When a cow suddenly stops giving milk, the farmer tells his wife, "Bossy's gone dry."
Bossy's internal systems may need a tweak or maybe, she's getting ready to give birth. Either way, there's no viable milk to be had. Right now, due to a variety of reasons, my writing life is dry. The two thousand or so words I was able to crank out last week don't have a two-thousand-twin this week. For a very long time, I pushed for a thousand words per day. Now, I'm lucky if one hundred words make it from my fingers through the keyboard and onto the screen.
Some time ago, I wrote about writer's block, a condition that some believe to be non-existant. I'm not blocked, not now. Right now, I'm covered up with words, the words of the one hundred and fifty or so students who fill the desks in my university classroom. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's that old end-of-the-semester grading crunch that all teachers everywhere dread. I dread it more than most. Some might say that I truly hate it.
It's that day-job thing. Just like the would-be actress who waits tables while waiting for a full-time acting job, I languish in a day-job. I teach composition and American literature while I wait for the agent, the super-intuitive agent, who'll see the merit in my fiction.
The heroine of my newest work in progress had just been assaulted when I left her. She's waiting, too, waiting for the resolution to her problem. I really want to help her escape her tormenter, but the day-job thing is in the way, blocking my efforts to bring her to safety. Sometimes while I'm in the midst of determining whether or not that strange quotation is properly documented, she knocks on the door to my hindbrain saying, "Hey, remember me? His hands are still around my throat. I can't breathe. I feel the pressure of his fingers tightening around my larynx."
I tell her that the cavalry's coming, that she's not going to die. After all, I've only written the first five or six chapters. She can't go yet. I try not to tell her that my view of her situation matches the President-elect's view of the current U.S. economic crisis, that it'll get worse before it gets better. I try to leave her behind the hindbrain's door and focus on the task at hand, the completion of the final grades, but sometimes, I find myself writing the story in my head, formulating, creating, moving her from point A to point B.
"One job at a time," I tell myself. "Finish grading. There'll be time to lift her from her dire circumstances."
One job at a time. That's the key. We're back to patience, that illusive character trait that's so highly tauted. My late father had a saying, "It's all in paying attention." Details. Pay attention to the details even though, the details of living interfere with the details of dreaming. I dream of becoming a published author. Until the dream is realized, I'm a teacher, and a teacher must conform to the parameters of her job. She must teach and ergo grade. On that note, I leave you, dear friends. I leave you so that I may attend to the details of living. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, my dream must be deferred, at least until the grading crunch is ended.