Woman Enough

Work

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on May 30, 2012

In Washington, people sit around and talk about how the most-often utilized small talk question in D.C. is “What do you do,” and in New York it is “where do you live?” This is something of a defining difference between the two cities, the way we sort ourselves into familiar and meaningful groups. I lived in a “what do you do” culture, defined by my employer, for a long time.

And I don’t anymore.

A big part of my last year has been a commitment to nurturing and developing a passion of mine- to write. This has meant being comfortable living a different sort of financial bracket, which has not been nearly as difficult for me as the awkward moment when someone asks me what I do for work.

I do a lot of things. I work part-time for three different small business, all of which I believe are important to my community, add value to my days, and allow me to contribute financially to this lifestyle project I’ve tackled. They are businesses I support, employers I respect, and places where I have a voice as well as a wage. This spring, I’ve also undertaken the boaty project of refinishing brightwork on a friend’s fancy new wooden sailboat. It’s a far cry from DC paralegal, the job that taught me how to wear high heels and make exceptionally complex tables in Microsoft Word.

But still I reserve a little time each day to meet the written word in my simple, teeny office space. When I examine my day in the evening, before I turn grouchy and demand sleep in a comic overtired stupor, it is the writing I measure.

But when someone asks you what you do, you can’t say “writer” because then the person asking will say “what do you write?” and then you will have to give them a disappointing answer. They want to hear “I write novels,” or “poetry for greeting cards,” or “text on the back of cereal boxes.”

People do not want to hear “I read a lot and then I write a lot. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s stories, or a poem, or a song, and sometimes it’s essays.” If you say “I am at a very early stage of being a writer, so mostly, I am just making sure I write, whatever and whenever I can,” the question-asker thinks “oh, you are a BOGUS writer!” And then I have to hurry to say “Maybe, but really, REALLY I work at a bookstore and an art gallery and a restaurant, and I’ve been breathing varnish fumes all day, too.”

What we are really talking about is money. People want to know what I do for money, which is different from my career.

I work for me in a little office space with a water view. I lose money on it most months, the rent for the space exceeding what I earn stringing words together. But it’s my work, it’s my craft. All the other jobs exist so that I can continue to partition off my mornings to be a writer. To sit in front of the scary blank screen, make my scary blank mind focus on any miniscule thing it can, and write. And if I do it all long enough, I’ll get better. I might not get earn-a-living-wage better, but I’ll get better. That’s my job.

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Dreams, realized

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on May 14, 2012

When I worked on a larger boat, it was not uncommon for crew to regularly dream about the boat we’d given large portions of our lives to doing strange things. For me, the ship was usually converted into a tree house, and whatever aspect of boat life I was struggling with (the head, the schedule, the lack of personal space) was exemplified in the boat tree house. I attribute much of this to the fact that I missed trees, specifically woods, a lot while living at sea.

All of us, however, dreamed of driving our boat down a conventional street at one time or another. It was a strange dream to occur in the subconscious of everyone, but it was a delightful dream. The boat moved forward, but instead of pitching side to side or forward and back, it simply glided, like a car, down the interstate at six knots.

Last weekend, I lived the dream; our new boat, which still lives nameless and lonely in Portland, was launched, and in the process, Elias and I stood in the cockpit while she was hauled around on a hydraulic trailer. Immediately afterward, the boat was launched and we got to drive her, the way we will for many years, I suspect, through the water and into a slip.

She floats; there’s no water where there shouldn’t be and we were both impressed with what a delight she was to operate.

This is the beginning of a new relationship with a new vessel, and it’s fitting to me that this time we start with a journey, rather than a winter aboard. Then she’ll start working her way into my dreams.