Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Back to the earth

I'm jumping the gun. From the garden last year.

It’s coming on spring, folks. Isn’t it amazing? It blows my mind how quickly I can shift my attitude towards the weather--yesterday I was outside journaling in a tank top with my pant legs pulled up to expose my calves to the sun. Immediately I forget about the relentless winter. My psyche transitions effortlessly to the world of the outdoors. I can’t even quite remember how it feels to be cold.

We’ve got some days of chilly rain still coming, but summer is in sight, too. Hallelujah. There’s even a small patch of daffodils by the road in a neighbor’s lawn, although I’m afraid that my daffodils were slaughtered by the snow. Spring means I have to begin to dig in the dirt, in addition to doing yoga and writing and research on land.

I’ve been trying to work on assembling all of the sections of my novel into something that resembles a finished product, but I’m not being very successful. It’s so hard to come home from my absolutely draining job that forces me to be extroverted and deal with people and all of their drama and idiocy and everything they ask of me and then be creative. Wait. Strike that. It’s almost impossible to come home and be creative. That’s why I don’t do it. That’s why I’ve never been successful at working full-time and accomplishing any creative goals. That’s why I only work part-time now, but some days I’m not even sure that’s good enough.

Especially on beautiful days like today. It’s hard to come to my desk in winter, when there’s a fire going upstairs and I can see my breath in the basement, but it’s hard to come to my desk in the summer, too, when there’s a bright yellow sun shining outside and it’s dark and lonely in here. That’s the other thing I hated about working full-time--getting to work before the sun came up and leaving after it went down, sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours a day. The thing is that I still want to sit in front of a computer eight hours a day, at least theoretically. I just want to do it in pursuit of something I passionately believe in. It doesn’t make it any easier to corral myself at my desk.

I think about other writers sometimes. Wallace Stevens, namely. He spent forty years working as an insurance agent. Insurance. Is there a less poetic craft? But he still managed to come home and create. I think about William Faulkner, who wrote As I Lay Dying on his knees in the boiler room when he was working as a night watchman. Not all writers are sexy bull-fighting mountain-climbing womanizers like Ernest Hemingway. Then again, maybe he could do all of his sexy bull-fighting and mountain-climbing because he was a womanizer. It helps a lot in not needing to work if you marry a succession of nubile heiresses.

That’s actually the solution proposed by John Gardner in On Becoming a Novelist: marry into money. Great one, huh? Real practical.

2 comments:

The World Tour said...

I agree with you totally. You have to have your brain free from must do's and boring tasks in order to be as creative as possible. I solved it perfectly by working only freelance. Now having my own little company- which is not as secure and always so paying as a real employment - but it gives me so much more time and freedom to create. When I want to. And without headaches from things that doesn't interest me at all. It's more risky, but so much more valuable to be able to live 24/7 for your passion.
/Taru

Melissa said...

Hi Taru,

Working freelance is a great solution, and in the idealized tribal village of my brain, it's what everyone does. And Amen to it being worth taking risks in order to live your passion.

Melissa