Writing. It’s Not a Bad Gig, Actually

We’re talking about the hardest part of being a writer this week. But all things considered, being a writer isn’t particularly hard, at least compared to the other jobs I’ve had.

In contrast, the challenges in teaching are myriad (and well documented, may I say, in Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out in just twenty-seven (!!OMG!!) days from Berkley). I miss a lot of things about teaching–daily interactions with my brilliant colleagues, my bright and funny students. But I don’t miss grading, faculty meetings, rigid schedules, writing report cards, or holding parent-teacher conferences. My day-to-day life as a full-time writer is far more relaxed. Easier. I eat my lunch when I feel like it. I don’t often put on make-up or comb my hair.

Before I was a teacher, I was a camp counselor. I didn’t have to navigate eyeliner or a flat iron for that gig either (a major perk!), but I did have to haul canoes, maintain a convincing cheerful disposition, and force-feed green beans to unwilling children. The hours were 24/7, literally. Sitting was something we did only for moments at a time, and usually while playing cabin games with ten-to-twelve youths who relied on us solely for their care. It was harder, hands down, than being a writer.

I’ve also been a nanny, a grocery-store cashier, a receptionist, a corporate assistant, a stay-at-home mom, and once, for an ill-advised three week period, a retail employee at a national home furnishings chain. That was my least favorite job of all, and definitely less pleasant — harder, if you will — than being a writer.

I’m not saying that writing is easy. There’s the blank page, the self-doubt, the financial uncertainty, the vulnerability of sharing your work, the ubiquitous rejection and disappointment — all of these are legitimate challenges. And I need to say I’m writing from a space of tremendous privilege. I’m a member of a two-income partnership, and our family’s health insurance comes from my husband’s steady corporate job. But the opportunity to be a writer? It’s a straight-up dream. I’d keep doing it if I never got paid for it again, and even if/when I’ll have to hold down a regular, harder job in order to pay the bills. Writing teaches me about myself, connects me with others, and I love it. So far, it’s worth the struggles I’ve encountered along the way. And, the struggles have been less onerous than the ones I’ve found in other professions. We’ll see what the future holds.

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Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

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