How do you honor the writing life?

Here’s the third question of the week: “Tell a story about a time when you had to honor your reality. Has there ever been a moment when writing felt completely incompatible with your real life–when it felt like there was just no way you could make the two exist together? If so, how did you get through that moment? How did you find balance between writing and life? How did you make room in your life for both things?”

In On Writing–A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King describes the time he became a high school teacher and had to quit because teaching made it impossible for him to write. That passage has always stuck with me because that’s my push-and-pull: the full-time teaching that pays the bills and also fulfills me and the non-paying writing that takes time and attention that’s so hard to give when I’m teaching.

I know it’s possible to write while being a teacher–although I have more examples of retired teachers writing–for instance, Beck McDowell, who inspired many high school English students and then published two novels after she retired (Last Bus Out and This Is Not a Drill). Great books!

Writing requires chunks of uninterrupted time and long enough stretches of time to let the ideas go where they need to. How do we create those chunks when our time and energy are taken up by work, by other stuff? I also remember Octavia Butler as an example. She worked nights at a factory (?) and wrote during the day. I’m not remembering this exactly, and I no longer have a copy of Bloodchild, Butler’s collection of short stories in which she talks about her writing life and discusses the genesis of each story–I love this collection!

On some level, I have to put writing first. What does that look like with a full-time job?

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One thought on “How do you honor the writing life?

  1. Gorgeous examples, even if they are about people who had to leave the day job! Still, it’s just exciting to think of these magical writer people working in the world. They’re out here, with us.

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