I’m going to skip around today a bit. Let’s talk about Paula McClain and Megan Mayhew Bergman. And remember, these are all just my musings on Mary Laura Philpott’s curated quotes post “What I’ve Learned From 28 Brilliant Creators.” I’m not sure what exactly resonated so much with me concerning Philpott’s post; she doesn’t offer much in way of commentary on the quotes, but I saw a lot of myself, or maybe I saw a lot of who I wanted to be. Perhaps Philpott’s lack of commentary is what makes the post so incredibly beautiful and powerful, so relate-able on many levels.
Anyway, I encourage you to take a look at her original post.
“[I write] mostly in my home office in a very blue collar way, from 9-3, when my kids are at school,” says Paula McLain. And Megan Mayhew Bergman actually quotes Beryl Markham, which makes this a quote of a quote, “but when you try hard at something, you make yourself vulnerable, because you’re expressing your hopes through that work. When you dare to take yourself seriously, you take a risk.”
Write every day. That’s the take away, right? And I always thought that writerly advice was such hogwash until so very recently.
Writing every day, of course, makes you a better writer. The more you write, the more practice, and that whole 10,000 hours to level up to expert status. But for me, that 10,000 hour mark is not why I need to write every day. Sure, I want to become better at what I do, but if I’m not producing work, then I’m not producing work; there’s no “product” to sell, and I’m not risking anything. I’m only playing it safe.
I wish I could say I wrote like McLain—that 9 to 3 mentality, but my schedule is different. My day job schedule changes from semester to semester. Sometimes I teach two classes, sometimes I teach three class, sometimes I go into work two days a week, sometimes three, sometimes I work evenings, sometimes I work mornings. Sometimes, my day job requires I drive between colleges and teach at different schools. That is the life of an adjunct, a throw-away teacher that no one wants to hire full-time because, well, there are bigger issues surrounding the adjunct teacher pool than I care to really delve into here, and not always the fault of the schools. The point is, I cobble together a new schedule every three months. I also have kids, a 15 year old and a 7 year old, both of which require different levels of parenting, have very different needs. My wife is about to go into her final year of an MFA program, and so to have that 9 to 3 schedule seems like a luxury to me.
That her life is luxury is not McLain’s point. She says simply: you have to work. You have to be passionate. You have to put in the hours, the sweat. And I’m not sure I know anyone who has a sane, normal schedule. Crazy busy chaotic is the normal. So sometimes, for me, that means waking at 3am. Thank you Ed Tarkington for making me feel normal. Or that means sitting down at the kitchen table with my son and daughter and while they’re doing homework, I’m scribbling words out onto a page.
The writing gig, this artist’s life, is not about “if you have the time,” but doing the work over and over every day.
Note to self: Mary Laura Philpott said it was absolutely fine to link out to her post and fill her comments section with spam!