Apr 20, 2012

A Real Job

Musings today.

I am trying to be a writer.  Well, you might say, you're writing a blog, doesn't that make you a writer? Well, sure, but...I shuffle my shoes and look down at my feet.  And don't you write poetry, too, some of which has been published in some darn good journals? Yeah, but...not as many times as a lot of other people have been. And haven't you even won some awards for your writing? Yeah, but never first place, always second.

Man, the excuses piled high and deep. Actually defining myself as a writer proved to be elusive, even though I have been writing for more than a decade.  I can't be a real writer, I write part-time.  I can't be a real writer, I have no published book.  I'm not successful enough to stand tall and shout "I am writer, hear me roar."  Why the hell not?  Good question.  I had more ways to lose confidence than there were ants on an anthill.

But a couple of months ago I went through a two-part process that resulted in me finally trying on the title of "writer" as self-definition and profession. This time, it tentatively fit.

Part one was deciding and accepting that I would never have a "real" job again.  I have fibromyalgia, and my experience of the condition is that one day of stress equals two days of recovery on the couch.  I am lucky that my husband has a good income and I don't need to work, so I do have a choice. The bottom line is that if I actually got a job, our quality of life would go down not up, what with me moaning on the couch all the time I wasn't at said job, and him having to bring me dinner on a tray and refill my water glass, and generally play nursemaid.

Coming to this 'never work again' realization/decision was a long time coming. Although I spent two decades raising my children without holding a job outside the home, and I've only done a bit of contract teaching in the  four years since my younger daughter left home, and that adds up to about twenty-five years of no real job, still, I had this nagging, back-of-the-brain, feeling that I ought to work, an anxiety. I thought I might be missing something in the real world, that I was just a wimp, that I ought to get back on that decades-old horse and ride.  Finally, when I was whining, maybe not for the first time, to a friend about my feeling that maybe I ought to get a job, my dear friend asked me "What the fuck is wrong with you?  You haven't worked in decades.  You don't need to work.  Who the hell in their right mind would get a job?" Oh.  Right.  Thank you for the much needed slap across the face.  My life, my job, my life, my job.

Part two was realizing that if I let myself, I already have a job.  I'm a writer. Letting go of the "a real job is one out in the world" illusion allowed me to redefine myself and accept myself as a writer.  And if writing is my job, then I have to show up for work.  I blocked off my mornings as sacred time to write. No more doctor's appointments, no more walking, no more social activities or errands before noon.  I had to put my butt in the chair and write.  Do I write every morning for several hours?  I do not.  But I go into my office, in the vicinity of my notebook and my computer, and eventually I end up doing something that resembles writing.  Some days I edit a poem, some days I send out my work to journals, and some days, like today, I write a blog post.


  1. im going to save this one .... it rings so true...what a peace comes over you when you accept the job you were meant to do in this life..looking forward to reading more of your work....the heading illustration is great....hope you are well.
    warm greetings trish

    ps just got back from Rome. Met up with Noreen & John. We all stayed at he Gregorian U. where my brother lives in the Jesuit monastery and teaches. very nice.

  2. Thanks, Trish. Glad you got time with the lovely Noreen and John. We were in Cleveland while they were in Rome so we missed them. Next time.

  3. Right on, Sister - it's a real job! And remember, the sitting down with pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is only part of what it means to live a writer's life. Fondly, Arlyn

  4. Right you are. There's the buying pens and notebooks, getting writerly-looking eyeglasses, etc.

  5. Information, free videos, and telephone support for fibromyalgia patients in the bay area.