Monday, September 22, 2008

The Domesticated Writer

David Gessner's piece in The New York Times on his decision to take a job teaching writing is food for thought. He provides a guided tour of the last hundred and fifty or so years of possible means of self-support for writers, and shows how the job of teaching writing evolved from being seen as a sinecure to finally being a real job.

This topic is always interesting to me, as I have made a number of decisions keeping me away from a career in the academic world. Sometimes I regret that choice; most times I don't. Others exist there happily, and balance their creative writing with the teaching of it, apparently without terminal conflict. I would rather make a living in a world that is separate from the world where I write. Either way, it's a divided life of sorts--just a slightly different flavor of division.

Gessner talks about the need to have some kind of a job, despite the price you pay for that divided life.

It’s not just a question of success or even genius, but temperament and discipline. Young writers think all they need is time, but give them that time and watch them implode. After all, there’s something basically insane about sitting at a desk and talking to yourself all day, and there’s a reason that writers are second only to medical students in instances of hypochondria. In isolation, our minds turn on us pretty quickly.


Yes, sad but true. Every writer's fantasy about winning the lotto and plunging 100% into creativity without the ballast and worry of bills and obligations isn't all it's cracked up to be.

That said, now I'll go back to my world of cubicles, computers, co-workers who ride motorcycles for fun instead of read books for fun. After all, there are bills to pay....

1 comment:

gaye g.p said...

And then there are those writers, like me, who are "retired" from whatever paid the bills. It is still a divided life. Retired time fills up with obligations to family, with all the whatevers once relegated to the "hobby" category, with lunches out, with the exercise class, with doctor appointments. More things pile up: books or magazines to be read, good intentions, post-it-notes, half-finished poems. It is wonderful!