Ten years into the job that started with one class, and these two are still duking it out. Yesterday (on a snow day, no less!), teacher lady convinced scrappy writer to work on syllabi instead of her novel. Scrappy writer obliged, but she'll get the last laugh. Tonight, she'll meet with her critique group and the novel will win out over course prep.
When I retired five years ago, everyone assumed I would fill my time with writing projects. Those who know me well know I've been squeezing writing into the nooks and crannies of academic years for more than two decades, and writing full time was something I'd long dreamed of.
I pursued that dream for the first year I was retired, putting writing first. I still taught, but at the community education level where courses lasted only a few weeks and preparation was less intense. For the first time, my role as educator shrank in comparison to my role as writer. I actively sought writing opportunities in old markets and brainstormed new ones, all the while working on my novels and whipping my blog into shape.
It was fun while it lasted.
One Sunday morning, I opened an email that changed the direction of my life -- again. The opportunity to teach at a local college came out of nowhere and once more, the role of educator rose to prominence, my writing persona crushed under the weight of textbooks, PowerPoints and student rosters.
Strangely enough, that was okay.
I'd known that in the absence of an enormous advance or revenue-generating project, my full-time writing career wasn't a good long-term plan. I also knew that my writing persona was a scrappy sort, always looking for an opening between the pages and slides and names that fill so many hours of a semester.
Scrappy or not, my writing persona has some commitment issues. Eight semesters later, my teacher side can easily convince my writer side that it's not her turn yet. She and the muse can have weekends and summers, but teacher lady owns nine months of the year, with few exceptions. From time to time, scrappy writer persona scales the books and emerges triumphant at the top of the pile, but most of the time, she lets teacher lady run the show, even offering up some of her creativity to be used toward class planning and preparation.
These days, I wonder if I'm cut out to be a full-time writer. Could I really set everything else aside, existing in a solitary world inhabited primarily by characters of my own creation? Or would I quickly grow bored, searching in vain for the inspiration that flows so readily from a densely populated life full of teaching, learning and new ideas?
Someday, when I retire for real, I'll attempt the full-time writing thing again. Scrappy writer persona shows no signs of disappearing; on the contrary, she pops up from each defeat ready to search for a new opening in the calendar, a new stretch of time, a new set of characters. And, though she's reluctant to admit it, the steady diet of ideas that trickles down between the books and the slides and the young adults nourishes her, making her more certain than ever before that her time will come.
But for now, once again, teacher lady is in charge.