Monday, July 18, 2011

Garden of the Sun

School started up again last week.  Hooray.  Can you feel my enthusiasm?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it in a broad sense and it’s definitely helping with my composition, thesis, outline, reading, etc.  What’s killing me about doing it is two fold – 1) that’s a pretty significant amount of extra debt I’m taking on there and 2) I don’t have time to work.

The thing is, every single novel I read has a little blurb in the back about the Author and all of them (yes, seriously all of them) say ‘so-and-so big semi-famous author person got their degree at this college you’ve never heard of before’.  I want a degree from a college no one has ever heard of so a whole bunch of people can read my book and skip right over the author blurb and never see it!

I have wanted, for a long time, to join the ranks of the college ed-u-ma-cated.  Don’t ask me why because I’m not really sure how to answer that.  All I know is that I want to be wicked smaht.  Because it isn’t like people ask an almost 40 year old where they went to school.  That kind of stuff just doesn’t come up in casual conversation anymore like it did when I was 26.

Because what people ask an almost 40 year old is ‘what do you do’.  And maybe the problem is I can’t seem to wrap my head around saying I’m a writer without something to back it up.  I haven’t accepted it yet.  I don’t have enough experience, or haven’t really gotten paid to do it so it just doesn’t count.  In my head I mean, you don’t have to tell me how it does count because the other side of me knows you’re completely right.

I practiced this past weekend in fact.  We went to see my sister and ended up at the local dive bar where she and her friends hang out sometimes.  A lovely gentleman from Italy, with a thick accent and the most fantastic brown leather shoes I’ve ever seen in my life simply posed the question ‘so what do you do?’

It surprised me actually that we’d met all these people all night and that was the first time someone even asked that question.  I said I was a writer.  Of novels.  But that I also wrote a blog.  Oh and I’m a painter too.

Like I had to throw in that last bit so it would sound like I make money and pay my bills or something.  As if being a writer isn’t a legitimate enough profession that I can just own it?

Apparently I couldn’t.

So I thought a lot about that incident.  I know that he probably doesn’t remember it happening, and no one else who was there has any recollection of my bumbling, stammering, attempt at trying to decide what it is I do for a living.  The conclusion I came to is that, in order to feel more like a writer, I have got to stop doing things that don’t at all relate to being a writer.

Which really won’t be easy to do considering I have a company, people who want to hire me to do faux and a whole bunch of teammates that rely on my other endeavors as my day job (if you will).

So then I thought about it some more.  If I’m going to stay in school, which I intend to do because that shiny, useless in the real world but important to me degree is only about a year and a half away, why can’t I just write part time and place a little focus on the other stuff part time as well?  Why beat myself up over not writing full time when I’m not going to be writing full time anyway because of school right? 


One of the big reasons Matt & I moved to the Valley of the Sun was to kick back and relax, to enjoy life, take in the beauty of the little things, and leave the hectic chaos of the northeast pace 3100 miles behind us.  If I get here and immediately start stressing out over old habits how can I accomplish that goal?  You’re right, I can’t.  So this past weekend, I made up my mind to pour a cup of coffee, go sit out in my patio chair and drink it all in.  Then I made a few mental shifts…

  • I’m staying a part time student, not fast tracking to full time, because a year and a half is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to complete a degree without having a heart attack before it’s even in my hand. 
  • I will give it my best effort but I’m not going so far above and beyond anymore that I may as well be the Instructor of the class. 
  • I’m going to be happy with any grade I get as long as it’s above a 3.5 GPA; even if it isn’t the A I’m striving for no one is going to care so why should I? 
  • I’m going to see the clock as having plenty of time, the sun as having plenty of hours to shine and my brain as having plenty of capacity to store it all. 
  • If I start getting stressed I’ll do something different like write a blog post or workout.  Walking away is sometimes the best solution of all.
  • I’ll do a few projects related to paint, take on some jobs painting (especially for existing clients and those people who I already discussed projects with!) and keep the company open, but I’m not actively pursuing it as a full time thing anymore.
And anytime someone asks I’m simply going to state ‘I’m a novelist’.

Because I am.

(As a side note, I started doing the iPod song title/blog post title thingie I mentioned the other day.  If you don’t know Emily Elbert, the gal behind the title today, I totally suggest getting out and checking her out, she’s pretty sensational!)


Karen said...

I'm just recovering from a weekend at Readercon 22 where I spent a lot of time listening to and hanging out with writers in the science fiction/fantasy genres. What I found notable, and what I also was reminded of by your blog post, is that while most of them identify themselves as writers, novelists, and/or short story writers, very few of them pay all their bills with their fiction. Most of them live off income from writing and selling non-fiction articles, working for publishers, or even (in many cases) jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with writing. But they identified themselves by their passion, not their paycheck.

You absolutely should identify yourself as a novelist, because that's what you are. Who cares that it doesn't pay your bills? I frequently identify myself as a mom--that's something that's never going to pay my bills, but it's who I am nonetheless.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

I totally agree with Karen. I've known musicians who keep a "day job" up until they know they can support themselves with the singing/songwriting.

It didn't look like you gave the link to Emily's web site; since I love her music too, thought I'd do so:

Hope you have a peaceful, relaxing day.

Love, Mum

pastrywitch said...

I third Karen's motion. Identify yourself by your passion. It took my favorite professor 11years to get her associates. It may take me five. And that's okay. Chill.

Linda Myers said...

Congratulations on your rational decision about school. I've known a bunch of people who wanted to finish their degree at all kinds of ages. My sister, for example, just got accepted into nursing school at the University of Alaska. She'll be 55 in September. She figures she'll be a nurse in two years and have her Bachelors in a little more than that. It means a lot to her. Her goal, she says, is "to have a higher GPA than you did!" I went to college right after high school - "before fire" - and graduated without appreciating it much. So I told her a 3.29 GPA (mine) won't be hard to beat.

I hear you about the occupation. I do lots of things, none of them for pay. Right now I'm a blogger and a traveler and I have a bunch of pieces I really should submit to somewhere. Mostly, though, I want to say yes to stuff that comes along that looks interesting. That's what I say I do - say yes!

Wflynnaz said...

It's funny you mentioned your conversation with Stephan because I absolutely did notice you claimed yourself a writer and I was so proud of you. (I must have walked away before the bumbling about all of your other endeavors.) You are a writer sister- own it!

On a note apart from that I have to say I love a man in gorgeous shoes!

draagonfly said...

novel 2
new or unusual in an interesting way : he hit on a novel idea to solve his financial problems.

You ARE a novelist because even if you DIDN'T write great things, you have NOVEL ideas all the freakin' time, so I'd say hells yeah you're a novelist in every sense of the word!

Go you sitting with coffee to drink it in! That's the way to do it! I've decided the next person that asks me what I do, I'm going to tell them: I exist. Let them stew on that awhile. LOL

Almost Precious said...

Half the battle of becoming what we dream is to validate ourselves. It is claimed that by being positive we can create our own future and destiny. In our heart and soul we may be an artist, a musician, a master of kung Fu, but it is when we admit and say that we are these things that make it so.

I see that Phoenix just got bombed by yet another massive dust storm. Was this planned just for your enjoyment ? You have my permission to tell Mom Nature to cut out being such a wise a - - ! ;)

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are a novelist! I love your writing Jenn. You have a way with words.
You do need my lemonade! :)