Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I'm a writer not a teacher

I dreamt last night that I was still teaching. I’d made the decision to hand in my notice but had left it too late and would have to wait until the following term. I should (and in real life would) have been devastated but I wasn’t. In my dream I was worried about:
  • losing my identity
  • the absence of a daily routine
  • What would I say when people asked, “What job do you do?”
That third point is one that really hits home. People treated me differently when I said, "I'm a teacher." I get such varied and strange responses now when I say, “I’m a writer.” Why is that? I've been asked all of the following questions, some many times over.
  • “Why are you a writer?”
  • “How do you write a book?”
  • “What do you do with yourself at home all day?”
  • “Where do all your ideas come from?”
  • “Aren’t you ever going to do a real job again?”
You wouldn’t dream of asking a teacher questions like that. Why should writing be so different?

I've been a writer, not a teacher, for many years now and yet fragments of that dream won’t leave my head. It’s made me feel flat. I guess I miss the companionship of going to work and the rhythm of a working week, but I’m writing this with the radio on in the background. The London Underground is at a complete standstill due to strike action. There are severe hold ups on all roads in and around London, and even though I don’t, and never have, lived in London, it reminds me how lovely it is to get up and ‘go to work’ in my comfortable, warm home and if I need companionship I know I can chat with all of you, even if some of you live over ten thousand miles away... especially as some of you live over ten thousand miles away!

[Example of me chatting with people who live over ten thousand miles away!] One of the comments to my recent blog about bird feeding got me thinking about whether there are different varieties of birds in gardens around the world or do you all have sparrows, blue tits and pigeons like here in Leicester?

Talking of bird feeding, my good friend, Pippa Goodhart, popped round the other day. [You can find Pippa’s website here and the interview I had with her is here.] She's bought me a fabulous present, a super-gourmet bird feeder. It contains every nut and seed the local birds could possibly want and my Yew tree is now a regular pit stop for green finches, chaffinches and a beautiful thrush, as well as the usual flocks of tits and sparrows. It’s brilliant and I certainly wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if I had to dash off to school every day.

Rod update: Rod is home from hospital yet again. Hopefully he’s going to stay home this time. He’s certainly eating better and, although he’s very weak and suffering from flu and virus infections due to his reduced resistance, he’s starting to look more like my lovely husband again.



  1. Yes, know exactly what you mean. People tend to think that a writer working from a desk at home is just dabbling in a hobby.

    Many times, I do miss the rhythms of a working week that included going to a job.

    Especially the paycheck! :)

    Good news that your husband is home. Hope his recuperation continues well.

  2. Hi Marisa, got to agree that the pay cheque isn't quite as regular as when I was a teacher!! But I'll happily live with that :-)

  3. You call a dream about being a teacher a nightmare - I once dreamt that I was doing 'A' levels ( school leaving exams for the non-Brits) and woke up in a cold sweat followed by tremendous relief that I was long long passed that stage.
    Being still both a part-time teacher and writer I can say that I actually get quite a lot of material and ideas from my 'day-job'. But then I'm not teaching a bunch of unruly children but a relatively small class of college students in their early 20s.

    So glad that Rod's home - enjoy yourselves together, and hopefully he should get rid of those nasty viruses he's stil got.

  4. Hi Ann, my dream wasn't a nightmare. I had many happy times as a teacher. This blog post is more about the way my dream-self was relieved at having to work for another term rather than being about to leave. I was exploring the way my subconscious seems to miss the structure of a formal job.

  5. Glad to hear Rod is home again! Being home will help him feel better even more quickly!!

    We have sparrows and finches. Not sure about thrushes or blue tits - my dad was the bird watcher. I like them too, but don't know many names for them!

  6. I think people tend to value jobs on the economical scale, and they can't determine where writers stand on that scale unless you're a renown author. It's too abstract for them to understand what you do or how difficult it is if they've never done it.
    I often get undervalued because I work at home, they think I spend all day in pjs, eating chocolate and watching morning TV. I wish.
    I'm glad to hear Rod is at home and looking himself.

  7. Thanks Jemi, he's certainly starting to eat more food now he's home :-)

  8. Hi Sarah, and there I was thinking you were lounging around in your pjs all day long! I agree that some people find writing too abstract an occupation to appreciate what it involves and as we know it involves far more than just placing words onto a screen.

  9. Your blog made me smile and also brought a tear to my eyes. The smile becaue when I worked as Communications Manager, people looked at me and realised I had a real job in a real country, now people wonder what I do sitting down here in the sun. When I say I write, they smile and add, it keeps you busy then!
    The tear as always, is thinking about you and your Rod, but a tear of pleasure knowing he is getting, be it slowly, better. As always, fluffy hugs and licks from our two rascals....washed of course! x

  10. Hi Pauline, it's funny how many people have a similar response when they say they write. As ever thanks for the fluffy hugs :-)

  11. Yay for Rod being home!

    Oh, don't even get me started on the whole writing thing, and people's response. I've had some seriously strange reactions in the past few years!

  12. I had a moment yesterday when one person's different perception of teaching and writing jobs really startled me. I was doing a visiting author visit to a primary school, talking to, and working with, each age-group of children in turn. At break time one teacher took me on one side and said that she hoped I didn't mind her asking, but how much did I pay the publishers to publish all my books? I bit my tongue and resisted saying, 'how much do you pay the local education authority in order for them to let you teach here?', and instead patiently explained that I write for a living, and that the publishers pay me, not the other way around. But really!!!

  13. Hi Pippa, I'm shocked that a teacher really thought you paid to have your books published. I'm not sure that I would have been able to hold my tongue so politely. I do hope that teacher is reading this blog now and blushing... which is what I'm doing since you kindly pointed out my Ewe Tree blunder. It's all corrected now but it made Rod laugh (well done you!) to think of a white woolly tree in our back garden.

  14. Delighted to hear Rod has returned home.

    May his improving health continue.

  15. It's so strange when a dream takes a part of your mind back to a place you were long ago. I always feel a little disjointed when I wake.

    Inspired directly by you, I'm going to be putting up a bird feeder tomorrow. Here in Melbourne, Australia, it'll attract pigeons, sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, magpies and rosellas, which are the most common sort of native parrot we have here recently.

  16. Hi Amie, I'm so excited to have inspired you to put up a bird feeder. I've never heard of rosellas but my Google search has shown them to be gorgeous. The birds you mentioned are all large birds. I'll bet Melbourne bird feeders need to be considerably larger than mine!