89: Serious Work

89: Serious Work

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Serious Work

Gain control of your time, and you will gain control of your life.

~John Landis Mason

I am upstairs in my office in the spare bedroom playing solitaire on the computer.

“What are you doing?” my husband asks from the doorway.

“Working,” I tell him.

“You can’t be serious,” he says.

“I am,” I tell him.

He shakes his head and walks away.

I can understand his confusion. Playing computer games doesn’t command much work respect. Sometimes, he sees me with my feet up on my desk staring absent-mindedly at the birds chirping in the flowering plum tree outside the window. That doesn’t look much like work either.

But work comes in many forms. I am a writer. When I’m writing a nonfiction article, I am all business, fact-checking, interviewing, editing. I can be at my computer for hours revising my piece until I get everything just right. When I am writing fiction, I have more leeway. I listen to the voices of my characters, which are not always ready to be heard. So I do other things — have a snack, putter in the garden, take a walk, bake a cake. Eventually, the characters talk to me, and I happily continue writing.

If he catches me when I am having trouble with one of my stories, the doubts can creep in. I think maybe he is right; maybe I am fooling myself about my work. Once, when I was doing an author program at an elementary school, a third-grade boy asked me, “Are you famous?” I had to tell him that I was not, despite all my successes. It was hard to admit; it was certainly not my preference. And when I remember that, it also makes me wonder about what I do.

I drink a cup of green tea as I ponder this idea of serious work. I consider the seventeen books for children I have had published. Some of them came to me easily, letting me write in a fury so that it was obvious I was hard at work. Others took a bit of reflection, more daydreaming, music-listening, window-staring time.

I think about the hundreds of articles I have written for newspapers and magazines over the years, and the poems that have appeared in literary publications. Now I write a weekly nature blog, too. Surely that must count for something.

I take the mug up to my office and lean back in my chair. The screen taunts me. I turn away to look up at the metallic metal sculpture of a gecko crawling on the wall over my bookcase when something clicks. Suddenly, I know how to fix the story. I type furiously until I hear my husband call up, “What’s for dinner?”

“Whatever you want to make,” I yell down.

I can’t take the time to play with pasta, not now. The words are flowing, the characters are interacting, and the plot is building. I have just created a whole world. How much more serious can work get?

~Ferida Wolff

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