In last week’s blog I discussed my reluctance to leave a good job to make time for writing. I said I was not willing to give it up a regular paycheck. As true as that statement is, there is also a second reason I waited until retirement to make writing a bigger part of my daily routine.Writing is my leisure, and I was afraid to turn an avocation into a job.
I have heard both published and unpublished writers say that they need to write. I’ve never felt that way. I just like to write. Except for the process of finding a publisher, I enjoy every aspect of it. In retirement, the three or four hours I spend writing often are the best part of my day. If, however, I had to stop writing for any reason, I’d be okay. There is nothing inside of me that needs to get put to paper. I just find satisfaction in creating good sentences and good paragraphs. I enjoy seeing the unexpected thoughts that come out of my brain when I turn it loose to write. I am having fun.
What I do not like is deadlines. When I wrote for academic journals, I didn’t like editors telling me when they needed a final manuscript. Now that I write books, I resist sending proposals to potential publishers until the book is in a complete draft form. To do otherwise risks receiving an early acceptance letter with a hard and fast deadline. If deadlines suck the joy out of writing, imagine what the need to earn money from writing would do. Of course, I would be thrilled if my writing ever brought in any money, but the second best option is having a monthly pension check, so writing can remain a serious hobby.
Making a distinction between work and leisure does not mean that the line between the two hasn’t been fuzzy. Many of my favorite leisure pursuits involve the natural world, yet I made environmental education my career. When my work in the outdoors evolved into teaching at the college level, part of my job came to include writing. As wonderful as that was, some of the fun was lost during my early years at “publish or perish” research-oriented universities. I did not like the pressure of needing to pump out finished product at regular intervals (i.e., two or three refereed articles a year). I was happier once I took a position at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a teaching-focused institution where the publishing expectations of the school better fit my unhurried writing style.
This morning I sit on my front porch and write. It is 7am on a Saturday although, in retirement, the weekend is no different from Monday-Friday. I just spent thirty minutes fiddling with the previous paragraph. Soon I will go back into the house to refill my coffee mug. The sun has just risen over the top of my neighbor’s big maple and is hitting me square in the face. It makes me squint, but it also feels great. This is the way writing should be.