Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

half the size of Utah

I wrote almost every day.  I was busy. I had children and a day job and we always had money trouble, and that takes a lot time. I wrote through money trouble and moves and kids and fights and deaths. I was not disciplined. I wrote because I love to write. Because it is fun, because it is deeply strangely satisfying, because I want to.  I wrote novels and short stories and letters and essays. I was always working on something. Then I decided that if only I could get a better paying job, if only I didn’t have to worry about money so much, if only I could find a job that was more satisfying than my current school district job so much of which is typing spine labels for books and telling teenagers to SHHH when I really don’t care how noisy they are, if they are eating candy, going on Facebook, sitting on the floor, playing cards, kissing, playing chess—yes that is a real rule, no chess playing—if only I had a job that paid a little more and that was a little more satisfying, then wouldn’t I be able to write better, write more, wouldn’t my psychological space be freed up so I could write more and better. And so I went back to school. For a long time I still wrote. I wrote half of a novel and then I got stuck. I could not concentrate. I had homework. I had papers, essays with citations and thesis statements. I went back to college and now I am in double school, now school is all there is– at an age when I should be retiring, shouldn’t I?, sitting on a beach, writing, or in a coffeehouse at least, I am working in school and going to school and I haven’t written in months and sometimes I wonder if I will again. It occurs to me for the first time that writing might be something you stop doing. Is it like all those other things I’ve forgotten? I am stuck in the middle of a novel and I can’t find my way out and I don’t have ten minutes to think about it, literally, and was it better when I was just going to my job and then coming home and writing my story and worrying about money now and then, yes, but having time because you can always find half an hour if you want to, people say they can’t but they watch TV, wasn’t it better then, when every moment wasn’t spoken for, literally, every minute, and every bit of my mental space? So even now I’m thinking what about my paper, what about the science test next week, what about Sarte and Thomas Aquinas and climate change and the  science paper and the English test, worth 9 credits, and the podcast (three of them—the teacher really gets carried away) and the 2 power points and the correspondence course from the Mormons. Can I still write a novel? Do I remember how? I am writing a paper on global concerns. I am writing about Sartre’s response to the idea that we are have only an illusion of free will. And there is the Mormon class, 3 general elective credits. What is the size of Ireland and you have to answer half the size of Utah. Approximately.

Categories: schools, writing

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. I never imagined that riding my horses was something I would ever quit doing, but I have. Makes me sad, but I just don’t anymore. Sort of brought me up short to read your phrase “something you stop doing”. Life is so full of mystery, you think you know what’s down the road, but you don’t.

  2. School can stifle creativity — at any age? And probably for teachers as well as students . . .

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