An Ode To The Multi-Hyphen Method
An English Lit degree is a strange beast. It’s all well and good to smash through Zadie Smith and Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster one after the other in your spare time, or accidentally take a literal full year to read War and Peace having restarted it for the fifteenth time because you forgot who was who again. But the minute someone forces you to read the satires of Fanny Burney (I know) or Two Noble Kinsman (SO boring I believe I actually died, I’m dead now) somehow the whole thing loses its sheen.
While I was at university, I began to associate reading with work. Worse than that, since I was more likely to be found curled up in bed with an empty bin for company than a book, I began to associate books with nauseated, creeping guilt. They sat piled imperiously in the corner of my room, judging me for not reading them. Once, after a particularly Big Night Out, I was sure I felt their gaze as I unceremoniously vomited into a crisp packet I’d left on my bedside table. This was truly the final straw and, after I graduated, I took a hiatus from those judgemental little bastards.
With books out of the picture I had to find something to fill the void. I dived into a career in the music industry and it was amazing. I was sent free mp3s, free vinyl, free gig tickets, the lot. With headphones surgically attached to my head, I expanded my base of knowledge, learning about new genres and sub-genres, and in doing so I built a pretty decent frame of reference. It was exhilarating to be so in tune with what was new on the scene, and it seemed certain that music was my future.
I was in my role for nine months before realising that I hadn’t listened to an album outside of the office walls since I’d been there. Not one. On my commute home, I craved peace. I took my headphones off and let the white noise of the tube rush over me. Back at work, I was flicking through tunes in 10 seconds flat — intro, verse, bridge, chorus, outro — to gauge their commercial worth, and so the act of listening became transactional. Nothing if not a predictable little bean, I stopped going to gigs, I stopped discovering music on my own terms and, eventually, I quit my job altogether.
Anyway, now I edit a culture magazine. This very one in fact! Surprise! I read books and I listen to music and it’s still my job so surely I’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire, right? I work more than ever now — there’s so much to read and watch and write that I’ve barely seen a weekend in over a year. What if I just want a break? What if it all becomes too much of a capital J Job and all the fun gets sucked out of it. What if I end up, culturally speaking, an old, dry, dehydrated prune? Bitch I heard that, I said culturally speaking.
Well, bear with me here because no one’s ever said this before I just thought it up right now all by myself: variety is the spice of life. Wait no, that wasn’t me. But a mixture of coming to terms with my own woefully short attention span and reading Emma Gannon’s The Multi-Hyphen Method — her new book about exploring ratios of paid and unpaid work, redefining success in a digital age, and the absolute acceptability of having a midday bath if you’re working into the evening — has given me a new perspective.
I’ve always thought it was best to have a specific area of expertise, a strongly delineated thing, but now I’m not so sure. In order to stay happy in my job (small j this time), it’s been really important to keep my brain fizzing in lots of different kinds of ways. And when I need a break from The Tung altogether? Well, luckily I have two other jobs to get to. That sounds facetious but, trust me, for once in my life I’m not being a sarcastic little b.
Don’t get me wrong, there’ve been many times I’ve wished I didn’t have to work three that’s THREE (3) jobs to be able to live in London even semi-comfortably. Until really recently, I’ve hated being forced to finish one job early to get to the next. Needless to say I’m taking absolutely wild liberties with Emma Gannon’s bath advice, but she’s got me thinking about the way I work, not only with respect to having multiple jobs, but also on The Tung more specifically.
This project will have maximum longevity if I can spend time with it like it’s a fun pal rather than a needy baby. I can multi-hyphen method it! I don’t have know everything there is to know about literature, but I can listen to Mostly Lit and read the LRB and follow bookstagram accounts. I don’t have to be an art expert, but I can read reviews on The White Pube and go to free museums and doodle in front of Gilmore Girls. I don’t have to be theatre nerd, but I can listen to the Bechdel Theatre and Royal Court podcasts and, funds permitting, go and see the odd show. Whether I'm listening to The High Low or Melvyn Bragg or scrolling through Tabloid Art History's Insta, one thing's really clear...
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can take a bath any time I want! I can be a wrinkled old prune on my OWN TERMS!
Anyway brb gotta go teach Latin to a twelve-year-old.