writing dayHappy 2014! A Brief Look Back at the Fall

Looking back on the blog here, it is amazing to me that I haven’t posted a single thing since August. Talk about a hiatus! I was busy, mind you. My girlfriend moved in with me, her daughters moved to North Carolina, we planned a wedding, school started, we got married (yay!) in October, her daughters (and one cute but unexpected puppy) moved back from North Carolina and moved in with us, we had our first Thanksgiving together as a married couple, Christmas happened, my one (now) step-daughter moved out into her own apartment, and the semester is rapidly approaching its close. In short, it has been an eventful fall and my head is spinning. But, like always, in the midst of chaos the call to write is sounded. It starts off low, like a nagging reminder just beyond the level of my conscious thought, but grows, sometimes quickly, into a clarion call to arms that cannot be avoided. Add to the mix a rainy January day like today where my wife (still cool and new sounding to say that!) is off working in Troy and you have the perfect storm, at least for me.

The Winter of my [ARTISTIC] Discontent

Which brings you up to speed on my life. After a myriad of changes, it seems that I can sit and reflect on the truths I have learned about myself so far. There are lots of them, and most I won’t bring up here, yet. The one truth about me that I have known for a long time and have written about here is the fact that I have a very hard time handling multiple tasks at the same time, especially tasks that require me to be creative, think, and write. Which is rough for me because

 I work in a profession that requires me to use all of my creative energy every day. Teaching is a rough business on the mind when you are trying new things and developing new content, pedagogies, and protocols. The switch to the Common Core has definitely energized my teaching, as my colleagues and I are constantly (no hyperbole there- well, almost no hyperbole) trying to change how we do business. Which is exciting and exhausting all at the same time.  Add in the ever-present essay grading load, which requires focus and deep thought, and there’s not much room left for anything creative of a personal nature. I am torn between these two forces.  Because writing is a spirituality that inhabits me, and school is a passion that drives (me for last nineteen years) to be the most creative person I can be, I find myself placed rather awkwardly in the middle ground between the metaphorical schoolyard and the churchyard.

winter scene ian britton

And being in the middle leads to being pulled simultaneously in two directions. I know this- it’s nothing new. I’ve talked about this for years in workshops, classes, really to anyone that will listen. So I shouldn’t gripe, but dammit I just have to. I made the huge mistake of actually feeling sorry for myself, too, which is never good. But, as usual, I couldn’t muster the strength to overcome the inertia. And school still beckoned. So I turned to my new Kindle and a suggested book by a College of Saint Rose professor named K.A. Laity. Her book, How to Keep Writing with a Full Time Job, was a pretty good reminder that people can manage this multi-tasking, even with a full time job. Laity’s book does offer some really fine tips on how to get moving with a writing career, but, in all honesty, there’s not a lot new there. She even admits that the tips and techniques she espouses in her text are ones that have been around forever. The key is finding what works for you and then- and here’s the key thing- doing it. Whether I write at 4:30 am (God, no!) or 9:30 pm (better), the key in the sentence is the verb: to write. I even started reading Ann Patchett’s  wonderful new collection of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,  whose opening essay, “Nonfiction: An Introduction,” echoed Stephen King’s sentiments on the necessity of nurturing your own inspiration and avoiding the suppression of said inspiration with the analysis of the inspiration of others (read: teaching is tough on the writer’s soul).  So, aside from realizing that I was reading an awful lot, both professional writers and students, and that that activity was keeping me from my self-assigned task of writing my own stuff, I soon realized- yet again- that it all comes down to what you want. If you want to write, and I do, then I need to carve out some time in my over-scheduled and over-extended life to do just that.


Thus, the winter of my discontent. It has nothing to do with my wonderful wife, children, or pets. It has everything to do with me and the prioritization of things that matter to me. It’s easy in life to let other things take over and crowd out the hard things that you really like. It’s really even easy to justify the crowding out as something that is good, right, and professionally sound. But your heart won’t sing like it should. Your soul will ache. Mine does a little. It informs you that you’re not doing things right.

I need a plan. I’m working on it. Stephen King, Ann Patchett, Annie Dillard, K.A.Laity all can’t be wrong.

Look to see more tweets in the new year. At least that’s a start.

© 2014, Brian Stumbaugh. All rights reserved.