An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 72. The Right Kind of Work

We’re going on holiday tomorrow. A proper one! We will retreat to our Montreal volcano lair, where we will eat and drink and be merry for two weeks. The sun promises to shine and I plan to do very little work indeed. Reader, I will be wearing shorts.

Most trips my partner and I undertake can’t very well be described as holidays. They’re usually pilgrimages of some sort or research missions or to meet someone connected to my writing business. All pleasant and desirable and wilful but hardly holidays. This time, I really mean it. We’re going to climb the volcano and eat poutine and marvel at the locals and chill the heck out.

The truth is I’ve been quite busy lately. My life has been filled with what Moomin Mamma Tove Jansson called the right kind of work. I’m not complaining, nor is it my intention to humblebrag. I’m reporting to this diary what my low-income, outsiderish life has been like of late.

Between production work on my novel, the writing of a secret project with friend Landis, and managing the return of New Escapologist (as well as the usual uphill attempts to sell my other books), I’ve barely had a proper day off in months.

I’ve loved every moment of it though. Our single-bedroom flat has been buzzing with pleasant activity as in the early days of the Hogarth Press. Well, maybe that’s a bit much. Mucking about with the design programme has been fun though, as has remembering the tricks of typography I learned from New Escapologist the first time round. Commissioning cover artwork, emailing with people all over the world, solving minor technical and logistical problems, conspiring with my allies, imagining, imagining, imagining.

While typesetting my novel (a skill in which I was trained some years ago by a very clever man) I was overcome with the notion that this is what I should be doing. All was right with the world in that moment. That’s a nice feeling to have and probably a rare one. It’s certainly not a feeling I ever noticed while working in offices or even libraries: in those days I felt constant separation anxiety from my real work of cultural production. I suppose you could argue that, if I had found a proper publisher for this book I wouldn’t need to typeset it myself, but I didn’t find a proper publisher for it. I don’t have the resource to find a proper publisher for it ultimately because I’m of the social class of expected to work for a living: I don’t have the connections, I don’t have the time, I need the money and the satisfaction now because I don’t have secret hoards of either. I already worked for two years trying to find a proper publisher for this novel and that’s enough already: most of the publishers I approached haven’t even rejected it so, by their terms, I should still be patiently waiting. Yes, I’m doing what I should be doing.

“Over and over again I have asked myself,” wrote William Morris in a letter to a friend, “why should not my lot be the common lot […] I have been ashamed when I have thought of the contrast between my happy working hours and the unpraised, unrewarded, monotonous drudgery that most [people] are condemned to.” That sounds a bit arrogant, doesn’t it? But I think it comes from the right place. We should all experience the happy buzz of the right kind of work and the knowledge (okay, the feeling) that you’re doing what you should be doing, but it is not generally possible. I don’t wish it for other people where they’re already perfectly content but I certainly wish I could go back in time and give this life somehow to my bored and humiliated past self.

I’d recommend it to anyone: fill your days with the right kind of work and you’ll not remain in The Trap for another day of your life. But for crying out loud, don’t forget to have some real days off too.

So that’s what we’re doing. Well, there will be one work-adjacent thing to do: I’ll write to you (via the newsletter) from New Escapologist’s second home: Montreal. Catch you on the flipside!


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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