Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Writing

I was searching for something online last week and came across this Atlantic interview with author Stephen King.  It's been nagging at my subconscious ever since.

I've been frustrated lately because I can't find the time I need to write.  You see, I have a real job -- one that pays the bills and one that requires lots of time and energy.

And Stephen King cuts to the root of my dilemma:

Lahey: You paint a pretty bleak picture of teachers as professional writers. Teaching is, after all, a “consumptive profession,” as a friend of mine puts it, and it can be a real challenge to find the juice for our own creative endeavors after a day at school. Do you still feel that teaching full time while pursuing the writing life is a doomed proposition? 
King: Many writers have to teach in order to put bread on the table. But I have no doubt teaching sucks away the creative juices and slows production. “Doomed proposition” is too strong, but it’s hard, Jessica. Even when you have the time, it’s hard to find the old N-R-G.

I am reminded of Harper Lee and her wonderful friends who gave her a year's salary so she could take a break from her job and concentrate on her novel.  And she wasn't even a teacher; she was a clerk at an airline counter at the time.

But he is correct.

I love teaching; I truly do.  But in all honesty, to be a good teacher you have to re-dedicate yourself to it every single year.  I've never been one of those teachers that can use the same lesson plans every single year.  Yes, I teach the same short stories, usually.  I may add or subtract from the repertoire but basically I'm covering the same stories.  But I can never do them the same way.  It changes with the group.  It also changes with your own experience and training; I went to Pre-AP training this summer which was absolutely great, but it totally changed how I teach my classes.  I'm re-writing every single lesson plan once again.  (It seems to be working, by the way -- my students have much, much higher grades and are much more engaged than in the previous sixteen years which makes me wonder why such training isn't part of the teacher education curriculum in the first place, but that's another blog for another day.)

At any rate, my writing project isn't moving at the brisk clip that I might wish.  I wake up on Saturday or Sunday and for a brief moment am full of inspiration; I'm composing sentences, paragraphs, chapters in my head!  It's rolling fluidly and beautifully just the way I want to tell it!

But then I have to do the laundry and vacuum the carpet, run to the store, dust the furniture and pick up the dry cleaning.  Then it's time to plan supper, and well, heck, it's already 2 or 3 o'clock and the inspiration is gone.

How do real writers do this?

Must I wait until I retire to write this book?  I can certainly do research for the next seven years -- there's plenty of research to be done.  That doesn't really take any creativity or inspiration, so I'm really good at the research part.

I want to be able to drop everything and run down to NOLA and sit in the Tulane archives for a couple of weeks.  (A hotel for two weeks?!  Ha!  Yeah, that's not happening.)

I want to sit in the archives in Natchitoches at NSU for days on end until I've read every single thing that could possibly pertain to my book.  Will they let me pitch a tent and a sleeping bag in the back room?  Doubtful.

But, oh, I really want days of uninterrupted silence where I can put it all my research together and tell the story.

It will come.  I know I have to be patient.  I need to learn to enjoy the journey and to take my time so that I get it right.

But I do wish I knew how to burn the candle at both ends, teaching all day and writing all night.  What's the secret?

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