Writing as a way of living, not for a living

Image of journal and books and teapot

There is a reason I named my website Reader. Writer. It’s because that’s who I am, what I am. For me, there is no joy greater than moments spent immersed in the words, reading or writing.

I am very aware that this is not the same for others, almost to the point of a culture clash. This is perhaps most difficult when I meet people who ask me what I do.

You see, I never defined myself by how I earn money. I worked as a reporter for awhile, but never embraced that as an identity. I taught middle school— and definitely did not embrace that identity, especially because I kept picking up on a community sentiment that everything wrong in the world should be blamed on public school teachers. Later, I found an almost perfect job for me, teaching reading and study strategies to college students. But part of what made it perfect for me was that it was a perfect “day job,” the job a writer does to pay the bills in order to write on the side. This job even gave me summers and holidays off, and unlike teaching middle school, didn’t stress me out or deny me opportunities to eat or go to the bathroom as needed (I know, I know, I’m so demanding). Eventually, though, even that perfect job started to feel less perfect, so I retired when eligible, and now I work side jobs when necessary.

One reason this was possible was that it’s never been about the money. If I won the lottery (which I never play), I wouldn’t buy tons of stuff or try to travel the world. I would just use the money to free up time and resources, so I can spend more time reading and writing.

But when I meet people who ask me what I do, since I don’t look quite old enough (almost!) to be retired, I generally say that I retired early so I could write more, but then they have the nerve to ask where I’m published, and that is just not a great question because it’s hard to get published, let alone make money from your writing, and trying to get published has never been something I wanted to spend too much time on. Every now and then I make an attempt. Sometimes I get a reply (though sometimes there’s not even a reply). Sometimes the reply is nice, occasionally something gets published, yet other replies make me want to curl up and hide in a cave forever.

I realize that maybe this is something other people can’t understand. They think writing is something you have to do for a living. Some people do, yes. And getting published if it yields positive feelings and money is an appealing thought. But it’s not my goal. Writing, just writing, is what helps me feel alive. It is how my jumbled thoughts start to make sense to me, and sometimes to others. I don’t mind dabbling with the possibility of publication and I enjoy having a blog of my own, but I won’t relinquish the joy of writing to the business of marketing my work.

What I’m interested in is what I’m working on now. Even if it doesn’t make it to the light of day, it’s what’s on my mind now, it’s what fills me with life and hope and spirit now.

So how do I drill that down to a short answer to a stranger or quasi-stranger? Or even to a friend who doesn’t quite understand?

Shrug emoji.

Okay, okay. Let me try. How about this–I am lucky enough to be mostly retired from teaching at the university, so I’ve been able to make writing a way of life. It’s not about getting published: it’s about spending as much time as I can reading and writing so that I get better and better at it.

That will probably be all I say aloud. But it’s also, really, about making the most of the time I have, doing that which brings the most meaning into my life.

Published by camaduke

Reader. Writer. I love to read and write. A bit of a time management nerd. camaduke.com.

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