Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Real World and Other Nightmares

Perhaps it’s because I had a nightmare last night about work – one of those dreams where everything goes wrong and you lack the wisdom to deal with it the way you would in real life – but I’m feeling sort of cynical about life in the real world today.

This past week has been sort of a downer for me as a writer. I’ve had a phenomenally busy week – planning lessons, grading papers, getting things squared away with a new part time retail job I’ve taken to supplement my teaching income, and as always: errands, errands, errands. I haven’t written much this week, and what frustrates me is that it’s not because I’ve been sitting around watching TV or playing DS (my video game drug of choice). I haven’t written much this week because every second that I’m awake I have something else, something more pressing that I have to do.

I’ve talked before about how saying you don’t have time to write is something of a cop out. I do think this is true – after all, you could sleep for an hour less each night and spend that hour writing, if nothing else – but I also think there is something to be said for the lifestyle of a graduate creative writing student.

When I first started grad school I felt that my life suddenly revolved around teaching – and I wasn’t even sure at the time whether I wanted to be a teacher. I hated my new life, and I spent a lot of time ranting about how I had had a lot more time to write when I was working in an office than I did now that I was a creative writing MFA student. (This time I spent ranting, of course, could have been more wisely spent writing.)

After I got used to it, though, and especially after I got the hang of teaching, I found that I had waaaaaaaaay more time to write than I ever did out in the work world. When you work eight hours a day, yes, it’s possible to come home and write for an hour or two, but don’t forget you also have to make dinner, spend time with your spouse, run errands, and sleep. If you get home from work at five, and you should really try to be in bed by, say, ten so you can get a good eight hours before having to get up at six and get ready for work, you really don’t have a lot of time in which to carve an hour or two to write. And you can absolutely forget about the possibility of writing for three hours a day – which is always my ultimate goal.

As a graduate creative writing student your schedule is much more open. It’s stress, more than any real barriers, that keep you from writing. You teach one class (in most cases) and take two or three. Most of your homework is enjoyable – it is, after all, your field of interest – and even after doing all your homework and all the stuff you have to do to teach, after running all your errands and doing everything else you have to do to survive, you still have plenty of time leftover to write and write and write and write.

Not so, I’m learning, as a part time adjunct instructor and a part time retail sales girl. I haven’t even gotten into the thick of the retail job and I already can tell that finding an hour or two to write everyday is going to be a constant battle. Every single day I will have to search for time, figure out how I’ll do it this time, figure out what I need to sacrifice to squeeze it in.

But I know even as I write this that I will work it out. I’ll find some routine that works and I’ll get my writing time in. Maybe not as much as I would like – that three hour a day goal feels more unattainable than ever right now – but I’ll find some time. I’ll find enough to keep myself sane. And in the meantime, I’m thinking again about PhD programs. I’m scheming how I can get myself back into that cushy life where even though you don’t make a living off of writing, it’s just assumed that writing is important and that you simply must have time to do it. That writing is as essential as breathing, that it’s one of those basic functions that keeps us going, keeps us alive.

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