Get a Real Job? I HAVE a Real Job!

Friday, October 10, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

Today, after substitute teaching, I went out with one of my dear friends who teaches full-time. We discussed how teaching is more than an 8 - 4 job. It means being at school at 7:30, if not earlier. It means extra duty assignments that pay little of nothing yet require hours of extra work. It means grading papers, sometimes until midnight, because state standards tell you what must be taught and when to teach it.

Another person at our table turned and said, "We could get a writing job like LuAnn has. Then we can work when we want to."

Excuse me. I have a real job. I begin writing at 7:30 A.M, and I write until my husband comes home after a hard day of laboring on our farm. Quitting time for me is around 7 or 8 p.m. Sure, I might take an occasional break to make dinner or run an errand for him or even take an entire day to substitute teach. But when I finish there, I enter my office when I get home and I write. Why? Because it is what I enjoy doing. And yes, it pays the bills.

I turned to said colleague and asked why people don't consider my writing job a real job. After all, I have publishing credits. And they are from publications in our area, so it isn't like they don't see my work.

My friend said that maybe these other people consider writing a glamorous job and they find it odd that I can do that from the confines of my home office while I'm traipsing around my house in my PJs, if I so choose.

Maybe they won't consider my writing a real job until I have won the Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes. Maybe they won't consider my writing a real job until I have written about them. Or maybe they won't consider my writing a real job that I thoroughly enjoy because they are not happy with their position.

It reminded me of a poem by Marge Piercy entitled For the Young Who Want To.

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume of
remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask you why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions, and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're a certified dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Reprinted from The Moon is Always Female, Alfred A. Knopf, Middlemarsh, Inc., Copyright 1980.


Margo Dill said...

AMEN, sister! :) I know exactly how you feel and that DRIVES me CRAZY!

I hate it when people say, "Write any more books lately."

I want to say, "Well, jeez, I just churned one out yesterday."

UGH! I am going to put your post on my facebook page--I love it so much! Margo

Angela Mackintosh said...

Love that poem! So, sooooo true.

It always amazes me that people look at credentials, instead of writing ability from the real writer in the trenches doing it for themselves. The writer who is scrappy and can pick up gigs, write something without worrying too much, and deliver, is a writer who deserves the utmost respect. I bow to those writers! That includes both of you, LuAnn and Margo.



LuAnn Schindler said...

Thanks, Margo and Angela. I get a little passionate about people who don't "get" the writing thing. Just a little. ;) I do my job to the best of my abilities. I did the same thing when I was in the classroom full time, and I'm sure as heck not going to stop now!! :)

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with all of you about those out there who do not believe that writing is a "real" job. I wish someone would tell my husband that...we work at the same place...a college...and he is afraid I will quit that job to pursue a writing career (I have published one book already after 10 years of writing it and editing). Although he is supportive he has an aunt who is a freelancer and he has witnessed her struggles in the beginning which is the stage that I am at right now.

Thanks for posting this.

Toia said...

I think that people who don't think your job is only jealous. Misery loves company. To make themselves feel better about marching to someone else's drum (besides their own)they will chastise or belittle you crediblity to having a real job. There are some who choose to tear others down in order to build themselves up.

Anonymous said...

I like Toia's idea! :) Too bad people are like that though. I've found also that people respond to MONEY. I'm not sure that I like it, but when writers are bringing in dollars, then they get respect. So I'm always careful, socially, not to complain about being broke, etc.

Bethany F. Brengan said...

Love this! Made my evening.

Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, M.Ed. said...

Boy, does sound familiar! I was asked once, "How's that little writing thing you are doing?" I had my own byline in a local weekly!

It doesn't bother me so much any more. I have just come to the realization that with some people, I could be the CEO of a Fortune 5 company and they would still say something inane.

LuAnn Schindler said...

Great comments, ladies!

I emailed it to a few friends and they called and said "Do we do that to you?" Well, sometimes.

On Saturday, I told my cousin I was stressed and he asked, "Why are you stressed. You're a writer."

Ummm....writer's block?

Just kidding!

I still have a life, which can be stressful, and I reminded him of that fact!

Marie said...

I edited papers for my mother, my sister and my brother, helping them all get through college and university. I have no degree. Doing this for them was expected because "well, you're the writer" and therefore my ability was available for their *free* use.

My mother complains that I'm "playing on the computer all day" and that I should get a real job. I read her a paragraph of the post-grad paper I'm editing for an ESL student. "Oh," she says. "Well, you've always been able to do that." I point out that I'm earning about $100 a day. THAT impresses her. (But it's still not a real job.)

I'm working hard on my novel - research, plotting, writing and re-writing. They shrug. Marie writes. This is news like the code of Hammurabi is news. I point out that someone I help critique is naming me in the Acknowledgments of her next novel. THAT impresses them.

It makes no sense. What do we have to do to impress them?

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