Guest Post: “Paying Your Dues” by Laekan Zea Kemp

Hey gang, it’s another installment of The Guest Blog Post, and in this installment, the guest post comes courtesy of Laekan Zea Kemp. Over at her blog, you’ll be treated to sneak peaks of her works-in-progress, and you should help yourself to what she’s offering, because Laekan is a damned good writer. She’s also written one novel, The Things They Didn’t Bury. You can learn more about it on Goodreads, or on Amazon. I’m planning on picking up my ebook copy once my Kindle comes in the mail next week. You read right, Laekan…

Her guest post, entitled Paying Your Dues, is a gentle ode to those of us, so many of us, who still can’t afford to live the full-time writer life we so badly want to live. And that’s okay. Laekan reminds us that while we are toiling on our jobs, we are still learning, absorbing, gathering material for our writing. We are still evolving as writers. We will always evolve as writers.

Here’s her bio: Laekan is a writer, explorer extraordinaire, and recent transplant to sunny Florida. She grew up in the flatlands of west Texas and graduated from Texas Tech with a BA in Creative Writing.

Here now…Paying Your Dues.


The monotony of a day job can be near suicide inducing. Especially when you know in your gut what you were put on this earth to do and that whatever you’re slave to every day from 9 to 5 just isn’t it. You know it the second you sit down at that bright orange cubicle, your desktop filled with spreadsheets and emails and a million other things that will never satisfy that need just simmering inside you, waiting.

Some mornings it’s hard just to get out of bed. I usually wake up before the alarm and just lay there, staring into the dark, waiting for that loud buzzer that pretty much sums up the tone of the rest of my day. For about a year I would get to work, sit down at my desk, and just stew. I was bored. I was unfulfilled. I was pissed.

I was in purgatory, still am, only now I’m making better use of my time here. Every artist—and every person for that matter—will be forced, at some point in their life, to work at a job they hate. To feel stagnant and lost. To sacrifice making art for the sake of paying their bills. But this is not a form of punishment. It’s a rite of passage.

We have to pay our dues. Not because we have some quota of suffering to reach before we’re aloud to start being happy. But because, down there in the trenches, that’s where we grow. I mean really grow. I can read every book I can get my hands on about writing and style and craft but none of it will ever teach me how to be human. Life teaches you that. Life teaches you all of the chaos and nuances of the human experience—the very thing every writer is trying so desperately to capture.

And if we do want to capture it—the whole truth and nothing but the truth—then we have to concede to a little suffering every now and then. We have to work in a job we hate, we have to overwhelm ourselves with responsibilities, we have to be disappointed and angry and every other adjective on the emotional spectrum. We have to pay our dues.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to master dialogue then you have to engage in conversation. You can’t just be an observer all of the time, although most of us writers might find that more comfortable. No. We have to feel the words rolling around on our tongue. We have to taste them. We have to say them aloud and measure the reaction. The same rules apply to writing about the human experience.

We have to meet people we’d rather avoid and fall in love with the wrong person and argue with strangers on the bus all for the sake of creating characters who are just as real. We have to absorb different perspectives. We have to interact with the things that scare us. We have to exist in the real world long to enough to be able to translate it.

So we are not stuck. We are sitting in a bright orange cubicle, not stewing, but absorbing everything there is to discover about this life and we are growing. We are growing even when it feels like all we’re doing is standing still.


3 thoughts on “Guest Post: “Paying Your Dues” by Laekan Zea Kemp

  1. Psst. Don’t let this get back to the boss, but since we’re all chained to our cubes on a nine-to-fiver, might as well make the most of it. I gave myself a goal of 500 words a day – at the office – and in the 15 years I was a corporate droid at IBM I wrote 2 complete manuscripts, (the first, Hack, was published by Harper Davis last August – two 90% complete, and I’m into my 2nd year at low-res MFA program (who isn’t?) and working on another. I wrote the first sentence of my first novel at the tender age of 45.

    I also got laid off last week, (but not because I got caught writing novels on the job), along with 12,000 other blue-headed droids. As a result I now spend 150% of my time looking for the next cube monkey gig so I can get back to writing novels. Or I may end up writing full time – writing whatever I can get paid to write. I can tell you from pre-family man experience that the life of the “work-for-hire” writer can deplete your creative spunk faster than .ppt presos and excel spreadsheets, just like playing in a cover band five nights a week can make you tone deaf. So tread carefully and beware spreading your imagination and your creativity to thin, and if you stop loving it, go do something else until the longing returns. As you so wisely point out, a little “prison break” mentality is good for the mojo.

    More old guy flabby cheeked flatulence can be found in Limboland: Hope to see you there!

    • I know exactly what you’re saying, Jeb. I’ve done some of my best writing while keeping one eye on the lookout for my boss while chained to my cube. Sorry to hear you got laid off; I was in that same position last fall. I saw it as a blessing; I was fired from a job I seriously disliked, and it came right before NaNoWriMo, so I had the entire month of November free to write. And December. And January.

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