Americans or Hispanics profiled (I assume Steve Smith is white).
Josh Piven (jpiven) Tue 4 Sep 07 16:58
There are no statistics on who becomes an escape artist--mostly since I coined the phrase as it applied to careers. But, as my earlier post indicated educated women, as much or more so than men, view their careers as "non-linear" and are likely to leave the workforce at some point--and not just to have children. True, there are no Hispanics or African-Americans profiled, though this was simply a function of my not encountering any within my chosen areas of study whose stories I felt were interesting enough to include. But I don't see why escapism would be limited by race, gender, color, or creed. Following your passion strikes me as something universal. The subjects in the books are of different genders, ages, races, and educational backgrounds, and they all had this desire, so why shouldn't others?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 4 Sep 07 17:24
Josh, did do encounter many Escape Artists who had made a radical career change while they were partnered and had young children to support? And even if there weren't children involved, how did spouses respond to partners who were throwing away secure jobs to chase rainbows that might or might not have pots of gold at the other end?
Josh Piven (jpiven) Wed 5 Sep 07 07:02
Yes, I did encounter such spouses. Most were supportive because they knew whom they were marrying at the outset. That said, some (especially Aileen, Jack-the-surfer's spouse) eventually had to demand some adjustments in order to make family life work in conjunction with escapism. And sometimes this meant scaling back one's passions, even just a little. This was the case with Mark Divine, who realized that being in the Navy SEALs isn't exactly conducive to married life, and family life. In one case, of course (Rick Coyle), the escape led to a divorce, and eventual estrangement from children.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 5 Sep 07 09:00
"to make family life work in conjunction with escapism" Josh, I like the term "escape artist" when it refers to indivuals moving beyond living life as cogs in the system and finding work for themselves that is filled with more passion. However, I think this use of the term is where your metaphor breaks down. When you refer to the life work of your subjects as "escapism", there is a negative value judgment to the chosen path. This is related to the idea of responsibility, and who gets to decide which paths are more responsible. Certainly, we all juggle obligations to ourselves, our partners, our immediate and extended family, our community, our governments, our earth, but it is too simplistic to suggest that people are "escapist" who find innovative, spiritually transcendent, or exciting work that does not fit the "norm". The paradox for many who risk their dreams is that such life work is closer to life play, and that such "escape" leads to greater fulfillment, and a balance in life that engenders better relationships. Who is to say when "escape" is a healthier or unhealthier engagement with life?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 5 Sep 07 09:06
Thanks for the details, Josh. "...they knew whom they were marrying at the outset" makes sense. It's good to be matched with a partner who shares one's level of risk tolerance. Thanks, also, for joining us for these past two weeks, Steve and Josh. This has been quite an interesting conversation! I really admire people who are willing to pursue their dreams. It must have been such an interesting writing project to research. Though our virtual spotlight has turned to a new interview, this doesn't mean this conversation has to stop. The topic will remain open for further comments and questions indefinitely, so feel free to stick around if you can. If other things are demanding your attention now, I wish you all the best in seeing your first novel published, Josh. Good luck!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 5 Sep 07 09:07
(Scott slipped in while I was composing my post!) I hope you'll at least have the time to comment on what Scott posted, Josh.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 5 Sep 07 13:58
Josh, thank you for an informative, fascinating interview.
Autumn (autumn) Wed 5 Sep 07 14:02
Yes, thank you.
Josh Piven (jpiven) Thu 6 Sep 07 16:55
Thanks all, esp. Steve and Cynthia who made it happen! Re: Scott's comments: <<When you refer to the life work of your subjects as "escapism", there is a negative value judgment to the chosen path.>> Scott, again I'm not sure what you mean. Who's making a negative value judgment? I'm certainly not. I coined the term as it applies to career choices because it suggests that people are choosing to follow something they are passionate about and thus figuratively "escape" from a life more ordinary, to do something they feel is extraordinary, or purposeful, or both. They are "escaping" to a more fulfilling destination. Many of the subjects described working in an office as equivalent to being in a type of prison. I don't suggest that this is the case for most, or even many people. Bu it is the case for some. You need not get hung up on the term, however. It's just a descriptive phrase, a term of art, nothing more. <<it is too simplistic to suggest that people are "escapist" who find innovative, spiritually transcendent, or exciting work that does not fit the "norm". >> Why? What's wrong with suggesting this? Replace "escapist" with "fulfilled" and I don't see the problem. <<Who is to say when "escape" is a healthier or unhealthier engagement with life? >> The people who experience it, that's who. They make the determination. And that's the point. They are engaged on a level that is atypical of the workaday world, and they like it that way. I'm not sure I understand your argument with that. Or perhaps I am misreading what you wrote. Gotta run, hope to be back to continue this conversation . . .
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:54
Josh, my point is that the term "escape artist," as used by you, is a clever image to expand how we look at the "Hoodini-esque" way this term is used by most people. However, when you link this metaphor to the term "escapism" you conjure up a negative connotation in terms of how that term is commonly applied--namely, people who are unable to cope with "normal" life and thereby use drugs, adrenalin sports, books, religious or psychological denial, etc. to "escape." My point is that by using the word "escapism," your apt metaphor for individuals choosing "alternative", personally fulfulling, out-of-the-ordinary life work begins to fall apart. In any event, thank you for participating in Inkwell, and good luck with your writing.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:55
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