Monday, June 9, 2014

One Week In

One week into my post-professor life, I can already see that I'm going to need to think harder about how to structure my days.

When I was teaching at the university, I taught MWF and worked at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays: writing, reading, grading, occasionally connecting with friends. I always woke up on MWF with a sense of impending doom: teaching is like improv theater, where anything can happen, students can open their mouths and say anything, and you have to be able to deal with whatever comes your way with grace and aplomb. Even after more than twenty years of doing it, it was scary every single day to get up knowing that I had to do it yet again. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I woke up with eager anticipation as I beheld the meadow-like expanse of time stretching out ahead, all those blissful hours to fill however I chose to fill them.

What I conveniently forgot, however, as I decided to move forward to this new stage of my life, is that while I was always happier on Tuesday/Thursday mornings, I was always happier on MWF evenings. It was so satisfying to come home at the end of a day of classes well taught (95 percent of the time they turned out just fine), stimulating conversations with students and colleagues, even meetings attended while scribbling poems on the back of the meeting agenda. I could cross off those days with smug self-congratulation. But so often I squandered my Tuesdays and Thursdays and had nothing at all to show by suppertime.

I'm in squandering mode right now, I fear. Last week I did have some delicious, long-awaited get-togethers with dear friends. I knocked off a few piddling work tasks: wrote a couple of short book reviews, faced some thorny issues for the upcoming Children's Literature Association conference, and packed up a few years' worth of manuscripts to send off the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota where my stacks of handwritten scribbles are archived. I lost two pounds - go, me! But I also strained my eyes at my old vice of Sudoku and felt at loose ends for hours each day.

Reminder to self: I did NOT leave my career as a philosophy professor to play Sudoku.

So I need a better plan. Luckily, I adore making plans. I'll schedule writing dates. I'll read Improving Literature. I'll take our little dog Tank on more walks. I'm consulting with my wonderfully creative friend, Cat, to find out how she fills her days. I'm going to talk to other full-time writers to find out the same thing.

Fortunately, this is only intermission. Or maybe a better analogy would be: I'm trying out the final act of the play in New Haven before taking it to Broadway, figuring out what works and what doesn't.

But I already knew that Sudoku doesn't work. Off to read Leo Damrosch's new biography of Jonathan Swift instead....

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