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February 24, 2014: The Writing Life: The Wonderful World of Work

Yesterday, after going for a ride with a friend, I remarked to her that thus far, Pete and I have gotten the horses out most days this winter, adding that the ice slowed us down, but that our putting sand and salt on the driveway speeded us both up. My friend, who has been working as an academic adjunct, and consequently been making next to nothing then said “You have the time to ride because you don’t work!” I paused, and then I set the record straight, saying “I do work, it’s just that I do what I do here at home!”

I didn’t at all take offense at what my friend said. Rather, I continued to mull it over in my head. Work, narrowly defined, is pretty much defined as doing

a specific task for pay. Most people work for others. And most then have a regular income. Work, more broadly defined, is doing a specific task, without pay being an issue. Many people work for themselves. And they therefore have a sporadic income. I fit into this more broadly defined definition of the term.

I’ve discovered that with writing that it’s not the quality of the work that garners respect, but rather it’s the amount of money you make doing it that garners respect. Some, recently, have spoken in near reverential terms about one woman who’s made a ton of money writing vampire novels and another who has made a ton of money writing romance novels. These woman churn these books out like butter, 3-4 a year. I said to my friends, “Good for them!” and then left it at that. But the truth be known, I wondered if they’re bothered by the fact that they most likely aren’t writing books that will be read and enjoyed by future generations. I guess they have to pay the bills.

I’m both envied and looked at askance by family members, friends, and acquaintances, most of whom are under the erroneous impression that because I’m at home most of the time, and not pulling my financial weight, that I’m not working.

The truth be known, I often can be found hard at work. For example, my day began with my working on my Rasmuson Proposal – well, I assisted Pete in working with me on it. A few days ago I hit a road block and could not continue on my own. So I invited Pete along for the ride. Together, we crashed through the road barrier. Pete, who is far more analytical than I am, read the grant information and said that I’m seeking funding for a short term project. So I had to change around what I’d already written. Now I’m indicating that this website needs an overhaul.

I’m also often working when by all appearances it appears as though I’m not working. (This is the part that most people either look askance at or envy.) For example, I took the dogs for a walk, and while putting one step in front of the other, I thought long and hard about this unique feature that they have – in times of duress they turn inward, and sometimes become immobile. I have yet to see this in any other breed of dog, so I am wondering what their specific brain chemistry might have to do with this.

Later, we took the horses for a ride, and while Raudi put one step in front of the other, I thought about this unique feature that Icelandics have – they are extremely trail savvy and they pay attention to the terrain. As with the dogs, I wonder what sort of brain chemistry complements this particular sensibility.

And tonight, after I finish writing up this dispatch, I’ll print up and then resume work on my Composing process book proposal. I will work on it until 10 p.m. or so, at which point in time I’ll then go out and give the ponies their hay night cap.

So, I need to say in my own defense that I do have a job. It’s just a job that doesn’t fit with the narrowly defined definition of work. I am well aware that soon, I’ll have to take on a job that does fit in with the narrowly defined definition of work. This is because I have what my sister Eleanor calls “dependents,” which is, four horses, three dogs, three goats, and two chickens. Or, maybe instead I’ll put Raudi out on a street corner – this way she can peddle her own wares.

Next: 56. 2/25/14: Seeing the Light of Day