So, compiling and editing a textbook soaks up a lot of time (#dayjob). So does finishing the middle novel in a trilogy (#Solynsbody). So does assembling one’s tenure binder (#keepingonesdayjob).
As some of you know, I teach English at a community college, and this year, I am “up” for tenure, meaning that I have to present my institution with evidence of my involvement over the last five years. This evidence takes the form of a four inch binder of certificates of attendance, copies of agendas, tons of emails, and lots of letters. Because I work in a community college, I am able to use my fiction writing as a contribution to the profession (something I wouldn’t be able to do at a research university–only my literary works would count there). This means that I’ve spent the last few months gathering up all of the fiction I’ve written since 2013.
And it’s a lot. Like, really a lot.
I mean, I’m no Emily Dickinson with hundreds of poems or F. Scott Fitzgerald who whipped out a short story in a drunken afternoon, but I’ve been pretty busy for someone with a full-time job, a child, a husband, and many other constraints on my time. I try not to let it happen, but often writing falls to the bottom of the pile of Things To Be Done in a given day. I know what Stephen King says of course–writers write–but he also had lots of drugs to help him out in between double shifts at the laundry and teaching all day while he finished Carrie.
But that’s just excuses–and I’m not here to justify my lack of magnitude. I could have done more, sure, but I’m happy with what I did.
Well, what have I done? It doesn’t seem like much when in the thick of it–a story here, a story there, but taken all at once…it’s solid. I didn’t realize it until I starting working on my binder. To organize my information, I made little sticky notes for each story and put them on the sleeves I would fill with the copies of title pages. As I copied each page and put the evidence of my professional contribution in the proper sleeve, I removed the sticky note. When I was done, it was an impressive little stack of stickies sitting on my desk. Each sticky represented a story, an idea, a thought that I had turned into something concrete, something tangible, and finished, and available online for people to read.
So, to celebrate both my application for tenure and my accomplishments over the last five years, here it is–a list of my works all in one place:
So while it may not seem like you’re getting anywhere when you’re in the moment, take a step back every now and again to see the Big Picture. Ferris Bueller was onto something there.
As Anne Lamott said, “Bird by bird.” Writing happens word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph. It all adds up.