The Foreign Service Journal, February 2010

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 29 F O C U S O N L I F E & W O R K A F T E R T H E F S W RITING AS A S ECOND C AREER uccessful writers often coun- sel aspirants: “Don’t give up your day job.” But even a reasonably facile amatuer wordsmith can produce mate- rial that supplements the primary source of income, pro- viding the writer some compensation along with psychic benefits. During the current Great Recession, however, those attempting to make a living from writing have found fewer outlets for their work as newspapers and magazines close or downsize, leaving even full-time journalists turn- ing down the heat, if not actually freezing in their gar- rets. These desperate, displaced professionals have picked up some of the paid work previously done by tal- ented novices — and such assignments have simultane- ously become less available and less likely to be paid. A receding tide has lowered all boats. When I wrote about this problem in the January 2006 edition of the Journal , I quoted my father’s axiom that “Writing is a good cane, but a poor crutch.” Happily, re- tired Foreign Service personnel have a gold-plated, es- calator clause-adjusted “crutch” in their annuities. It leaves us free to twirl our “canes” with aplomb, even if most of our satisfaction comes from publication rather than pay. After all, writing is what we have done through- out our careers; we are symbol manipulators par excel- lence. Our problem isn’t writer’s block, but rather the fact that we have spent our careers writing for other bu- reaucrats. There are avenues to paid satisfaction in a variety of areas. Don’t Leave Home. Although there are those who never want to see the halls of Main State again, others still find the Foggy Bottom café and the scent of warm Xerox machines enchanting. For them, there is the lure of When Actually Employed status. While many WAEs fill slots devoted to carrying out specific functions, some do involve writing and research. Of course, the first problem is obtaining WAE status with an individual bureau — a process that can seem akin to fraternity/sorority “rush week,” during which you pledge loyalty to a particular bureau, gainsaying all oth- ers. While that is overstating the case somewhat, bureaus are reluctant to “lend” their WAEs to other bureaus. Nor do they want to hire new ones without having a specific W RITING FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IN ONE GUISE OR ANOTHER IS FAMILIAR AND COMFORTABLE , BUT THERE ARE MANY OTHER OUTLETS WORTH PURSUING . B Y D AVID T. J ONES David T. Jones, a retired Senior FSO, participated in a State Department study of the last two years of the Clinton administration’s Middle East peace process. He is the co- author with David Kilgour of Uneasy Neighbo(u)rs: Canada, the USA and the Dynamics of State, Industry and Culture (Wiley, 2007), a study of U.S.-Canadian relations, and is a frequent contributor to the Journal . S