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Monday, May 23, 2011

Life After Losing My Job, or How Blogging Saved My Sanity

When I first lost my job I was pretty devastated.  Then after a month or so of licking my wounds, I realized a couple of things: 

1)      Realization No. 1:  I was sick of working for attorneys anyway.  For more than 20 years I was a paralegal, and I enjoyed it.  I worked for the good guys, the ones who defended people who got sued by the bad guys.  I was lucky.  My attorney bosses were nice people and pleasant to work for (well, except the last one).  It was fun being around attorneys.  Usually they are smart, funny, and of course, good with words, which I always appreciate.  Many of them became attorneys as a fall back.  After they graduated from college with a degree in history or English, they wondered, OK, now what the heck do I do?   So they go to law school.  But, back to my job--the deadlines, the pressure, the demand for perfection-- I just kinda got tired of it.  And, no matter how nice an attorney is, they are high maintenance.  They are arrogant.  They procrastinate.  As a non-attorney, you will always be an underling.  There will always be a vast chasm between you and the attorney class.  Lastly, paralegals have zero upward mobility.  So, after 20-plus years, I was done.   

2)      Realization No. 2:  For the first time in my life, I had time to do as I pleased.   So I signed up for belly dance classes.  I got more involved with the local humane society, started a newsletter for it.  I went to the library and loaded up on books to read.  But the most exciting thing was that now I had the time to write.  Maybe even write a book, which I've been talking about for years.  But-- I didn’t write a book.  I didn’t write much at all.  I read books about writing.  I was really good at that.  I filled a whole shelf full of books about writing.  I piddled away a lot of time.  I’m a strong believer in piddle time, setting aside time for doing nothing, like lie in the hammock and let my mind drift.  But I was doing pointless things I didn’t particularly enjoy.  I was at loose ends.  I didn’t have a purpose.  I had a goal in  mind, but I wasn't working toward it.  Then I started this blog, and that changed everything.  I started to actually DO all those things that writers say you have to do, which brings me to my second list:

My writing nook

List No. 2:  Essential First Steps to Becoming a Writer

a)      You have to actually write.  Reading about writing doesn’t count.  Thinking about writing doesn’t count.  Talking about writing doesn’t count.  Making lists of writing ideas doesn’t count.  Only writing counts.  This seems obvious, but it’s the hardest step. 

b)      Writing must have priority.  For me, that means I write before anything else, except my coffee and daily bowl of porridge.  I write before I check my emails.  Before calling the pharmacy about my prescription.  Before making the bed.  Before turning on the TV (not a temptation for me, anyway).  Before looking up anything on the internet.  Before any of that, I sit down at my little turquoise writing desk, dogs snoozing on the floor around me, and I write without stopping for what ends up being at least two hours.  I lose track of time.  I don’t take a break until I realize I am hungry or stiff from sitting too long or the dogs need to go out.     

After my writing is done, my other to-do's tidily fall into place.  A schedule has evolved--which revolves around my writing time--that includes belly dance, humane society responsibilities, sundry chores and errands, and life in general.   In the afternoon lull, when my mind doesn’t work that well anyway, I reward myself with reading.

I still want to write that book, but now I have focus, ideas to explore, and, most important, the discipline of daily writing.

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