“Never forget that the truest luxury is imagination, and that being a writer gives you the leeway to exploit all of the imagination’s curious intricacies, to be what you were, what you are, what you will be, and what everyone else is or was or will be, too.” ―Andrew Solomon
I like lists. I like my thoughts organized and my heartbeat even. In the case of greener grass, I miss having fresh Tuesdays for pantlessness and writing and reading into the night. The strict budget didn’t bother me. I got used to living with mostly necessities because wanting less felt as if I was making more. I wanted what I had: time to write, and health and love―always health and love. But when my money ran out, I insisted on returning to work because student loans and student loans and student loans. Here are my top three pros and cons about returning to the cubicle.
- Office supplies – Binder clips and clasp envelopes and steno pads, oh my! Highlighters and Sharpies and Post-its, oh my! Legal pads and paper clips and white out, oh my!
- Money – I bought a dress. It wasn’t on sale. I didn’t die.
- When it rains, it thunderstorms – For some reason, when one person wants you, they all do. They come shimmying out of linoleum cracks and wood paneling and cakes so, in what seemed like overnight, I transformed from unemployed to basically full-time with volunteer things and other things that pay in addition to the things I want to do: read and write and revise and see things and wash my hair once in a while. If I didn’t have the job, I would have crap so, in fear of it all disappearing overnight, I am doing all of the things!
- Weekends – Saturday and Sunday have become Thursday Jr. and Friday Jr. They’re more enjoyable than Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but they are still work days. But at least it’s my heart’s work. And at least there is Baileys in my coffee.
- Restlessness – I felt it as I did the dishes tonight: I probably won’t sleep; I will wake at 2 a.m., thinking about writing. To calm myself, when Waylon turned the lights off and climbed the stairs, I wrote for an hour―for peace, for sleep, because do I have a choice?
- Existential crises – Last week, I ran errands on my lunch break. I drove to the good grocery store for whole wheat cous cous, hazelnut coconut milk creamer and the face wipes I like because there is an Office Depot in the same parking lot and I needed to mail a fiction submission. As I slid the envelope across the desk, my eyes asked, How much? She said, “Oh, we don’t send envelopes. We only ship Fed Ex packages.” She started to explain where the nearest post office was. I lied and told her I wasn’t “from here.” What I meant was: it’s not my part of town. But already the music was playing in my head. My plan was ruined. As I drove an extra three miles per hour back to my severe desk, I felt the beginnings of tears, a steering wheel slap tingling in my fingers, a “Why?” in my throat, but I took a deep breath and mentally added the stories to my Friday to-do list with all the other stupid uncrossed things.
Sometimes all writers feel like frauds, right? I did at my last job. I revised, but because I wasn’t writing anything new I felt like I had broken up with writing. It was self-loathing. It was avoiding my eyes in the mirror. It was spontaneous tears. Writers, like other creatives, need to make things and I felt, at best, a wordsmith. But that was then.
Everyone’s different. What’s right for Bill, may not be right for Murray. But I, Jane, need to write four times a week to not spiral into madness. And I have been able to―so far―maintain momentum (knock on wood). If I fell out of my routine, I submerged myself into the TBR list for inspiration and soon found my way back to the blank page. So this time around, the day job isn’t so bad, but let’s be real. It’s for the mynah birds, and the bills (gratitude). Temporary temp work. Not the dream.
On days when the everything seems like a little too much (everyone else is publishing, finding agents and beingblurbed by lit stars), David Foster Wallace eases into my ear, “Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.” On days when I feel like I am not making any movement, I seek out artists who have scorched a path, like Rainer Maria Rilke who voices:
To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap and stands at ease in the spring gales without fearing that no summer may follow. It will come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are simply there in their vast, quiet tranquility, as if eternity lay before them.
Everything is moving very fast right now, but I’ll keep writing as if I have an eternity.