To Write, To Work, To Somehow Do Both

28 Jul

My mother told me that quote when I was a teenager getting ready to head off to Seattle, to an unknown future. The only thing I knew as I entered the University of Washington was that I was going to write. And I lived by those words and still do.

But four years later, I was left with a quandary that I still haven’t been able to solve. My fellow creative writing graduates fell into one of two categories. One, they got a job and started paying off their student loan debt. (That’s my category.) Two, they applied to MFA programs to continue on in creative writing academia. Seven years later, I’m not sure which is the better option, and I bounce back and forth every couple of days as to whether I want to apply to an MFA program or whether I want to continue working as a vet tech while writing on the side.

The pro of doing an MFA program for me is the time allotted to write. MFA programs are typically completely funded and give writers a one or two year window to just write, to talk about writing, to edit and craft and read on some isolated college campus, hobnobbing with established writers and other prospective writers. It sounds like paradise.

The pro of working a normal job comes from the inspiration it provides. A lot of the writing I’ve read that comes out of MFA programs doesn’t resonate with me. The skill of composition is there, the ability to create a well-crafted story is there, but it’s stilted, contrived. So, often, the main characters are writers, struggling through academia. Or the fictional characters don’t feel real; I’m assuming because they came from the writer’s imagination. This is where experience helps so much. I have so many stories I have collected in the last 7 years that I want to tell. My solo drive from Seattle to Reno, fraught with confusion at what my future held. Working at a hospital in Northern Nevada, seeing some of the craziest hillbillies in existence. Moving to New York and starting a new life with no money, no friends, no direction. Working at an Upper East Side vet clinic where I get to meet strange characters and see dramas unfold between co-workers, clients, pets and their owners every day. If I had spent the last seven years focused on writing, I don’t think it is possible to have come up with characters and situations as rich as these.

But the con of working is the catch-22 of the whole problem. I’m tired. All day at the clinic, my mind is running on eight cylinders thinking of the stories I want to write, the novel I want to put together of this strange microcosm of New York City. I come home and collapse. I opt to kickbox or cook a new dish or just watch the newly released Season 4 of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” I look over at my beautiful new laptop, sitting shiny and lonely on my desk, and I can’t do it. Can’t is wrong. Won’t. I won’t do it. Here I sit on a Tuesday night at the end of my weekly string of three days off, and this is the only writing I’ll have to show for it. I kick myself. I kick myself every week.

Where did that time go? I drank. I played softball. I drank. I grocery shopped. I kickboxed (subsequently regretted the drinking). I bought Microsoft Word for Macs, thinking that getting a better word processor on my laptop will flip the magic switch in my brain and make me write. I watched Anthony Bourdain and read “Outlander.” I played a stupid game on my cell phone. I did laundry. I finally got that ink stain off my desk. I called and emailed vet clinics about setting up an externship. I made this delicious mixture of heaven.

But I didn’t write. But the question then becomes, if I didn’t have work to tire and stress and drain me emotionally, would anything really be different? Is it possible to balance it all? Do I even have it in me?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: