Creating a Writing Career While Keeping a Roof Over Your Head
Being an Author while starving in an attic for your art may paint a romantic picture, but the reality is less than conducive to a continuing presence on this plane of existence! Reina Menasche here takes a humourous approach to tips for juggling day jobs and a successful writing career.
Working My butt off versus Lying in a Hammock—A Writer’s Tale (or Tail?)
Hey, I’m American, and I’ve got that infamous work ethic syndrome: you know the one I’m talking about, right? Think American Dream. Think work hard and reap comforts and rewards. Think of my grandparents arriving at Ellis Island with a flood of other bone-weary yet hopeful immigrants, and then hunkering down in Brooklyn apartments and brownstones to do whatever it takes to create “The Dream.”
Oh, and what a dream! House with white picket fence? Maybe. 2.2 children? As we all know, in those days 2.2 was a modest number. The IDEA was what really counted: that one could be, well, whatever kind of person one wanted—and have a crack at The Good Life.
If my grandparents had stayed in Europe they may not have survived the twentieth century. Instead they came here and bore fruit. They handed The Dream on a platter (not golden) to us kids and grandkids.
Work hard, strive high…Maybe that’s why I work three jobs and pursue my writing career, not to mention fulfilling all those sacred and personal female duties such as motherhood, housekeeper, dog groomer, general problem solver, etc.
During a recent book talk at a local library, a reader asked me, “How do you find the time to write?”
I paused before answering. When do I find the time to write?
How to Find the Time to Write
Several times I have blogged on the subject of WHY write in the first place, so I won’t go there today. Let’s just assume that The American Dream, for me, means pursuing one’s heart’s work and believing in what can’t be seen yet…And let’s also assume that the non-writing jobs I have also represent works of the heart, which they do, though much, much different than the ongoing celebration of fiction.
So today, a week later, the question befuddles me. WHEN DO I FIND THE TIME TO WRITE?
I have always been a bit of an odd worker. The ethic is in me, kinda sorta. It’s just expressed in a style that’s peculiarly mine, as the swirls of my fingerprints are mine. In other words, the handicap of my pinball-machine-work-style has finally, finally turned into an asset.
I like to work in short productive bursts. And these bursts just happen to be interspersed with periods of contemplation, exercise, languor—or whatever. Someone I care about very much accused me of undergoing twelve-second productive frenzies followed by longer lapses of unproductive wall-staring.
For most of my professional life, I have had to hide this “work style” from colleagues and bosses. I am not a marathon runner who chugs along all day unraveling one work thread at a time. I am a sprinter; AND a suspiciously idle-looking doorway hanger. When finished with a work burst, I need to change gears, grabbing another thread or merely staring at the thread dangling before me, working out a way to grab it.
My day job as a social worker requires me to move and talk and think and write and teach and counsel. These are bursts of productivity (though definitely extended longer than 12 seconds). What I have done—what I’ve learned to do—is use my “wall staring” periods to weave the next part of whatever tale I am spinning. My night / Saturday jobs as a university professor and faculty adviser require me to move and talk and think and write and teach and counsel. Then back to the wall. My current book SILENT BIRD is unspooling there. I can “pause” the film, but I need to get back to it pretty soon or may never find out the ending.
So, again, when do I find the time to write?
I don’t know.
I write in my head when I’m drifting off to sleep or if have insomnia.
I write on paper when I’m stuck in the molasses of waiting at a bank or the Department of Motor Vehicles.
I write on computers when I’m resting between bursts of productivity on other stuff or when I’m bursting between bouts of wall-staring.
When my son was younger I wrote in the form of bedtime stories.
Sometimes I write late at night after grading papers. Sometimes I write INSTEAD of grading papers or in class while students are taking a test.
Occasionally I write while watching a movie because the movie has inspired a leap in a new direction. Often I’ll write on vacation, gritty with sand on a beach or sitting around drinking unneeded coffee.
Hate to admit it, but I also spend lumps of free time NOT writing just because I’m too tired or too lazy or too…sick of working. More confession: I love idle time. I adore it and crave it and savor it like gooey cake. Could be that an unknown percentage of the wall-staring IS idle time embedded into the busy-ness of life.
Thus, the hammock.
I’m on vacation right now in Ventura County, California, visiting some dear high school friends from Long Island, New York. And yes, I’m writing this blog. I may also edit my novel a bit. I’ve graded a few papers because I have to.
But this is VACATION; I don’t have to be productive. My work ethic has fallen into a coma. I am playing pool, drinking wine, and…yes, lounging in a hammock.
Beats working any day.
A writer finds the time to write - and as Reina indicates above, the time may come a few minutes at a time, in chunks around the busy-ness of everyday living!
Reina's book Twice Begun is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.
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