On Time (And How I Suddenly Have More of It)

Can we talk again about how I got fired? Because I got fired. And still don’t have a job. The last week has been filled with interviews, video games, writing, bath robes, a really fat cat, and five and a half seasons of Gilmore Girls. I talked more in class this week than I have to date, mostly because it was the only verbal conversation I had with human beings this entire week. I even stepped up my grad student game and went to tea in the writing program office for the first time. My cat and I have had innumerable conversations wherein she begs for something, anything, to watch but Gilmore Girls, and I stubbornly sit on the bed with my laptop and my joy on the screen. I think she’s ready to kick me out into the world. She regrets the days she ever told me I should stay home all day. She’s sick of me. I’m a bit sick of me. But I’ve been going about this “time” thing all wrong.

For kicks and giggles, I submitted a few pieces back into the world to keep my queue of submissions full. Three pieces, to be exact. To fifteen magazines. Two of those magazines I paid to submit to. That makes the score Life: $6.00, Me: $0.00. This is being a writer. Yay.

Don’t get me wrong. I like writing. And I want to teach writing. In addition to my other joy, I also wrote my first course proposal next week for a teaching fellowship for next year. And I know that this period is the getting to next year, a year when I will hopefully have that fellowship, be an instructor of record, and be using the experience teaching my first year nonfiction course to gain other jobs. And a name. And therefore more publications. But I am sick to death of being told I will never make it as a writer by literally EVERY SINGLE professional writer that I talk to:

“At the edge of the MFA, there’s nothing. No safety zone, no padding. No place for a fledgling writer to go to build up a repertoire. There’s a vicious, piranha filled zone where you have to go out and try to sell something, and you won’t succeed. We aren’t a culture anymore where money is what it once was. For things like writing, or, really, anything.”

Every writer we interview for my seminar tells us we won’t make any money. That writing is dangerous. That the public doesn’t know what it wants anymore. And all these things are true, but I’m still sick of it. Way to be disheartening to those of us just starting out. Way to scare us, to mess us up, to make us quit.

That’s what it’s all about here, you see. Weeding out the weak.

I’m not weak.

I’m a good writer. But I’m really only GREAT at one thing, and I know it. I know my book will be on the back shelf, at the very bottom, way off of eye level. Or at the bottom of the online book list. And that’s okay, because it’ll only be my first one. And there is no safety zone. The world is vicious and it’s going to eat me and my work. There is no place to build up a repertoire, sure. But no. That time is now. Maybe that’s why I got fired—to give me the time back that I came here for. To build up that repertoire. To gain my writer name, and prove that writer wrong. Sure, this is not a culture where money counts for much anymore, where writers get paid much. But I can still succeed. And I will still succeed.

So look forward to more. More blogs. More publications. More me. I have time. I’m going to use it.

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2 thoughts on “On Time (And How I Suddenly Have More of It)

  1. Keep writing and submitting; your initiative under pressure inspires!

  2. Darcy says:

    Okay. I have some definite context for this, since I am in a “niche” profession that is also quite difficult to make a living doing. As even those of us who have “won the Olympics of music” have to fight to return our salaries to what they were 10 years ago and keep our benefits, I have become disillusioned. So here’s what I say to my students who want to make a living playing music. I tell them if they can envision being close to as happy doing something else, anything else, then they should do that other thing. Because pursuing a living in the arts (writing included) is extremely difficult and requires so much sacrifice and energy that it is just not worth it otherwise. I had a friend who was a professional conductor. She was huge – had regional and international conducting gigs, professorships at major conservatories. Wanna know what she’s doing now? She’s a lawyer. Not even an arts lawyer – she’s a health lawyer. So, my take on this? It may seem harsh, but they’re doing you a favor by telling you the truth. But what they should follow that truth up with is instruction as to what you have to do to set yourself apart from the crowd and make it in spite of all those odds. 🙂

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