by R.S. Mellette
I have a theatre degree and have spent my entire adult life pursuing a career in entertainment.
In other words, I'm exceptionally qualified when it comes to matters of unemployment and hard economic times. For anyone out there facing this issue right now, I'm with you my brothers & sisters. Unemployment depression can kick your ass. The only thing you can do is repeat your mantra, "It's the situation, not me. This too shall pass."
In the meantime, you do keep looking for work. These days that takes about an hour, maybe two, a day. Things have changed since the local want ads and long trips in the car to pass out résumés and press the flesh. Now, you hit a few websites, send out a few e-mails, remind everyone you know that you're looking for work, and you're done before lunch.
So what do you do with the rest of your time?
"Write!" everyone will say.
Not as easily said as done. Being unemployed is not like being on vacation. The ache inside your head from the worry of how you're going to make it, the thought of "can I afford this?" for every morsel of food that goes into your mouth, wreaks havoc on creativity. Yes, you can fight through it and get some work done, but don't kick yourself if you hit a block. It's natural.
So you write if you can, then what? Yes, you can do all the stuff around the house. Done. What next? I could go on and on with a laundry list of stuff, but my point is, don't forget entertainment.
I haven't done a study, or even read one, but I have a gut feeling that human beings need entertainment as much as we need dreams. Without it, we'll eventually go mad. But entertainment costs money, so what is the best entertainment value for your slim dollar?
TV? Certainly your monthly cable bill, when weighed against the hours spent watching it has a good price per minute ratio, especially if your internet access comes with it. But daytime television is less entertaining than watching paint dry, and can even get depressing. Between 24-hour news cycles of all the yuck in the world, and commercials for trade schools that cost more than you'll ever earn plying the trade, daytime TV can be like alcohol—temporarily numbing the emotions, but in the long run making them worse.
Movies in the theatre? They have the added bonus of getting you out of the house, which is important, but the price per minute is high. Best to save these for the occasional treat until you're back on your feet.
Books? If you read them in a single sitting, a book might bring five hours of blessed relief from your troubles. If you borrowed it, got if from the library—which comes with the added bonus of a free trip out of the house—or bought a used book, you've got a great price per hour. And few of us read a whole book in a single sitting. We stretch that time out over a week or so, during which the thought of the book becomes part of the entertainment value.
Books also have an intangible quality that must not be overlooked. While a movie might distract you from your troubles for a couple of hours, and maybe even for a couple more hours after you've seen it, books have a way of digging deep inside your head. You can get lost in a book.
Of course, that can be good or bad. All things in moderation. The point for a writing blog is that, in bad economic times, entertainment is a good investment—and books one of the best of the choices.
Publishers should also take note. High unemployment means a lot of people are sitting around with time on their hands. That's an opportunity to fill those hands with a book. We should be selling more these days, not less.