And the Writing Path Takes Another Curve

I’ve actually known this curve was coming, for, oh….more than ten years. This is the curve I promised myself all that time ago, when it made sense–sanity-wise–for me to stop working as a tech writer and do the staying-home thing with my son. Yes, I kept busy, obviously. I wrote my fiction, and I did some freelancing, and–you know, wrote The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide.ย I always knew, though, that unless my writing really took off (and I mean really, as in something like being the next J.K. Rowling), I’d be going back to work.

Last Monday was the first day at my shiny, brand-spanking new job.

I’ve spent the last year doing volunteer development work for a local museum made up or an Art museum and a History museum. This summer, we all agreed that it was the right idea for me to transition out of volunteer and into employee, with–of course–more hours.

It’s time. I hadn’t realized until Monday how ready I am for this. I love my fiction, oh, yes, I do, and it’s not going anywhere. But I’d forgotten the energy of actually being busy from a deadline. From multiple deadlines. I’d forgotten that feeling of accomplishment as one task after another gets done and checked off the list. I’d really forgotten the feel of working with more than one person, face-to-face, rather than over email. I’ve been getting a taste of it for the past year, but it really hit full-force this week. In a good way.

Years ago, I was a docent at Ashlawn, James Monroe’s historic home in Charlottesville. At that time, I thought I’d come back to California and get a job in another historic building, but that didn’t happen. Closed-captioning and technical writing came along instead. The thought, though, has always been at the back of my mind. And now? I’m spending my work hours either in an old, adobe fire station or a mill annex, the first building in the town. Life comes in a circle, sometimes. And did I mention both buildings are less than 10 minutes from my house, giving me about the best commute I could ask for in the Bay Area.

Some things are still a bit surreal. How long eight hours really is, and how short a time it can be when you’re truly busy. How much older my back has become in the intervening years since my last “job.” As far as I can tell, I snapped my fingers, no time passed, but my back became suddenly much pickier about chairs. I’ve got yet another email inbox. The to-do list feels just a little bit like The Blob–expanding at an amazing rate. I’m home less and, with it being summer, seeing my son less. It’s a part-time job, which is working well, but still…this last week, it was him staying home and me going out. Yeah, weird.

And then, to be honest, yes: there is a bit of anxiety and panic about my own writing. It’d be easy to look at the last years and then look at myself and say, “Well, you didn’t really do much with that window of time, did you?” It’d be easy to look at the future and ask, “Exactly when/how do you expect to get your fiction done and published now, if you couldn’t before?” The Evil Editor has a twin: The Evil Life Planner. Well, my goal is to pay them both equal amounts of inattention. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that panic is pointless. Wait…picture it on an embroidery sampler: Panic is Pointless. I will write. And I will revise. And, somehow, I’ll fit it in with all the other things I need and want to get done. There’s been a bit of talk around blogs and Facebook lately about how the phrase A Writing Lifeย has two, equally important, elements: writing and life.

And, frankly my dears, I plan to have them both.

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18 thoughts on “And the Writing Path Takes Another Curve

    • beckylevine says:

      Beth, if I won the lottery (or maybe a couple of lotteries), I probably wouldn’t make this change. Although, I don’t know–the first week back was so good, I might have a different opinion. But believe me, I also get the feeling of just wanting to stay in your space, in your world, and write!

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  1. It sounds like a good circle, moving into it at a good time. I wish I could wave the magic time wand giving you all that’s needed for all your big dreams, but you’re so practiced in keeping to the goals, and enjoying the moments, I suppose that’s as good it gets. Congratulations!

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    • beckylevine says:

      Jeannine, I think you’re right and, overall, I think that’s pretty good. I do think we have to enjoy/experience all of life we can WHILE we pursue the dreams. No dark, dank, isolated garret for THIS writer!

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  2. Best of luck with your new job, and re-imagined life! Everything in its time, at the right time. You will do what matters most. Didn’t realize you’d worked at Ashlawn — must visit sometime. ๐Ÿ™‚ The Paddingtons send their regards.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Jama! I actually loved Ashlawn, more (don’t tell anyone!) than Monticello. Much homier–somewhere I could actually imagine living and liking it. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have had a portrait of Napoleon’s stepdaughter hanging on my wall, but other than that… Hug the Paddingtons for me. Yes, all of them.

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  3. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I’m glad you like the job! That’s important. It’s so hard to get out of bed on a rainy morning if you don’t.
    Remember what it says on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Oh, I’ve been thinking about those dark, rainy winter mornings. I’ve set up an early schedule, which is nice now, in the summer, but…Wait. Not panicking! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Stella Michel says:

    I’d love to work part time, personally. I miss the interaction with the kids, the books and my colleagues. Sometimes sitting in front of a computer screen can be so stultifying. Hope you can manage to juggle both being a docent and the writing life.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Stella, I do think part-time is good, at least for now. I’ll be heading soon enough toward full–this makes for a good transition. And, yes, a little noise and business is a good counter to the isolation–hopefully, too, the compressed time will be motivating. I find that’s often true!

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  5. Oh, good luck, Becky! It’s big change, yes, but it can be good to shake things up. You’re so smart about goal-setting and breaking tasks down into manageable pieces, and that’s going to serve you well in both the new job AND writing. Wishing you the best!

    (And yes, get a new chair!!)

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    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Amy! Yeah, I totally agree with you about the shaking things up. I have definitely gotten into some too calm, too non-productive patterns. My brain is waking up in many ways, and that can only be a good thing!

      So far, the latest chair seems to be working…as long as I sit up straight. Also good!

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  6. I’m at a similar place, Becky. I’ll soon be leaping into part-time work after years of being home, raising kids and writing. I feel so much of what you’re feeling! Too bad you don’t live closer. We could squeeze in a coffee together and compare notes! Good thing for the Internet, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • beckylevine says:

      You said it! It’s amazing how many of my friends are coming up to this same stage–WE’RE not all the same age, but our kids are! I just keep telling myself, I did this before, I can do it again. Probably (hopefully!) better than last time. You, too!

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