Why Being a Novelist and Being a Teacher Sometimes Doesn’t Mix

The view of Louisville, KY from my hotel window.  That's a barge pushing a ton of coal.

The view of Louisville, KY from my hotel window. That’s a barge pushing a ton of coal.

I’ve been an English teacher for over 16 years and I’ve technically been a novelist for about 5 of those years.  I’ve been running this blog now for over two and half years, and I can tell you that doing all of this is really taxing.

Right now I am in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky at the AP Reader’s conference where we read and score the AP essays written by students all over the world.  It is a good job, and the lovely people who hired me to do this (along with thousands of other teachers) are very accommodating.  It is very difficult work, but I’m enjoying my time here, meeting other teachers and sharing ideas.

However, after grading essays from 8-5 I am in no mood at all to write anything.  I suppose that is fine, since I’m working so hard and my brain has been on overdrive all day.  My brain needs a rest.  My eyes need a rest.

Teachers lead extremely busy lives.  If you are not a teacher, you probably don’t have any clue about how hard we work.  During the school year I find time to write because I stagger my job with my writing career.  I get in Twitter and Facebook time as well as manage to crank out a thousand words a day or so.  However, often I find my life as a teacher conflicting with my life as a novelist.

I have been working at this game for quite some time, but haven’t really found the happy balance between the two.  Just when I think I have, the rug is pulled and my feet go akimbo.  I had every plan this week to write once I returned to my hotel room, but so far I haven’t written a word other than this blog.  The blog is important, as it is a place to vent about my writing or lack of writing.

I have four more days of grading, but meanwhile I’m cooking up several ideas for short stories that will be written upon my return home.  I suppose I’ll mosey on down to dinner, wander outside the hotel where a Greek festival is kicking up, enjoy myself here in Louisville (which is a wonderful city) and worry about writing when my plane lands back in good old Sooner country (That’s Oklahoma for the uninformed).

When I get home all I’ll have for a distraction will be my lovely wife and four children… oh yeah.  I don’t mind them so much.  It’s fun being distracted by them.  …especially my wife.

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4 thoughts on “Why Being a Novelist and Being a Teacher Sometimes Doesn’t Mix

  1. I have always felt guilty about how many distractions there seem to be in my life, all of them hellbent on stopping me from writing. Until someone told me recently how valuable they could be. Apparently our brain welcomes distractions, needs them to refuel our batteries, even uses them to fill up our idea bucket.
    So, throw guilt out of the window, as you will never get anywhere with it!

  2. Yes! This resonates today especially after processing for the past 24 hours my contract meeting with administration. The budget is tight so I’ve been given another full-time position assignment to add to my current one! It actually brings some relief to know that it is impossible and thereby makes my decision to resign easier. I look forward to many hours to write while seeking other means of financing the habit. Not so bad, really. Hang in there! You are among the few and the brave.

  3. I work with or have worked with a number of ex-teachers, all of whom left the field because of burn-out, overwork, lack of appreciation, and the feeling that they weren’t making a difference. Kudos to you for having the drive and the passion for it to keep at it. You’ve still managed to be pretty prolific as a novelist.

    As someone who stares at a computer all day at work, I can relate to the lack of writing motivation.

  4. I’ve been reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. In the page or so on T.S. Eliot, Eliot remarks about how leaving teaching for a bank job left him far more time and energy for writing. Maybe we can find adjacent booths as bank tellers?

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