Odilia Rivera Santos
I was talking to some writer friends the other day and found most of them are waiting for someone somewhere to do something. Waiting is not something I do well. The sense of autonomy you feel as an independent artist sitting glumly or cheerily at your favorite wifi-enhanced coffee shop is lost when the waiting time comes. The trick is to not let that sense of accomplishment diminish in the waiting process. You have to breathe, and laugh, and continue writing, and take bubble baths, and make hot dinners while you wait. I am waiting too because, as they say, the universe is abundant and full of miracles. But I noticed yesterday I had slipped into my old habit of denying myself pleasure as if being emotionally frozen or deprived of sensuality would accelerate decisions and make decision-makers rule in my favor. I realized this while eating a low-fat mozzarella cheese stick that tasted of cardboard - yeah, it's nutritious, but who wants to eat paper?
I resigned from my last teaching job in January. The bathroom was freezing cold, the toilet overflowed often, there was no place to eat lunch in the neighborhood, classes were cancelled when it snowed - which meant not getting paid on those days, and I realized the sense of deprivation in this place was getting to me, and although I cared for the students, the job was siphoning out too much of my qi.
I walked away and into the dangerous precarious world of freelance writing, editing, translating, thinking if teaching was something I was meant to do, it would materialize in a less hazardous and depressing setting.
One of my favorite books on writing is On Writing by Stephen King; it is an autobiography through the prism of writing as a working-class art. He held some truly frightening jobs through his process of becoming a successful writer -- the worst being one in which he scrapped blood and gore off of hospital sheets while working in a laundry. All the bizarre experiences of his childhood, growing up with a mentally-ill mother were great ingredients for an artist in the making. As a guy with a real working-class mindset I admire, King would probably never call himself an artist. He is a dedicated worker with a clear idea of his skill set.
While perusing through the writer want ads, I often come across the mantra: no pay, but great exposure. These days, it's quite simple to promote one's writing online without anyone's help.
Every job has its risks and annoyances. I am often amazed at how people become completely consumed by their work and how salary dictates how they feel about themselves.
Happiness becomes tethered to titles, material possessions and zeros on that paycheck.
I am thinking about work and writing about work for my next e-book: Work Chronicles, which I will published on Smashwords in November. In the meantime, you can check out my creative nonfiction essays Latinalogue Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part I and Latinalogue Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part II: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/69697
Writers, be careful not to die of exposure.