Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Working and Writing

Yesterday, in the course of a conversation, I told a friend that I nearly went into landscape architecture instead of writing. “Why?” she asked. So I had to ask myself—why did I abandon several years of experience in landscaping and horticulture to “start over” on a new vocational path?

I’ve had times in my life when my paid work was gardening or landscaping, and writing was a hobby. I’ve also had times when my paid work was writing or something to do with writing, and gardening was a hobby. I found that I prefer the latter state of being—it feels more flexible and filled with artistic possibilities.

My grad school advisor Rachel Pollack said that the best job for a writer is the one that allows you to do the most writing. My current day job now is great because it’s interesting and I interact with intelligent people, but it’s not all-consuming and doesn’t take up an undue amount of mental space.

Writing is a net that can be thrown over anything, incorporating all of the author’s varied and unusual interests. Currently I edit the newsletter of the Ecological Landscaping Association (a great nonprofit that educates professionals and homeowners about how to work with nature instead of against it in the landscape). The folks there told me it’s rare to find a writer who also has landscaping experience. If you are a writer and have other passions or experience (as all writers do), I encourage you to try find out how you can put them to good use—someone will value your background.

The other thing about jobs is that—just like all those failed relationships—everything is material. I have been an usher in a concert hall, a park ranger, ice cream maker, farmer, and after school teacher, just to name a few of the positions I’ve held over the years. As Pat Schneider wrote, “Live your life thoughtfully, empathetically. Listen, and watch. Write. From these practices will come the most important things you need to know in order to create good fiction.” Or good anything.


  1. Sounds like you've struck a good balance.

    My only recent writing has been letters of dissent to my senators and congressman.

  2. BTW, I understand your hobby/job tradeoff. My current work is my former hobby (writing software.)