Friday, October 7, 2011
Keeping the Day Job
Terry Kay once told me there were probably fifty people in the United States who made their living soley as authors. I’ve thought about it some since then, and I believe he was overstating the matter by a wide margin. Almost all of us have day jobs by which we earn the daily bread; the nourishment we get from writing is of a more indefinable quality.
I myself am a school teacher, and it is work that is so emotionally and physically taxing that, in all due modesty, I sometimes wonder how I manage to be as productive a writer as I am. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a head start on me. This is no figure of speech. I get up to write at Five AM every morning. Oft times do I daydream of being liberated from the daily grind and being set free to write.
Here is a sample of my day. My first period is planning, which means I have time to grade papers and prepare for class; however, another teacher “floats” in my room – the school is overcrowded – so I have to take my papers and work in the library. Today however, I’m in the copy room – second period is a speech class – recently expanded to a whopping thirty-two students – and I’m Xeroxing materials for an upcoming series of debates. Third block is another planning period, but again, there’s a “floater” in my room, so I grade papers in the library until fourth period, which is my creative writing class. (Let me say, that making a serious writer teach creative writing to high school sophomores is a torture akin to making a devout Hindu oversee a stockyard.) Then fifth, sixth, and seventh periods I have World Lit (I’m a little unusual in that I teach three different classes each day). My sixth and seventh periods are somewhat behind my fifth because yesterday students were called out of seventh period to vote for homecoming court. Then today, during sixth period there was an unscheduled fire drill.
Suffice to say, work can be a real drag. Sometimes I can’t help thinking, is this really worth it? Wouldn’t my quality of life improve if I ditched my job and lived under an overpass, eating sawdust and drinking water from storm drains as I work on my next novel?
But then. Today.
We’re reading Animal Farm and a student – for obvious reasons, I can’t give his actual name – we’ll call him Jamar – a real knucklehead and a thorn in my side – constantly out of his desk, messing with the girl who sits next to him, making irrelevant and distracting remarks – today Jamar – and I’m not making this up – said in a voice of wonder – I swear to you, I literally saw a light bulb come on over his head – and I’m also prepared to swear on a stack of Shakespeare these were his exact words, “Those pigs are just manipulating the other animals for their own selfish reasons.”
After class I held Jamar back just a little after the other students. “Jamar,” I said, putting a hand on each of his shoulders, “Here’s your homework.” His eyes widened slightly. “You need to go home tonight and look up, ‘the Man.’ See if your picture’s there. Because you are… THE MAN!”
I figure I can keep the teaching gig at least one more day. I sent Jamar off to do his homework, and after grading a few more papers, I went home. I woke up this morning at 5:00 AM to write this.
When he's not teaching young'uns, Man Martin writes. Booklist calls his current novel, Paradise Dogs, "simply brilliant," and the New York Post calls it "required reading." His first novel, Days of the Endless Corvette, won him Georgia Author of the Year for First Novel. You can see by his photograph that he is also devilishly handsome.