Continuing from Monday’s post — Jandrax came out and I went back to writing full time. Those were the years of A Fond Farewell to Dying, Todesgesanga (FFTD translated to German) Valley of the Menhir, Scourge of Heaven, Who Once Were Kin, and the first iteration of Cyan. I know you’ve never seen half of those books, but you will. I promise.
There is no better feeing than sitting down every day and writing, when the results are good. And they were. However, there are few more frustrating feelings than writing good books that don’t sell. After most of a decade of full time writing, it was clear that I couldn’t go on that way, and equally clear that I couldn’t quit. I needed a day job that would leave me some time for writing.
My wife suggested that I substitute teach. The pay was good (compared to minimum wage) and I didn’t have to look for jobs. I signed up, and the jobs came to me. It worked as a stopgap.
I couldn’t do it again, after being an actual teacher. Substitute teaching is to teaching, as going to the dentist is to being a dentist. The best one word description is probably painful.
However, I didn’t feel that way at the time. Yes, the job was boring, and yes, it was glorified babysitting, but I had made a shocking discovery.
I liked the kids. A lot.
You have to understand, I was an only child, raised on a farm, having little contact with other kids. I never had children of my own — by choice. To me, babies are just pre-humans. Kids under ten bore the hell out of me. But these kids were interesting and fun to be around.
I had discovered that middle school kids are more fun than a bucket of puppies. I realize that I am a minority in that opinion, and I also realize that part of my feeling comes from not having to take them home with me, but there it is.
Most teachers want to teach high school or fourth grade. Not me. My days as a substitute teacher in high school were dismal. My days teaching kindergarten were horrific. But middle school was my Goldilocks age — not too young, not too old.
By that time I had two masters degrees, so it didn’t take long to tack on a teaching credential. I took a job in one of the schools where I had substituted and I was still there twenty-seven years later.
In my mind, it was a day job. I continued writing. I continued working on the novels which weren’t quite right, and I wrote Raven’s Run. Years went by. I wrote a novel about teaching, Symphony in a Minor Key, which is running over in Serial right now.
I could tell you all about my first years, describe my first room, and give you insights into the joys and pains of teaching — except that I already have, in Symphony.
After about ten years, it was obvious that I wan’t going to get back to full time writing any time soon. After another decade, I admitted to myself that I wasn’t just a writer who was teaching. I was a teacher. It took me that long to be able to say it without having it sound like a defeat. I never stopped being a writer. I just became a teacher as well. I had two careers, parallel and simultaneous, and there was nothing wrong with that.
I was a writer, and a good one. I was a teacher, and a good one. Nothing wrong with that. After about twenty five years, I could even call myself a teacher out loud.
Now I am a retired teacher, and a full time writer again, with a new book out and another working its way through the computer. But I wouldn’t trade those years of teaching for anything.