“I have written because it fulfilled me. Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side — I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.” – Stephen King, On Writing
I know, I’m late to the party when it comes to King’s On Writing but it’s helped me with my summertime perspective at the dayjob. In a strange way, it relates to what I’ve been reading during the dayjob and where some of my focus is going for this potential dissertation once I finish my comps.
I write for the joy of writing. Sometimes it’s difficult because I’m not immediately good at what I’m doing, and not being immediately “good” at something is a gut-punch for the kid who was reading the Washington Post in the morning before going to kindergarten and getting 100% on spelling tests. Much of my anxiety grows out of that ‘crap, it’s not perfect!’ sense once something is finished. The more that I write, the more I have to come face to face with the idea that I have to work to improve my writing… but the fact of the matter is that there is still joy in writing. There is still joy in crafting the characters, the setting, the conflict and the resolution, and the flow of the story from beginning to the end. No matter how difficult it can be to get that wordcount for the day, there is still joy in writing.
There’s joy in narration, too. I don’t find it as difficult as writing; telling stories and acting out characters in front of my microphone is a thrill and release that I don’t experience anywhere else. I was that kid who couldn’t wait to study Shakespeare in class, because it meant that we had to read it aloud. It meant that for a few short minutes, I could sound like the lovely young romantic interest or the quick-tongued sidekick. It has always brought more joy than frustration, and the bit of frustration usually ties to my need to improve my craft.
I’m not sure where the joy lies in the dayjob anymore. I wanted to be the fresh-faced academic who bounded onto campus and met each challenge with a smile and a drive to find a solution. I wanted to be the person who arrived each day with a passion for helping people and making the community a better place. I wanted to help students realize the same joy for learning and thrill for potential in what they could learn and study and achieve in the precious years between high school and the professional world.
I tried. I think I tried. I hope I tried.
I don’t know if I ever succeeded.
I know, from students’ emails and cards and notes, that some students walked away from this (admittedly gorgeous) campus with some positive experience – a conversation, a classroom exercise, an event – where something I said or did out of joy did make a difference. But lately, I feel that it’s harder to find that joy. We’re just expected to meander through the day and not question what’s handed down by a select and insulated few administrators who, for whatever reason, will not speak to people like me directly.
(I didn’t think that a five foot six curvy brunette with a twenty-sided die on her desk was that difficult to approach. Maybe I should offer them the chance to roll for courage.)
Summer is always difficult, because there is a lot of waiting and planning, and there is a lot of time to think. It always seems to be the time when people make policy changes without speaking to me, and that kind of behavior is both hurtful and disappointing. When the policy changes involve a course and curriculum which I’ve authored, maintained, directed, and implemented for six years, it makes me question how much joy I have to have to override the apathy and derision that comes from those above me. And if I don’t have enough joy, do I fake more? Do I put on the plastic face and push through, insincerity fueling me until I become one of the detached suits who haven’t set foot in a classroom for two decades? Am I horrible for not faking that joy?
It’s probably time for me to reread “The Dip” by Seth Godin and decide what happens next. I may need to let go of things that I’ve loved before so that I can focus on things that I love now.
Like writing and narration. There’s so much joy in writing.