Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Where is the passion?

I have done something unlike anything I have ever done in my life. I have told my employers that I won’t be returning to the school next year. You see I am an English teacher and for the past three years I have worked for one of the largest urban high schools in our district. But this past year has been a revelation to me. I have steadily grown more and more despondent over my career. Although I enjoy teaching, it is not my passion. Although literature fills me with passion, and reading a good book transports me to another world, that is only a small part of who I am. My true passion and calling is in writing. It always has been. And so with no job lined up for next fall, I have taken a plunge into colder waters than I ever thought possible.

In no way am I suggesting that people tell off their bosses and quit their jobs. But the following questions are something to think about:
“What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What do I want to be when I grow up?”

I want to write. If I am not writing then I am not living. But in order to live, pay the bills, provide a home for my son and myself, then I have to be working. However, how do I solve the problem of earning a living while trying to break into writing and getting published? I thought about that and decided to try my hand at writing a spicy, erotic, sensuous piece for one of the many publications dedicated to women’s erotic literature. Thus far, I have written 16 pages of some very bland and boring situations with two characters that despise each other but will ultimately end up in the sack, making furious love to each other all over their isolated cabin out in the woods because that is what the guidelines dictate. There is nothing wrong with writing this sort of stuff because there is a need for it and a market. Therefore, I told myself I will fill it. I will write this story and I will see my name in print.

Except here is the ultimate paradox. I won’t even sign my real name to it because I don’t consider it my real writing. I am doing it for the most selfish of reasons. I need the exposure. I need the money so I can live, earn my MFA in Creative Writing, attend conferences, meet other writers and work on my real writing.

Is it any wonder then that I have hit a brick wall like a car careening out of control? Today I was sitting in yet another excruciate-tingly boring teacher’s professional development day and instead of listening to the speaker I was trying to work out my character’s next conflict point when this suddenly jumped out at me:
Miralee longed for this man to touch her, caress her, with his strong arms; she longed to lose herself in the green fire of his eyes. Miralee longed…for her creator to stop writing such tripe about her and set her free to truly explore her role as a woman in this society that tends to typecast women into roles that don’t even fit them.

And I asked myself why these characters sounded and acted as wooden as the trees of the forest they are lost in. Do I even like them? Not really. I am simply writing this piece for all the reasons outlined above. And that is never a good reason to write anything.
As writers we struggle, we starve, we reach very high, we sometimes fall, but we get back up. I just fell. I hate that story because it isn’t the real me. Where is the passion? Certainly not with my characters because they can’t even seem to fill out a decent page. It’s in here, deep inside of me, just waiting to burst out, if only I will let it. Fears and doubts are all a part of the process but it’s harder to break through the brick wall then it is to just hit it, bleed, and then decide never to approach a brick wall again. It’s time to punch through the wall and come out on the other side. I have no idea where I am going to be come next September. I am hoping to still be teaching but I am also hoping that I will be in a MFA program and writing from my heart. Writing about my passions in this life. Writing about what makes me happy, what inspires me, and what I can inspire in others. That is my role as a teacher and a learner. Wherever I go I will take this lesson with me.

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