Rambles

Rob read my post on the whole class/teacher license thing the other day and said,

“It’s interesting that you didn’t once mention writing.”

And I hadn’t because I was grappling with the whole safety net thing – again – but also, I am not sure that a person can really make a living writing. It seems to me that there are mid-list genre writers who make decent livings and there are the sacred cows on the bestseller lists who get published regardless of the quality of their latest offering and then everyone else writes in addition to conducting workshops, running literary magazines, editing, being an agent, or teaching.

I have a writing gig at 50 Something and it pays me exactly nothing. I have an offer on the table for a slot on a new education blog which will also net me about nothing. Okay, there are bylines involved and a publishing credit isn’t nothing, but they don’t pay bills or buy stuff – not that I am much into the accumulation of stuff anymore, but you know what I mean.

Shaking the idea that marriage eventually leads all women to the food bank is difficult. Especially for me. I have never in my life not been the breadwinner. I believed all those feminists who said that a woman should always have a job because taking any time away from the workplace is the first step on the path to doom.

Now you’re thinking – how did we get from writing as a so-so career to a feminist manifesto on traditional marriages being the ruin of women?

I was reading a review of that new tv show The Good Wife and the reviewer insisted it was about the dangers women face when they buy into the idea that they can come and go from the workplace easily and without penalty. I am two years out of the workplace now. I am not accumulating points for Social Security. My pension is simply clocking interest rather than contributions from me and my former employer. I don’t have current references regarding my work ethic or ability. I don’t know anyone in the “business” here and so don’t have contacts. My logical mind tells me this is all bad. This is not what I was raised to do. I was taught better.

But, I like staying home. I am happier as just a housewife than I ever was teaching despite the fact that I am quite passionate about education and that I don’t much care for being the keeper of Dee’s schedule and the organizer of her social life. And I wonder just what I am giving up by accepting the fact that I will not attain the lofty pay heights I knew in my last years of teaching. Are feminists more concerned with the stuff of the standard of living than the living part of it? Life doesn’t lose meaning when shopping is needs rather than wants based, does it?

So, writing. I am working on the memoir. It is slow because the beginning chapters are all about Will and caretaking and how dementia kills a marriage and then it shifts to the even cheery dead husband stuff. I will finish the first half by Halloween and the second – more cheery meeting Rob and falling in love again stuff – by year’s end. Then query and look for agent and …. you know.

I don’t know if this book will make me a writer or just someone who wrote a book. I worry that it will change my life in a way I am not prepared for which is probably another reason why I focus on details like classes and licenses rather than think about being a writer.

Anyway, I am off to writing group. I finally found one that meets during the day.

7 responses to “Rambles

  1. You’re doing well to think about all of this now, on the front end, so that the decisions you make are intentional. When I had children, I consciously chose to stay home. When the youngest started school I started teaching, a profession I chose because it matched my kids’ schedules. Now I am on the other side of motherhood, and it has been difficult to get started in a new career. I question whether I would make the same choices again, the ones best for my children. The short answer is yes. We can’t provide for every eventuality, but we can make the best decisions possible based on what we know at the time. Your passion for writing is part of who you are, and you are finding a way to make it part of your life.

  2. Interesting that your commenters pick up on the independence theme as well. So — back to the writing.

    Hats off to you for setting out on your writing project. I can understand how this feels, and I don’t think you need any creative writing classes to complete it — not that they won’t be thought-provoking, and useful.

    But it’s the perspective you hold inside which does the writing, and I don’t think you can train that except through living through all that life can throw at you, then bouncing back and more.

    People will tell you that writing is something you can improve with practice. In general terms, that’s probably true — and specifically I think I’ve become a better and more ruthless editor as time goes on. And yet (to use one of my favourite phrases) — and yet — I’m a firm believer that sometimes the stuff just flows out of you and you need to be careful to retain the spark as and when you find it.

    I came across an intriguing book a while ago, called something like ‘Writing down the bones’. I didn’t finish it, to be truthful, since eventually it was full of proscriptive instructions on doing it the author’s way. But she made one good point, namely that there are two kinds of writing: raw and intensely real, and slickly-edited and dull. I always need to edit, but at its best this process is about deleting whole sentences and even sections. By contrast, the more I polish a piece of prose, the more smoothly flowing it becomes, and the more I begin to lose all the character and soul within.

    It’s always interesting to compare the first and final drafts, some weeks and months and even years apart. It’s funny how so much effort seems to change so little, if only because on the whole I find that whole chunks are gone, while a few core blocks of pure emotion still remain, and most of the time these can tell the guts of a story on their own.

  3. I have huge dependency issues. The kind that make me shake at the idea of taking a day off, let alone accepting a lay-off or taking a break from being employed.

    I think about this a lot. Whether I could see writing and housekeeping and caretaking as my job. I think I could, despite the lack of paycheck. But it would take a lot of scheduling and therapy, that’s for sure.

  4. Interesting … I don’t think I’ve invested a lot of time in thinking beyond the manuscript pages. I guess it never entered my mind that writing and only writing would be the source of my income. It’s an interesting idea.

  5. until i read this, i often stated that i am only afraid of two things: outliving my children and spiders. your words resonate, and i now have to add a third: being dependent. while i’ve never been driven to work for the accumulation of ‘stuff’, it has always been about independence. when i took time off to stay home with babies (almost a year with my daughter and 7 months with my son), i was agitated.

    could i do it? pursue a dream, something i am passionate about, without a regular paycheck?

    gets down to trust and faith. trust in your partner and faith in your own resourcefulness in the face of the ‘worst case scenario’. you’ve been tested before. my guess? you’d land on your feet….

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