This year’s biggest accomplishment may be that I found a job. A 9-5 gig. After 14 years away from the “salaried workforce” (it isn’t like I haven’t been working for all those years, just that I was freelancing). There were persuasive economic and personal reasons to do this (and to the person in my social circle who seemed to believe that by taking a job I was somehow either betraying My Art or giving in to The Man–chill. Really). And in fact I can confidently say, after four whole days of employment, that I’m enjoying it a lot, and learning new things every day. I had missed having a community of colleagues, not spread all over the internet but right across the way. I had missed the sense of getting thing-after-thing-after-thing done, like knocking over dominoes. And I had missed the structure that helps make me feel productive.
Or rather, I had missed not having to impose that structure on myself. As a freelancer, every morning you get up and say “Now today we’re going to get the following things done,” and you make yourself stick to it–but that takes energy that could be as usefully applied to the getting of the things done. If you follow me.
My new state of employment raises some questions about all the other bits and pieces of my life. When will I make cakes? How will my family cope when I’m not available for emergency mid-day bale-outs? (“I left XX at home, could you just…”). Will the dog forget my name? And of course, when am I going to write?
Of course, while I was looking for a job (my least favorite part of the whole last year–particularly given the gloomy state of the economy and employment) I thought about these things. Some of them were pretty easily dealt with: I’ll make time to make cakes after I get home, if cakes are needed. My family will cope–and about time, too. The dog never forgets anyone who feeds her (and now she’s in a playgroup and gets to play with the other kids every day!). And: I’ll write on the train.
On the highly unscientific evidence of the last four days, it can happen. I set myself a goal of writing three pages (longhand) on the train. Given that I have a 20 minute ride on BART and another thirty minutes on Caltrain to get to work (and then the process reverses itself in the evening) I have plenty of time to do this–and while I permit myself to run longer if inspiration hits and I want to, if I run out of what I want to say after three pages, that’s fine, I can read or make phone calls or stare into the middle distance contemplating whatever seems contemplation-worthy. This week I did it three days out of four; on the fourth, I brought my laptop in hopes that I would spend that commute transcribing the handwritten stuff. That didn’t work: there’s not enough space, and trying to concentrate on my train-wobbling writing is hard enough on a flat, stable, unmoving surface. So next week it will be me and my notebook, FTW. And three pages a day = a book a year, give or take.
Will I be able to keep this up? That’s where the persistence part of the program is going to have to kick in. It’s easy to do now, when the shiny is all over the process and the job. In six weeks, or six months, or a year from now, I will probably have to make myself do the writing some mornings, because entropy gets to you after a while. What I’ve got going for me is 1) experience, both with doing the writing and getting it done, and with my own sometimes-need to just hold my nose and do it, 2) curiosity (because I never really know how the Hell I’m going to write a book until it’s written), and 3) the nascent faith that there are people out there who want to read stuff I write (that last one is such a new thing for me that I’m almost afraid to mention it lest it burst and leave me with egg on my face).
So I bought a small pile of notebooks yesterday, and some nice gel pens, because having decent tools help. They will become part of my daily take-to-work kit, along with the water bottle and the lunch bag. And we’ll just see how this goes. So far, as the guy falling from the airplane says, so good*.
*I choose to believe the guy has a parachute and that the parachute will deploy properly. Your mileage, as always, may vary.