Monthly Archives: December 2014

Writing on the Job

My primary source of income is teaching.  I work at two different colleges, teaching writing and literature courses, etc.  However, I recently had the opportunity to pick up a part time job that basically requires me to be a warm body in a chair.  The boss for this job pitched it to me by telling me I could use the time to do all of my grading and grad school work.  Easy money, AND I can get other stuff done? Sign me up!  However, in addition to bolstering my academic productivity, the large blocks of time spent behind a desk have also allowed me to develop a more regular creative writing routine.

This past semester, I taught six courses and also completed an independent seminar for my doctorate.  I did manage to produce some solid creative material, but my methods were incredibly erratic.  This was a period of time when there were lots of 3AM insomnia poems.  The experience reminded me a lot of my undergraduate years, when my schedule was equally chaotic and unstructured.  There’s an excitement to this kind of process that I genuinely enjoy.  The immediacy of poetry that demands to be frantically documented in the middle of the night is something that makes me feel truly alive. That being said, this type of free-form writing schedule made it really difficult for me to accomplish tasks that required organization, such as submitting to journals, or laying out my next manuscript.  This new, part-time job turned out to be an unexpected gift to my writer-self.  Since I’m virtually chained to a desk for eight hours a week, why NOT use the time to revise poems, submit to journals, and start structuring a collection?  That, my friends, is precisely what I’ve been doing.  Granted, some of these eight-hours are dedicated to grading (and writing!) papers, but I’m still left with plenty of time to work creatively.

When I was working on my MFA, my mentors were adamant that writers needed to prioritize their art, many of them even advocating a daily writing schedule.  This is something that I staunchly adhered to while writing my thesis novel.  I would work from 8-4, go for a run, and then spend an hour or two writing.  However, since I’ve started teaching at the college level, my schedule is much less uniformly structured, and sometimes overstuffed.  For me, this kind of chaos makes the clockwork writing of my MFA days more difficult to achieve.  Strangely enough, taking on yet another job amidst a plethora of other responsibilities seemed to be the magic bullet that propelled me back in the right direction.  Of course, my long-term goal is to figure out how to maintain this kind of motivation and focus, to create a calm, productive space for my artist-self, even when it’s not convenient.  In the mean time, onward…

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