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A Sampling

September 9, 2009

I’ve decide to share with you the introduction and first chapter from my completed e-book, Office Supply Art: How To Not Die of Boredom and Lack of Creativity.

If you’re interested in reading the whole thing, and I know you are, I’m giving it away, FREE, for one week on my website. After the week is up on September 16th, 2009,  it will still be available for the oh-so-low price of $4.99.

Behold my greatness silliness:

(Please ignore the weird formatting; the pdf is very nice)





I love my job. But when I wrote this book, I didn’t. Since I don’t want to get arrested by my former employers for using the contents of their office supply closet for pursuits that were less than work-related, I won’t give any specifics about what that hated job was. Also, when I mention where I used to work I begin to feel nauseous.

I’m currently a full time writer and life coach (okay, part-time, as much of my day now involves petting my two cats, eating peanut butter straight from the jar, and napping). I’ve found that my calling is helping other people learn to listen to that voice that is telling them where to go and what to do with their lives, while at the same time helping them stop listening to all those thoughts and beliefs that tell them they’ll never succeed. I believe I’m so good at it because I have been through it all myself.

Before I got brave enough to make the leap into my best life, however, I had to entertain myself other ways. Namely with paper clips and permanent markers.

This book is ridiculous and hopefully amusing, and even if you never make a sculpture out of paper clips, this will still kill time at work. And that’s all you really want to do, right? And because I wanted to make it even more super duper, I’ve added a bonus chapter of some of my favorite Office Supply Art blog posts plus some new and revealing Q&A, which will result in even more laughter and time killed. Enjoy!


Boredom. Disinterest. Lack of Enthusiasm. How many of us have suffered through these at the workplace? My guess is:every single animal, vegetable, and person who works in an office reading this. I have spent my life being jealous of people who knew, inherently, what they wanted to do with their lives. They went off to college saying “I want to be a scientist and study the breeding habits of circus clowns” and they would pick a school, graduate with honors, intern at Klinkman’s Clown Palace, immediately land a job with a 401(k), health plan, pension, three weeks vacation – the works. And to top it off, they’d meet their soul mate in Chippy the Clown, settle down, buy a house with a white picket fence and get a dog and a Subaru, and produce 2.5 children.

But that was never me. Never. In school I liked most subjects at least a little, including math, science, art, psychology, lunch, home economics, English, dating and note-writing. For some silly, ill-thought out reason, I picked art as the thing I would go to college for. Actually, I wanted to be an art teacher. For high-school kids. My reasoning was that little kids were too wild and were forced to take art, and I wanted to deal with people who chose to make art, and junior high kids – well, do I even have to explain why it wouldn’t be enjoyable to spend any significant part of your day with multiple 13-year-olds who hasn’t figured out to wear deodorant yet? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

I went to college. Eh. That was kind of my overall impression of it. I still liked making art, but the theory of teaching classes and the idea of student teaching at some school, I don’t know. I just couldn’t get into it. I transferred to another college during my sophomore year to be closer to home, among other things, and changed my major to Graphic Design. My reasoning was that it was still art, but I could probably get paid to do it. Also, I hadn’t thought of studying the breeding habits of circus clowns, which probably would have opened up a lot of doors.

In all honesty, making art on the computer was never that fun for me. I got better grades in Anthropology of Third World Countries and Microeconomics than I did in Typography. Creating my senior art project was great; it hardly involved the computer at all. It consisted of nine panels that together made up one scene, and each of the nine panels was one of four different mediums. One of the four was design done on the computer, but the others were cross-stitch, cut paper, and oil pastels. I got an “A” for that.

And then I finished college. In 2001. I have impeccable timing, really. With the whole United States under a code red terrorist threat, I decided moving to Vermont to become a waitress at a ski lodge would be a brilliant career move. And ultimately, it was. I fell into the customer service field and enjoyed jobs and travels along the way until I landed in North Carolina and got what was sort of my first Real Job. I ended up working at a 100-year-old historic wooden hotel working the front desk, but my duties steadily increased to include things like event-planning (“Of course we can get 13 Waterford Crystal birdcages to house your stuffed teddy bear collection. They deserve to come to the wedding, too!”), ad design (“Fit 2013 words in a one inch ad? No problem! Oh, a color photo of each room, too? Of course!”), and eventually managing the whole front end (“No you can’t tell the guests that the chef has salmonella poisoning!”).

After three years of that bliss, which also included no health insurance, no paid sick leave and no retirement plan, I ended up doing what I’d always dreaded: Getting a job where I had to wear high heels. Or at the very least, my socks had to match. Not exactly a good fit for me. But I saw the plus sides of the job: It was for the state, which meant state pension, a great 401(k) plan, paid vacation, paid sick days, health insurance that cost me nothing, plus I was still getting to work in the customer service arena, which at this point I mostly truly enjoyed. Working at my new job though, had its drawbacks. And I’m not talking about the footwear.

I had to start doing things like writing directives, which basically involved using big words to get across a very simple point, spreadsheets to showcase my research, lots of charts and graphs to show the work of my “team” over the past month, attending meetings set up three weeks in advance that were more boring than C-SPAN, and participate in after-hours Chamber of Commerce gatherings (which were mostly people getting drunk and flattering each other). It was all a bit much.

That’s when I started freaking out. Basically, a voice in my head; let’s say the voice of my inner child or some other person running in a field, naked, became my freak out voice. She told me to do things like, well, run through fields naked. After quitting my job and throwing my life savings out the window, of course. But my Voice of Reason, some tweaked out version of me in a suit and heels wearing my hair in a very tight bun who had no sex life (me, not my hair), always came in to tell my Freak-out Voice to go freak out somewhere else, if you know what I mean. So my freak-outs never got me anywhere. Examples:

Freak-out Voice: Oh my Gosh. This is horrible. I don’t belong here. I belong in the woods with flowers in my hair, dancing and singing and tending to organic fruit trees.

Voice of Reason: You may not like it here, but you have a mortgage and really don’t have that much luck keeping growing things alive. You even kill cactus plants. Growing organic fruit trees probably isn’t the way to go.

FOV: I would rather work part-time close to home and have time for pottery and focusing on my soul.

VOR: Can I remind you of that mortgage payment thing? Plus, you don’t even know how to make pottery. You made a pinch pot in the second grade for your mom. She uses it as a paper clip holder. And frankly, I’m not all that impressed with your skills.

FOV: My true passion is deep within my soul. I must create. I must have purpose. I’m going to quit my job and go back to school to be a pastry chef.

VOR: Um, yeah. Again, you have a mortgage to pay. And you don’t really like school. And you would probably consume all of the pastries before you had a chance to show the professor your work. And then you would fail and possibly end up on the street, with your two cats on leashes, shuffling from dumpster to dumpster, wondering what happened to your life.

Yes, my voice of reason is sometimes a little harsh, but it always seems to win. (I’m signing my freak-out voice up for kick boxing lessons at the Y.) I do have a mortgage to pay (and will, for the next 27 and a half years-Only $114,292 to go!) and honestly, the job pays pretty well, plus there are all of those great benefit that are so important. So important they make me do things that make me very unhappy. Sometimes I do like aspects of my job; I made an awesome friend here. Actually, that’s the single good thing I can say about this place. Huh. I thought there would have been a slightly longer list.

I’m just not brave enough to give up my paying job so I can follow an artistic dream that could leave me out on the streets. So how did I put an end to the long, drawn out days of doom? I stopped worrying about my future by doing a few simple things. Instead of stressing about everything I hated about work, I started going to work on Mondays without worrying that it was Monday, without counting down the hours until the end of the day. I finished my work, doing it as well as I possibly could, and I stopped complaining about my situation. And then a funny thing happened: I started creating.

First I did some sketches on some blank note paper at the desk where I am sometimes stationed. Then I started doodling in my legal notebook when waiting for a meeting to begin. Then I started creating along different theme lines, drawing the same or similar things every way I could, with highlighters, permanent markers, ink pens, even making sculpture out of paper clips. I realized it was pouring out of me without any effort and that no part of my day flew by faster than when I was making stuff out of office supplies that were right there in my own space and readily available to me. I was on to something.

I know I’m not alone in feeling crushed, suffocated and tortured by a job that doesn’t allow my creative soul to flourish. My aforementioned coworker and good friend, who we’ll call “Amy”, feels the same way, on what seems to be a semi-regular basis. Her dream is to be a singer-songwriter and she also has talents in art, design, beer-drinking, marketing, writing and editing, among many other things. We regularly meet in my office (farther away from the boss!) and talk about how we want our lives to have meaning and how we want to do something else with ourselves besides serving as slaves to the corporate world. I bet you’ve felt the same way.
I think it all comes down to one big thing: Fear. My biggest fear is ending up unable to pay my mortgage. Disappointing my loved ones with the failure of my big ideas is a close second. Why is the Voice of Reason so damn strong?  And where does the Voice of Reason come from?  Probably our parents, friends, lovers, teachers and anyone else who ever had any influence over our lives. Their fear has nothing to do with reality, and mine probably doesn’t either, but that doesn’t stop me from letting it rule my life on occasion.

So how do we cope, how do we break out of the shackles and find some meaning in life and work?  Sex and chocolate cake. No, wait, that is not a lasting solution, contrary to what I’d like to believe. I don’t know what works for other people, but meditation, prayer, exercise, writing, creating and silence all seem to work pretty well for me. Oh, and lots of therapy. Which for me mostly involves soaking tissues and making funny noises that only vaguely resemble any human language. (And as a side note to any therapists or future therapists who may be reading this, if you give a girl a box of tissues, for God’s sake, please give her a trash can, too! Otherwise what you’ve got is a girl with a growing ball of snotty, wet tissues and a new obsession more compelling than her emotionally distant father: That trash can located six feet away in the corner. And is it okay to stand up and throw the tissues out?  Is that rude?  Did I mention I’m easily distracted?)

Although I ultimately found the distraction of creating works of art out of every day office supplies soothing while I was at work, there were lots of ways to ease my tensions and clear my mind when I was feeling overwhelmed. The next chapter will discuss those techniques. And then we’ll get to the good stuff: Crap made of paperclips.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 12:17 pm

    NICE 😀 I’m trying to access it but my computer sucks with PDF docs. I’ll get it though, I have my ways 😛

    That first chapter looks great though 😀

    ps: I love office supplies!


  1. The Day After « Life Coach Jen's Recipes For Creativity

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