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Goals for the next three weeks

1. Send out at least one essay every day;
2. Work out at the Y;
3. Move this blog to WordPress;
4. Figure out the next fifteen years.

I am toying between one very interesting possibility versus the idea that if I can migrate to a decent self-payer health benefit plan such as I had in California (Sandy’s plan is insanely expensive, and I’m healthy), I could focus on online adjunct instruction in library science and try to cadge some comp instruction in the area.

I’m a great teacher who loves to teach, and this path would allow me to carve out consulting and writing time.

First, the writing. I am struggling with the idea that I should focus on what’s sensible, versus wanting to have a life that gives me writing time. The “interesting possibility” would force me to set aside my literary writing, perhaps until I retire. I hear the voice that says, set aside your silly writing aspirations and get a real job. And these days, “real jobs” require you to lift up your cross and follow them.

I know there are brilliant people who can work very high-powered jobs and crank out sensitive essays for the New Yorker in between accepting MacArthur awards for their work in genome research (and they probably get around to sending out Christmas cards, too), but I would not be one of them.

I don’t have any illusions that I’m the next Joan Didion. But the MFA program taught me that there are plenty of wonderful, largely unknown writers piecing together a life from writing, teaching, and whatnots; and I could be mistaken, but they all seemed about as happy as life allows you to be.

Then, the teaching. I have a dream class I want to teach: Reading, Writing, and Research. It would be a combined course in close reading in creative nonfiction, creative nonfiction writing exercises, and online research in service of those exercises–the classic “snipe hunts” such as Linda Smith sent us upon at Illinois, once upon a chalkboard. (We were all convinced that Linda never slept, and that she was spying on us as we floundered late-night through her questions.)

I feel this class in my bones. I’m one of a dozen people in this country qualified to teach it (yes, Laura, I’m staring at you). It’s the ultimate mashup between creative writing and library science. It’s a class that could turn librarians into better writers and writers into better researchers (to say nothing of keeping the instructor on her toes). It’s a class that would be useful, plagiarism-resistant, a bridge to other writing or lit courses, and above all, fun.

The hard part is finding an institution that shares my excitement. I’ve dropped the idea in front of a few institutions, with the same polite non-response as if I had burped at the banquet table. Maybe it’s because it’s a mixed-marriage class, one that could require interdisciplinary coordination. Maybe it’s because I’ve never taught writing or comp. (For that matter, I never took comp. My first college didn’t require it, and I “comped out” with an essay exam at my second college.) Maybe it sounds fluffy, like a class that’s not absolutely necessary (though, as a librarian, I was scandalized by the poor research skills of my fellow writing students, while as a writer, I’ve felt that way about the writing skills of too many librarians).

But I’d be happy to teach pure library science or pure comp–it’s very hard to get creative writing classes straight out of MFA programs, though it has happened–but I wish I could get just one school as excited as I am about my dream class. It could easily be taught online, with a strong chat or voice component, and I won’t say that about every class.

Then again, maybe it’s supposed to be just that: a dream class, one that exists perfectly in my fantasies. I am willing to give up my dream class. But I don’t know if I’m willing to give up writing and teaching.

At least I’m finally asking myself the right questions. I just need to figure out how I know when I have found the right answers.

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