I find it fascinating that William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks while working at a power plant. I have this terribly romantic image of him working late at night, sitting hunched over on a box or a packing crate and scribbling out stream of consciousness in the dim, dusty light while waiting for the order to turn on or off a giant electricity switch.
Obviously, I have no idea what working at a power plant entails.
But this image in my head got me thinking about working and writing. Most authors have, or have had sometime in the past, a "real job." Probably one that involved either cleaning or acquiescing to the general public and asking if they would like their check separate or together. And yet this is where the writing happens. I cannot count the many times I scratched out poems on flimsy cocktail napkins and silverware wrappers while letting someone's prime rib grow cold in the window. Now, I am fortunate enough to have a job that I truly love and doesn't require me to wear all black and smell like grease and wet floor mats (although I still liken teaching to bartending- you have 25 people all demanding your attention at once and yet you still have to smile, stay cool and remember every single thing they all want). But between classes, fighting the copy machines, faculty meetings and the impromptu therapy sessions with heartbroken teenagers, there is little time left to write down ideas or even drift toward them with daydreams.
So my writing life and my "real job life" are mostly separate these days, which is probably for the better. But I'd like to hear from my fellow writers: How do you balance working and writing? What jobs are the most conducive to sneaking scraps of verse or lapsing into the world of your latest creative undertaking? And most importantly- is there anybody out there, sitting on a packing crate at midnight, and writing the great American novel?