Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Working Man's Curse

For those of us who don’t write full time, our “real” jobs can occasionally be a curse. Just when I was really starting to roll on some projects and when the ideas for more were flying around me like pollen in the New Orleans spring, major roadblocks were thrown up at my work. I teach at a small university in New Orleans, and this morning I came in to find a 70 page proposal on my desk for a research project. I’m chair of the committee that reviews such projects and I have two days to read and respond to this one. In those same two days, however, I need to grade essays from one class, administer a test for a colleague, administer two tests for myself, grade those two tests and one that I gave last week, develop a test for a class next week, and serve as acting departmental chairperson while our regular chair is at a conference. This is in addition to the usual run of letters, studies, student questions, and the regular doses of academic bullshit.

How can I keep writing in the face of these hurdles? Well, I can’t do much, at all. But I can do some things. I quickly jot down any new ideas and save them to a file for later evaluation, and I will make myself go home this evening and finish at least one decent paragraph on a writing project--no matter how tired I am. I’ve found that finishing at least one paragraph a day can help me keep up the momentum on a writing task. And, completed paragraphs inevitably lead to completed pages, and completed pages to completed stories/essays/books. Sometimes all you can hope for is to just make progress.

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