Thursday, September 2, 2010

Workers' Dilemma

Here is the dilemma for those of us who are writers employed as well in some other profession:

The more you put into your job, the more you get out of your job.
But the more you put into your job, the less time and energy you have to put into your writing.

This semester I have decided to put more into my job. For the first time in years, I'm not teaching an overload at CU, just the normal load of two courses a semester. So I've decided that I can take on some additional work-related projects. One of my two courses is a course I've never taught before, Philosophy through Literature, so that means a lot of preparation. I'm also doing a little independent study class with three wonderful graduate students, which is really like a third class as we're meeting twice a week with tons of reading. I'm advising two doctoral dissertations, one undergraduate honors thesis (an existentialist play!), and doing another independent study with an undergraduate student. I'm our department's teaching mentor, charged with supervising our graduate student teachers, observing their classes, writing reports for their file.

And, best of all, I'm part of a grant the university received to do a seminar and symposium this academic year on fairy tales. I've been wild with excitement about the fairy tale meeting, which was held yesterday. I was happy every time I looked in my planner and saw it written there: FAIRY TALE MEETING. But somehow, at the meeting yesterday, I committed myself to give a public lecture on recent children's literature adaptations of a classic fairy tale some time in November.

This is going to be work. I haven't even chosen the fairy tale yet, I haven't looked for the adaptations, and I haven't thought of anything (profound and scholarly and insightful) to say about the fairy tale.

But it's also going to be fun, tons of fun, and we're planning a foreign film series on fairy tales, with discussion to follow each film, and other professors will be giving talks, too, and I'll get to attend their talks. What could be more fun than a semester stuffed full of fairy tales?

And yet . . . I still haven't finished revisions on the second book of my Mason Dixon series or finished writing the third book (though I got through half of Chapter 11, of 13 projected chapters, this morning). And then I have a novel to write after that, due in March, which I want to make the best book I've ever written, my masterwork, the book that will break me out of midlist and be an enduring classic! So maybe I shouldn't have committed to give this fairy tale talk?

No. I'm glad I did. Because one thing I've noticed is that fun work doesn't drain us, it energizes us. Sometimes the more we give to our work, the more it gives back to us.

At least this is my working hypothesis right this minute.


  1. A symposium on fairy tales! That's so neat.

  2. What fairy tale will you choose? I'm staying tuned to this channel for the next exciting episode of Fairy Tale!

  3. I think you should write a book about how to create more time in a day, because clearly with all that you do, you know that secret!