The Working Poet (Part I)

by Tim Hawkinson

Every poet is a working poet — which is to say, every poet has to do things other than write poems in order to make a living. Sure, there are a lucky few who literally can write 24/7 365 and not worry about paying bills and health insurance, but that’s not true for most of us. Poets are teaching, editing, working in corporate America, working as carpenters so forth and on — and writing. (To say nothing of poets who are also parents. I salute you!)

Since August of this year, I’ve been teaching 9th and 12th grade English at a Charter high school in Newark, NJ. It’s been an amazing experience, but it has also meant that I’ve had to negotiate the balance between work and writing on a daily basis. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

I wake up at 4:45 am on the weekdays which allows me to write for about half an hour before I have to get ready for work. Initially, I was miserable. I was already waking up at what felt like an ungodly hour and deciding to get up earlier seemed insane and destined for failure. After the first early morning, though, I found that I was so invigorated by the experience of writing that I actually had more energy throughout the day. It was comparable to the energy boost I experience when I go to the gym consistently.

The problem was that thirty minutes was still a very short period of time and with the responsibilities of the day quickly approaching, it was hard to think creatively. So, I started devoted my weekends to generating new work and my thirty minute morning sessions to revising and pushing my work further. Having a foundation in place takes the pressure out and allows me to take the poem one step at a time as opposed to feeling like I have to start from scratch.

Of course, this is just a part of my effort to continue writing while also working full time. More to come later.

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3 responses to “The Working Poet (Part I)

  1. I love this post. I really think it’s awesome that you’ve made (and honored) space to continue working/writing. Working on new pieces on the weekends and doing shorter tasks during the week makes so much sense! I found I had to work through similar strategies when planning out which tasks to complete for my dissertation. Keep up the great work. You’re an inspiration to many.

  2. Thanks, love. Really, it was the only way to keep writing. After about two months of no writing at all, I had to do something or go insane.

  3. You sound like you love writing so much. I bet your a great teacher.

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