Thursday, September 14, 2006
is it vocation or vacation?
In the middle of an extremely minor identity crisis.
I’m starting to wonder about things that I never wondered when I was a student. Students don’t have identity crises, do they? They all know who they are, especially as they’re surrounded by more of the same.
A rough job description: Students study, they take classes, take notes until their penmanship is shot; they schlep books around, they drink too much coffee, they occasionally procrastinate, they watch movies on the weekends, they watch movies when they should be studying, they eat entirely too much ramen. They wear what’s comfortable, they have meaningful discussions about politics and social justice until one a.m., and they check email incessantly. Fair enough?
What on earth does a newly graduated writer do??
She certainly doesn’t call herself that, does she? Not before the first book contract. Or maybe the second, just in case the first one flops. If it ever gets off the ground. Hmmm. She’s still entitled to too much coffee, and must still schlep books around. Is also permitted to drift off into a creative trance and jot down notes on napkins or receipts or whatever’s handy. Licensed to shameless eavesdropping, especially in crowded restaurants. Must dress predominantly in tweeds. Reading glasses a plus. Artsy friends in tow. Goes to interesting things like concerts in the park, old libraries, obscure lectures.
So how’m I doing? Aha haaaa.
Well, I’m having a difficult time in the self-discipline department. At my desk by nine? Um, hardly. Closer to nine-thirty, which is like being late to class every day, something my former roommate knows would send me into fits. (I loathed being late. Perhaps this is an understatement.) And all too often, I’m typing away in my pajamas, coffee cooling next to me. Ooh, still drinking coffee. One point for the writer-to-be. Oh, but then some days, I don’t make it to the computer at all... revoke that last point.
I do schlep books around—but doesn’t everyone haul their fat Merriam Webster collegiate dictionaries to Panera? Along with books on creativity and pirates (yes, one of my characters is a pirate, I’m so completely pleased about that), brainstorming technique and writing exercises… So real point number one for the writer-in-training.
I eavesdrop shamelessly and scribble on index cards that I forever have with me, so check and check. We’re up to three.
And a couple of nights ago, I had a fabulous idea that dropped out of nowhere into my head at one a.m., so I was scribbling away in a notebook by my bed, feeling very smug at my new writerish lifestyle. I do love my workspace, too: I have a huge map of Italy hanging in front of my face, so whenever I’m stuck with ideas or writing exercises, I let my eyes wander across the coast of Italy, collecting words like valle, porto, monte, faro, Sicilia, Cagliari, Toscana.
But I spend half (?) of my time trying to justify exactly why I’m here. Let’s see. Could have a forty-hour work week and benefits and a water cooler and corporate meetings. I did like my time at Zondervan this spring. Why oh why would I throw out a lovely, clear-cut job description in favor of muddling through on my own? Trying to figure out how best to spend my time (and then wondering how I should improve on that) is exhausting. I have pages of goals and pages of revisions to those goals…
I do love it though, the actual work. I’m so excited about the ideas I’m trying to grow, the characters I’m slowly bringing to life. I feel like a gardener, or how a gardener might feel, watering seeds and tending tiny vulnerable shoots. That’s all my stories are right now, and I’m trying to be vigilant…
All this splashing around to say: This is the same me who had unrealistic expectations of every Saturday… I seem to have a hate-love relationship with unscheduled time. Deep down, I’m not questioning why I’m here. It’s all grace, and I’m trying daily to do my best with all God’s blessings. Which is why I start each writing session with prayer, specifically for the work of that day. It keeps me from panicking (well, from panicking too much) and keeps me focused on Who I’m trying to serve. Looks like I’m still a student after all.—jl