This Is What You Do
You wake up and already you are behind.
There are 60 pages to proof for the magazine (due yesterday). There’s the 25-page portfolio critique for one of your clients. There’s 60 more pages on the way in the next week, also for critique. There’s two weeks worth of guest posts for the magazine’s blog to recruit, 2 posts this week to proof and format, and web ads to rotate. There’s 20 media contacts to touch base with for the arts group you’re promoting right now.
There’s the college sampler lecture to teach in the middle of the afternoon on your day off. There’s the 650 calories to burn at the gym, working karate forms and hitting the bag and running in small ellipses on the trainer. There’s the dogs to walk and the laundry to do and the five thousand potential applications to potential residencies that might potentially take you if you potentially get a book published in the potential future. You love it all but it’s stacking up, sometimes teetering. You need one more day in the week, just one more.
But there was also staying up until 1am Sunday night, sitting around the campfire with your pals. There was also the best opening week of teaching you’ve ever had with any bunch of Interlochen kids, ever. There was also giving the public reading—a packed house of aspiring artists and supportive colleagues—that lifted you up after getting that slam-bam rejection from an editing gig. There was selling 20 copies of the magazine and securing an eensy bit of income to help insure its future.
Sometimes, there is nothing to do but take a deep breath, fold your arms across your belly, and lie on the bed staring at the ceiling. And of course, you’re you, so you get up within a matter of minutes. You pet the dogs. You fold laundry—blue clothes for your blue uniform for your next workweek, which starts tomorrow. But also because you’re you, you’re getting more of a handle on this writing life and you understand precisely how and why you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re self-employed—except when you’re not—and when you combine that with a 20-hour per week contract gig, things are bound to get busy.
So you skip the gym and hold off on the editing (your clients don’t pay you to be grumpy, they pay you to be helpful and precise—it’s always better to wait). You accept you will be late with proofing the magazine pages, accept you might have to fill in for a few guest blog posts, accept that your email inboxes are fluttering full. You can hear your parent’s voices in the back of your head: Take a break. You always go, go, go. You work so hard!
You put your bathing suit on and drive 35 minutes to the nice beach (Soundtrack: The Decemberists, The National). You run, jump, leap into Lake Michigan. You watch the sun, how it waves at you in gold-threaded ripples across the water’s surface. You push back the thoughts—Will I go to Texas? Will I go to Illinois? Will I go to Virginia? Will I go to Colorado? Will I find additional income? Will the book sell? Will the book ever be?—it is a mighty pushing that takes all you have.
Later, lying on the beach, you feel the sand molding to your back, how it holds you up so perfectly, so consistently, as if we weren’t all balancing on this precarious, gravity-infused, molten-filled planet. You close your eyes. The world is a rushing of sounds, a swell of sunlight on skin, a moment where nothing and everything comes together.