Saturday, June 7, 2014

What's a Weekend?

I love when Maggie Smith in the first season of Downton Abbey asks, "what's a weekend?" That moment of bourgeois cluelessness makes me smile.

This morning I'm asking the same question for different reasons.

It's Saturday. My alarm went off at six. I made coffee and talked with my father-in-law who is visiting. Then, I said, "time to go to work on some writing."

How strange it sounds to work on Saturday at a job that doesn't pay. If I had to write every day in order to support the family, that would make sense. But this?

I'm reading a book entitled So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. The author, Cal Newport, debunks the "follow your passion" advice often given to job seekers. I'm curious. I'll read on.

I'm unlikely to support my family with writing. At first this realization was depressing. I'm growing to accept it, understanding that I have skills beyond writing even if writing is at the center of who I am.

I'm good with students. I'm not a great teacher, but I connect with kids. I have skills there that could be used in new way that involve working with kids, making connections, and helping them grow. When I do that work, I feel passion.

I can talk with teachers. In conferring with a colleague who is regularly assaulted by his administration, I offered ways to turn the conversation and stand up without lashing out. Discussing a difficult class with another colleague I helped her to turn from blaming the kids to thinking what she could do and I did it mostly by listening.

All this week I have had success with writing. A couple blog entries have worked, an email moved a friend, and a couple hand-written letters were gratefully received. (Handwriting, in this email world, pops like fireworks.)

Rather than discover my passion and then follow it, I'm considering my skills and connecting them. I know I'm on the right track when the weekend ceases to be a time of rest after five days of drudgery. I'm doing well when my first thought getting out of bed is this: time to go to work on some writing.

Maybe I'll make a career out of writing and talking with kids better than teaching high school English. Whatever the case, most every morning, weekday or weekend, I'll wake early, make coffee, and do what I love to do and what I'm skilled at: I'll write on.