I know January 1st is supposed to be the beginning of a new year, but as a long-time teacher, my year has always started when school begins in the late summer or fall and ends when school gets out.
As the end of the semester draws close, I have my usual set of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m eager for a break from endless papers and grading and hungry for uninterrupted days to work on my new novel. I actually had a few of those last week before the deluge of my students’ final projects came in, and those hours holed up in my home office were heavenly! Creative work is… well, work, but it’s so engaging and gratifying.
On the other hand, I feel sad saying goodbye to students I’ve grown attached to. I have amazing students who inspire me and make me laugh—and sometimes cry. In truth, I’m genuinely passionate about teaching.
Having these two passions of teaching and writing has greatly enriched my life, but it’s also complicated it. Teaching writing is labor intensive. When I’m awash in lesson plans and my students’ drafts and rewrites of their papers, my own writing can easily fall by the wayside. Yet I’ve never been one of those writers who can’t wait to quit my day job. As I’ve often said, I am a teacher at heart, as well as a writer.
I once attended a talk by a mystery writer who divided his year into halves. He spent six months of the year writing a novel and the next six months promoting his work. Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether I should try dividing my own year into halves and teaching just one semester a year, leaving several months for writing, and yes… the necessary marketing. I don’t know whether that would work, but I’m aware that I need a better balance in my life between my teaching and writing. Especially as I’ve grown older, I’ve thought a lot about Oprah Winfrey’s statement: “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”
I’d love to hear from any of you who are working writers with other jobs you’re devoted to. How have you managed to make it all work? I’m eager to hear from you!