Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Writing Life

This week's Tungsten Hippo post is about my recent experiment with audiobooks, and the surprising (to me) reason that I'm not a big fan of them.

I originally did not think I'd write a Tungsten Hippo post this weekend. I was mentally exhausted from a rough week at work, and didn't have an idea for a topic in mind. But then our emerging Sunday morning routine kicked in. Mr. Snarky went out for a run, and I made myself a pot of tea, brought my laptop to the dining room table, and sat down to write. The kids are most likely to play well together in the mornings, and generally prefer the adults to let them be, so Sunday morning is a great time for me to do something that requires a little bit of concentration, but not too much- I'm still required to come help the kids with things from time to time.

All of this makes Sunday morning an ideal time for me to write. I didn't think of it as a routine until this week, though. As I cracked open my laptop, I heard Pumpkin and Petunia getting set up to write in Pumpkin's room. Pumpkin soon called me in to remind her how to save her file, and Petunia was sitting at an improvised desk, typing on her toy computer. I showed Pumpkin what she needed to know, and went back to the dining room. After a short time poking around on my various social media accounts, the idea for the Tungsten Hippo post came to me, and I wrote the post, with just a few more interruptions from the other room.

I had fun writing that post. The mental fog from my week at work lifted a bit while I wrote, and I felt much happier when it was done that I had felt when I sat down at my laptop. I need to remember that next time I think I'm too worn down from the work week to write a post.

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Last night, Petunia was not in any hurry whatsoever to get into the bath, so Pumpkin and I had a bit of time to chat while I waited for Petunia. I'm not sure why, but we ended up talking about how some people do more than one job. I used the example of how I have a "main" job, but also write books and people buy them, so you could consider writing to be a second job, and how I have a website and how running a website is a job for some people. (In typing this, I realize that I completely missed a good chance to talk about how some people work more than one job to make enough money, and how different that is from what I do... Doh. I will try to do better next time.)

Pumpkin was a bit surprised to find out that people actually pay for my books. I'm choosing to put that down to her imperfect understanding of how the adult world functions and not a statement about her opinion of the quality of my work. To be honest, I don't think it had occurred to her before that people get paid to write things. I explained why my latest book isn't out yet (it is with the illustrator). And then I told her about the new story I am working on. I told her that I had finally figured out the full details for the premise, and I explained the point at which I am currently stuck and how I am working on getting unstuck.

She thought about all of this for awhile, and asked me if anyone could publish a book. I told her that anyone could write a book, but that then publishers get to decide which ones they think are good enough to publish. I told her that nowadays, though, anyone could publish a book on their own, too, so that if you really believed in your book, you could publish it on your own, without a publisher.

She thought about that for awhile, and then told me that since you could be a writer and something else, she thought she'd change her career plans, and she'd be a writer as well as a teacher (her stated career goal for the last year).

I told her I thought she'd be good at that.

I think she thought some more about the subject overnight, because at morning snack this morning, she told me she was going to illustrate her books, too. She'd be a teacher, and a writer, and an illustrator.

I think she'd be good at that, too. I love watching her horizons about what she might do in life expand. I wonder how long it will be before she realizes she could create websites and write code, too? It isn't that I want her to go on to create websites or write code, or anything specific, really. I just love watching someone in that time in life where pretty much anything is possible, and most things are equally possible.

So many of my own career-related thoughts these days are bounded by the constraints of my life, as I've built it up over the years. Those constraints are often of my own making, but they are still there, and real. For Pumpkin, though, there are no constraints yet. It is wonderful to watch her realize this.

15 comments:

  1. Writer and teacher is a pretty prevalent combination-- I think I was introduced to that concept with Tales of a Fifth Grade Nothing, though I don't remember for sure. One of my college friends teaches high school English and writes historical romances.

    My sister recently told my son that he couldn't be an engineer because he isn't destructive enough. That was not cool. (And his daddy was not destructive as a kid!) We countered that he could be anything he wanted to. Besides he spends a ton of time on Scratch and with legos. Some people build rather than destroy.

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    1. I hate hate HATE HATE the "only people who had X experience as a kid will go on to have Y career." This line of thinking is how we get people like Paul Graham dismissing women as possible tech company founders because we haven't been hacking since we were 12 or whatnot. Grrr. Not saying your sister's statement was as bad as that... just that it is all part of a line of thought I'd like us to jettison as a society- we are not constrained by WHEN we learn things, just that we DO learn them!

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    2. It was as bad as that. She should know better. I probably should have had a word with her after about DC1's sensitivity. Instead, DH and I talked with DC1 about how he can do anything. No matter what Auntie M says.

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    3. I am in engineering and I can tell you that you have a really wide spectrum there -- from really hands-on, application-oriented types, to people who are really mathematicians or physicists. When we sell engineering to our students, it irks me that we always go the "hands-on" route, because I know that was always completely uninteresting to me. There is definitely room in engineering for kids who are more inside their head than outside and into machinery/gadgets.

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    4. That's definitely true! And a huge complaint among engineering students is that almost everything is theory in college and there's no hands-on building stuff. People who just do the hands-on stuff usually end up in engineering technology rather than engineering proper.

      The moral is, Boooo my sister.

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    5. Zenmoo3:25 AM

      And there is even room in engineering for people like me who are mostly interested in how the technical problems we need to solve interplay with the social and political context of the problem. I need to understand the technical stuff and the people who have the problem to optimize the solution. The people side of engineering isn't often highlighted.

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  2. I love that you're already having these interesting, and formative, conversations with the kids now. I wonder if, since you've framed the notion of having more than one job as a thing you do (whether by choice or by economic need), she'll start thinking of jobs less as an identity thing than people usually do, in the "I am not my job" vein.

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    1. Oh, that would be awesome if she could skip that whole mess of wrapping too much of your identity into your job. On so many levels. I should write a post about that, too- I'm struggling to get past that right now.

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    2. Wouldn't it be? I struggle with my identity being mostly defined as a breadwinner, whatever job I have. Recites: who we are is not = what we do.

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  3. My 6-year-old and I had an interesting conversation recently -- he'd been in tears because he wanted to be a teacher, but thought he couldn't, because teachers are girls. This belief stemmed from the usual pattern that 90+% of the teachers at his elementary school are women. So we found examples of male teachers. It's interesting what they absorb from the world around them at that age.

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    1. Interestingly, my daughter has always seen male teachers at her schools- both day care and elementary school. So she doesn't see teaching as a gendered profession. She did at one point think all doctors were women, based on the pediatricians she's seen. She was very confused when Petunia saw a male specialist at one point.

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    2. Back to the writing part of this post: it is totally about rituals. I become increasingly convinced that creativity is a skill, not a type. You sit in your chair and think up ideas and execute on them and voila! Creativity.

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  4. Zenmoo12:35 AM

    My daughter has very seriously asked me if boys can be engineers too! After all, the engineers she knows of are me and a few female friends of mine.

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    1. Given how many of us mothers in male-dominated fields have experienced this- having our kids think that only women can do our careers- it boggles my mind that people still don't get what a big difference seeing someone who is like you (same sex, same race, etc., etc.) in a field can make.

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    2. Zenmoo11:19 AM

      That is one advantage of a large and diverse family - her aunts all have very different jobs (teacher, dentist, winemaker, digital media accounts, science research lab manager, artist, clinical psychologist, university admin staff) plus me & my friends (engineers, geologists, human resources manager, ships mechanic, hairdressers)

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