Attention: Minor profound thought ahead


This is a perfect writing day.

Rainy, grey, dark, gloomy. No pull to go outside or run errands in the sunshine (not that the pull is very strong for me anyway, when I’m on a writing roll). I woke from my post-spin-class cat-nap to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. That sound makes me feel content, dreamy, and ever so slightly guilty for sending my children off to school without umbrellas or rain jackets. I’m their weather girl. And apparently I’m good at maintaining the long-standing weather-person tradition of totally wrong forecasts. I should get a green screen and a pointer, and do my hair and makeup.

Attention: Minor profound thought of the day coming right up.

Writing fiction is not a responsive job. In a responsive job, you show up with your talents and skills, and respond to the needs presented to you. Your schedule, also, responds to other people’s needs. I imagine this could be very satisfying: here is a need being treated by my specific skills. I sometimes fantasize about having the skills to do work like that.

I don’t, really. (Although I could, perhaps, find a job as a copy editor or a creative writing teacher, given my current skill set.)

Writing fiction is quite different. I’m going to call it an originating job. In an originating job, you set your talents and skills to projects of your own devising, and hope to heck that others will connect with what you’re doing, and see value in it. The work (and the schedule) is self-directed. If I want anything exciting to happen, I must make it happen. I must see what could be, believe in it, and bring it about. I must pursue my goal against inevitable headwinds of creative dissonances and deeply uncomfortable emotions: doubt and uncertainty caused by a lack of exterior motivation. No one needs a book. (If I break my arm, I need a doctor; but a book of fiction answers no such direct need.) Being a fiction writer can feel excruciatingly meaningless. Completely unnecessary. It’s quite easy to go from wondering, can I do this, to why am I doing this?

That is why Wild Optimism is a huge part of my every day existence. The belief that I have something to say. The desire to express it. The sheer chugging energy that fires me toward an end. That is also why sometimes I am tired and weary, and I fantasize about people calling me up and begging to pay me pots of money to write books for them! That is why I fantasize, too, about doing other work, where I could walk into a room and respond to a need, immediately. I long for a different skill set, sometimes, or an enhanced and deeper skill set.

But I love the freedom and seemingly endless possibilities that come from doing an originating job.

Attention: No conclusions shall be drawn today.

I’m meeting Kevin for lunch tomorrow, to brainstorm and discuss our future plans, big and small. I’m sure we’ll have all the answers by tomorrow afternoon. Well … at least we’ll have a lunch date together.

Random fact: I got hit on the head with a soccer ball
The wish list edition, with bonus fashion statement


  1. I need books! They are just as essential to me as food/water/sleep. Keep at it. xo

    • Thank you, Trish! And I am keeping at it …

  2. I love the distinction between “originating” and “responsive” jobs — it so nicely captures my own conflictual yearnings as a researcher/writer and teacher. And that desire for “an enhanced and deeper skill set” that would allow me to respond to real needs — yes. Somehow, teaching writing, while at times quite fulfilling, doesn’t quite fit the bill.

    • Do you plan to change what you do? That’s my question, I guess, for myself. Can I accept that I may be good at doing something that isn’t responsive? Would my personality be suited for a responsive job?

    • Yes, I am planning to change what I do. I’m an introverted wool-gatherer by nature, and I need responsive work to bring me out into the world. Teaching would seem to be a way to fill this need, and sometimes it is, but working with large groups of students in a university setting hasn’t been quite right for me. I’m better suited to more hands-on, one-on-one work. I have been volunteering in a healthcare capacity, and think there might be a more appropriate career for me there.

      All this said, I am very grateful for — and don’t want to abandon — my ability to “originate.” But it’s such an intrinsic part of who I am that I’m not really worried about losing it. In fact, I’m excited about the possibility of nurturing this aspect of myself without having to worry about institutional demands and expectations.

      … And you? Do you ever think about changing what you do?

    • BTW, I meant that last question in a more specific sense — as in: is there a specific kind of responsive work that attracts you? Obviously, your original post is partly about the fantasy of more responsive work!

    • Yes, actually, Em. I’m interested in midwifery.

    • Ah, midwifery. I can see your dilemma, given the training it would involve — difficult to juggle alongside major writing projects and child rearing. Well, as you say: no need to draw conclusions right away!

    • Thanks for your reflections, Em. Now I’m wondering: what is your specific interest in healthcare?

  3. I find myself really drawn to occupational therapy (I’m currently volunteering in a rehab environment), although I might ultimately just do a straight nursing degree. I have also been tempted by the idea of midwifery, but I don’t think the on-call nature of the work would be right for me — at least not if I were doing it full time.


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