Monday, March 25, 2019

Day Jobs and All-the-Time Writers

For nearly all my working life, I’ve held jobs that were not, shall we say, dedicated to the study or creation of art. And so, I constantly felt a disconnect between what I do with my hands and what’s going on in my head. That’s the beauty of the so-called day job: you can turn a wrench, or flip a burger, or type a mundane report with those hands while your novel’s plot churns and thickens in your head. William Faulkner, after all, wrote As I Lay Dying in between shoveling loads of coal at the University of Mississippi power plant.

Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oregon, I have worked various jobs—some of them simultaneously—while also making time to write (and publish) a long parade of short stories, poems, essays, and two novels (Fobbit and Brave Deeds). A sampling of my resume: cook, soldier, newspaper editor, manager of a boat-and-RV storage yard, public affairs specialist, school janitor, journalist, video store clerk, tutor in a remedial writing program at a community college, and pizza-delivery driver.

I know a thing or three about day jobs.

And so, when Wendy J. Fox (If the Ice Had Held) invited me to be on a panel called Don’t Quit Your Day Job at this year’s annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), I immediately knew what I needed to do: put in for leave from my day job.

I embark on the road trip tomorrow, armed with a few good audiobooks. I’m looking forward to this year’s conference in Portland and three days of intense focus on the creative writing arts: not something I normally get back in my windowless, fluorescent-lit office.

To hear more about day jobs and creativity, please come to the AWP panel Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Writers Outside of Academia, where I’ll be joined by these fine, fellow laboring writers: Wendy J. Fox, Daniel Olivas, Yuvi Zalkow, and Teow Lim Goh. Our panel is first thing on the first day—9 a.m., Thursday, March 28 in Room A106 of the Oregon Convention Center.

Can’t make it to AWP, but still want to talk about Writers With Day Jobs? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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