Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vacation from Writing or Cop-Out?

I've noticed a trend in my own writing and blogging, and I'm making brave. I'm going to base my hypothesis on nothing more than a simple observation. Maybe it's valid. Maybe it's a cop-out. But here's what I'm picking up: when I'm grading a lot of essays or reading other people's writing, I don't write. Sometimes I pretend I do, but the truth is pretty harsh. I produce next to nothing.

Anyone see anything wrong with this picture? I'm an English teacher. I assign essays. I read a lot of papers. Grading, it's what I do.

Okay, it's not that bad. Usually, I only have several hours a week of evening grading. It just so happens that I had extra grading in the month of January. And February. Portfolios were due, and those require hours and hours of grading. Entire weekends chock full of nothing but grading. Evenings spent surrounded by piles of binders, up to my elbows in abstraction poems and auto-biographical narratives and prose analysis essays.

Something happens when I read for work. Instead of finding inspiration, my inner writer encases herself in a shell and hides. It's not that she's shy or overworked or distracted --> I think she's just being petty. She wants to be the center of my universe; she doesn't want to share the stage. If she cannot have my undivided attention, then she wants none of it. And, for better or worse, I lose all desire to string sentences together beyond this vague, moody "i wanna be a writer" feeling I have in the back of my head -- that is, you must admit, a bloody poor excuse for writing.
So what about you? Do certain jobs or activities distract you from writing? I'm not talking about something that actually prevents you from writing but rather something that steals your desire or your muse or your secret rock that you keep hidden on the window sill...

10 comments:

Doug said...

Hey Alex, I have so many things that distract me, but I can definitely see how grading papers would cause you to go into your writing shell. It's probably a defense mechanism to protect yourself from polluting your writing, or your view of your writing. Write when you can though.

twitter.com/thenextwriter

Nils said...

I think it's entirely normal. I do IT for a living, and since I do a lot of IT during office hours, I have completely stopped doing IT in my spare time. Well, obviously I still spend SOME time to run my own servers and stuff, but overall I just can't be bothered.

I can totally imagine that if someone some day actually is crazy enough to pay me for, say, writing, I'd very likely not do it in my spare time anymore.

inlandempiregirl said...

I think it is normal also, because I have been in the same boat recently. As I thought about the time and energy my students and myself have put into essays recently I have to wonder if that is the best genre to get quality writing. I see my students moving into this formula writing that makes them feel safe and all thinking and creative process goes out the window. I am going to continue to ponder this... we will have to talk when we are together soon.

Kameron said...

My day job is tech writing/business analysis. I often find myself wishing I were writing fiction as I type business requirements and user documents, but when I get home, the last thing I want to do is touch a keyboard.

Alex Moore said...

@doug: good advice, indeed. I'm starting to get the itch again, and one of the WIP is calling...so who knows :)

@nils: that makes total sense! some days i spend so much time on my computer (entering grades, etc), that I am almost computer-phobic when I get home (another dash against my writing plans since I never handwrite, only type).

Alex Moore said...

@inlandempiregirl: this is why I insist on Writer's Workshop in my classroom, even when we're working on DWA essays or character analyses or whatever. Students need to write whatever catches their fancy -- that's where the real creativity springs from! looking forward to seeing you, friend!

@kameron: you are truly amazing, actually. maybe you should do a post on balancing the writings of work and work -- since you write for a living and write books for a living as well...

laughingwolf said...

all kinds of things crop up as distractions... but then, i do other things besides write :O lol

uppington said...

Alex - there are distractions, and there are things that tend to shut down writing. I would think that grading papers, an act which requires an editorial focus, would so greatly empower your inner editor that the creative writer in you is probably cowering in a corner somewhere afraid to come out. At least, that's how it would be for me...

Diane said...

I find that reading other people's creative work inspires me to write, while at the same time, being engaged in work-related projects takes up a lot of time and energy and completes wipes out my creative impulse.

Alex Moore said...

@laughingwolf: yes, i can see you've a myriad of interests! keeps you doubly busy, no doubt :)

@uppington: i think you've hit it write on the head, so to speak ... good insight -- and it allows me to give myself permission to hide out awhile.

@diane: i'm taking some time out right now to read for fun and try to get back in the groove!