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No matter who you are, you’ve probably had a rough day at the office that changed your perspective, or maybe you made an impulse purchase you really, really wish you could take back. This week, we sat down with Sloane Crosley and had her fill out our questionnaire inspired by experiences with money and work.
Her latest book, “The Clasp,” is out in paperback now.
Fill in the blank: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you _______.
Money can buy you a really big house to ruminate on all the ways your life has gone horribly awry. Should I keep going? There’s some famous actress and I’m both going to forget the name of the actress — I want to say of the Elizabeth Taylor ilk — and I’m going to butcher the quote as well, something along the lines of, “I’d rather be crying in the back of a limo than happy in the back of a Schwinn.” I actually don’t agree with that, but mostly because I really hate limousines. Philosophically, I get it [laughter].
In a next life, what would your career be?
I can choose anything? Great. I would be an archaeologist, it’s what I actually went to school for, it’s what I wanted to be. I suppose there’s some sort of loose metaphor or theme between what I used to want to be and what I am now, and the fact that I’m digging up other people’s stories.
What is the hardest part about your job that no one knows?
It’s the fact that you’re a factory of one. I used to work for a large corporation, I worked for Random House for almost 10 years, and even when you were doing things that weren’t directly work related — let’s say you were mailing a check — someone else was paying for that five seconds. When you’re freelance — which is basically what writers are, no matter how many prizes and awards they have, they’re freelance — so much is left up to you, it’s your responsibility. Having to produce everything all by yourself, whether it’s filling in a W9 or writing a novel, it can be overwhelming.
When did you realize writing could be an actual career?
You know, it’s gradual. I always want there to be this moment, in the movies there’s always a moment when you realize you’re in love with your best friend or you quit your job or you’re taking this goldfish, and that’s it. But it’s really a gradual process. It didn’t dawn on me.
I guess the closest I have to a revelatory moment was my first book tour for “I Was Told There’d Be Cake.” I was in Seattle and I was looking at the New York Times’ Bestsellers List because I had my job still, so I was looking for other authors on it. And I went to an internet cafe — how Seattle is that — and I was looking through the list, and I saw my book title and my name. I screamed, I yelped and I started crying. This very nice woman who works at the cafe bought me a vegan muffin — because Seattle — and I realized that maybe I could do this eventually. It still took me another four years to quit. Things dawn on me slowly.
What is something everyone should own no matter the cost?
A really good mattress. It’s all well and good when you’re young, it feels very glamorous to sleep on Balsa wood that’s just covered in toilet paper rolls or whatever you use for support. But a really good mattress, I don’t think you can go wrong with a good night’s sleep.
What advice do you wish someone gave you before you started your career?
Really, I wish that somebody had advised me to have a better answer for that question [laughter]. That somebody one day will ask you for advice, to pass something on, and you should really have something prepared. “Write everything down,” but that’s Joan Didion, that’s not me.
One great piece of advice that I received when I was in college was from a creative writing professor who said, “You don’t have to wait to be great.” And I think that’s good advice for when you are a teenager, and you think, “Well, I can write a great novel, or I can write a great essay, or I can paint a great painting when I’m older.” I don’t know if that’s necessarily so true now, I don’t think the next generation is afraid of being great, but there is a little voice inside you that says, “Okay well, this is my practice.” You shouldn’t treat it as practice. You should try to take your work seriously as soon as possible.
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