How do people–writers, specifically–have full-time jobs and children and somewhat active social lives and still manage to get any writing done? I know it’s all about Time Management, that most prized of skills, but at this point it feels less like a skill and more like magic. Like, something that I’d need to wrangle a witch or a shaman into procuring for me. Please give me some Time and some Energy so that I may continue to work on this godforsaken book. Much abracadabra required, sorry.
I’m laughing at myself as I write this, of course. Am I happy to have a job that pays all my bills? You bet. Am I happy that I can pay all of my bills with ONE job and not have to scrounge around for extra work like I did the whole time I was in Scotland? You bet, times a million.
I’ve applied for a few other posts at my current place of work, in other units. Posts that would give me equally magical things like benefits (imagine having your dental bills covered. JUST IMAGINE) and paid holidays and time off if I need surgery (hospital perk!) and, best of all, permanent status. A permanent, guaranteed full time job. (I’m working full-time now but it’s only for a year, and who knows what happens after that.)
A permanent full-time job! How exciting…and yet I’m exhausted all of the time. It’s all I can do to stay awake past 7pm, and I’m not kidding. Yesterday I came home from work and sat in front of the MS-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named and cried a teeny little bit because revising it seems so big and impossible and I feel so small and tired. (Disclaimer: today is the last day in a 14 day stretch at work, so I should probably not take any emotional upheaval too seriously.)
And yet, there are so many people the world over who work twice, three, four times as hard as this. Really, I am blessed. And I know that. I am grateful for all that I’ve been given, for all that I have. I really am.
Is wanting to carve out time for oneself and one’s writing a foolish thing? When I brought the subject up to a coworker she told me I was being silly. Think of your five-year plan, she said. Which is true. Pay down the debt, pay down the debt, pay down the debt. And then see about finding time for yourself and your writing once that’s over. So you write a little less during the time when you’re paying the debt down. So what?
How easy would it be, though, to slide into a comfortable life? I keep thinking about this essay that was recently published in Hazlitt — I know the dichotomy isn’t always this absolute, but sometimes it feels that way. You don’t want to spend your whole life scraping money for food together so you give up, you find that nice little apartment back in your hometown, you find a job that has nothing to do with what you’ve studied and longed for but brings you pockets of surprise and joy nonetheless. You continue to pursue your craft but you do it differently than you’d imagined when you were twenty-four. Slower. Smaller. You hunger just as much but sometimes you’re too tired to fight for it and so you think: maybe it would just be easier to take that permanent full-time job, those benefits, and fill your life with things instead. Deck your apartment out. Since when does writing pay for that nice rug you’ve always wanted? Matching picture frames so that you don’t feel like you’re still living in a student’s apartment? Don’t you want a car, some day? Wouldn’t you also like a house? Does it make sense to pursue writing if you know–if you are beginning to realize, to understand–that maybe it means you’ll be living in this little apartment forever, that it might always be a struggle?
SO TIRED. MUCH HISTRIONICS.
Yesterday, the writer Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer sent me some very wise advice:
I suspect it’s still true, despite the fact that there was sleep last night, and lots of it. And I suspect it’s also true that I will decide to take one of those new jobs (if they’re offered to me, which is also, of course, always the question) or I won’t, and whatever decision I arrive at will have its own reasoning. Its own kind of peace.
In the meantime, more sleep. And two days off starting tomorrow. Thank goodness.