On New Year’s Day a lot of Samhain authors posted their resolutions and other New Year’s musings on the Samhellion. My resolution was to wear eyeliner and earrings every day for 2010. I have to admit, I sort of tossed that one off (and in the interest of full disclosure, I also have to admit I’ve already broken it, at least as far as the earrings go). But in fact the resolution did spring from a serious concern for me—what happens when you switch from full-time work outside the home to full-time writing inside it?
For twenty-plus years I put on my working clothes and full make-up every day, along with appropriate jewelry and perfume, and trudged off to my teaching job at Enormous State University. As of last May, however, I retired. Now I could dress however I wanted and then wander into my study and start writing on my own time. I have to admit: while I was still trudging off to work, it sounded like heaven.
And it is. I don’t want to underestimate the pleasures of being able to do what I’ve wanted to do for a lot of years. Being my own boss beats even my very nice department chair at good ol’ Enormous State. But the problem with being your own boss is that you may become pretty lax about enforcing a daily routine, including the dress code. I think I started confronting this problem one day when I was choosing an upper body garment (or UBG, as we say around my house) and rejected a perfectly nice sweater because all I was going to be doing was writing. And why, I found myself asking, shouldn’t I look as professional when I write as when I go to teach a class? Doesn’t writing deserve the same kind of concentration and respect?
Ergo the “eyeliner and earrings” thing. It’s not much of a resolution, lord knows. But it leads to a much more ambitious one. I want to treat my writing as a profession, and that means establishing a routine that works.
Writing is based on creativity, of course, but it’s also based on discipline and scut work. If you’re going to get anything done, you need to be able to shove yourself in front of the computer on a regular basis and grind out those pages. Even if you’d rather be sleeping, watching TV, reading, or basically doing anything else. And one thing I’ve discovered over the past few months is that setting a routine is critical, at least for me. In essence, I needed to make my writing my job. And I needed to take that job seriously.
So here we go again—I hereby resolve that I will wear eyeliner and earrings from now on when I sit down at my computer (as well as enough other pieces of clothing to keep the vice squad from the door). “Hair cut and sneakers shined,” as David Bromberg used to sing. In other words, I will treat my writing as my profession, and I will do my best to live up to it.
Who knows? Maybe doing that will provide just the writing mojo I need.