I’ve just made the switch from the glamorous world of office work to the glamorous world of academia. That’s right, I switched from being a temp, and not knowing month to month if I will get enough work to pay my rent, to being an adjunct, and not knowing semester to semester if I’ll get enough work to pay my rent. I consider it a step up, though apparently not everyone does.
At my last temp job, I was chatting with a gentlemen as he waited for his appointment. I mention I was excited about going to work at a local community college. I focused mainly on how I would have time to write. He started to brainstorm other “better” careers for me. I could work for some government agency, the CIA was hiring, and you can make real money working for the government. At this point I just smiled and nodded, looking for the best way to escape. I hated that type of work and I knew I would struggle to find time and energy to write, but I doubted if he consider those real concerns. After all, he knew almost anything is better than teaching.
In the ever-present debate on whether MFA programs are killing or helping American literature, the fact that many of the MFA graduates go on to adjunct positions teaching freshman English is cited as evidence of their malevolent influence. When you’re teaching five or more classes, how do find time to write or even sleep? However, most writers, especially poets, don’t make a living off of their creative endeavors—the day job is just part of the business. So I wonder what job actually leaves time to write, going to an office from nine to five, technical writing, maybe waiting tables. Some are able to market their writing skills and become technical writers, grant writers, journalist, or editors. While they may not be writing the material they love, they still are at least writing. For others though, after spending all day writing, they are burnt out and unable to focus on their own projects. Some writers like working in offices, and they are able to schedule their writing around their job. However, I quickly learned during my brief stint as receptionist years ago, that it is easy to burn out when you staying up late or getting up early to write. The truth is what day job works best for a writer depends on the writer.
Part of the reason that I like working in academia is the flexible hours. I tend to write best in the mornings, and my job lets me have some control over my schedule. More importantly, much of what I do I can do at home. If decide to grade my students’ quizzes at three in the morning, no one is going to notice or care. I enjoy having a job that helps people. But if I ever had to choose between teaching and writing, I would drop teaching without any regrets. I have been lucky enough to find a day job that I enjoy.
Still the world judges us by the job that puts money in our pockets. It doesn’t matter if a garbage-man plays a mean Blues guitar and is a legend in the local music scene, most people will still consider him a garbage-man. Only when he quits his day job and earns his living through his guitar is he considered a musician. I am English instructor at a local community college regardless of how much I publish, I will remain so until I quit and can survive off of my writing.