The Delicious & Nutritious World of Chang Terhune: Author, Yogi, Musician, Not of this Earth

Writerly Wednesdays: The Work As Mistress


I have a mistress and my wife knows her all too well. In fact she encourages me to go to her, even so far as making me buy furniture for the act. We do it on a 100 year old oak desk.
No, we’re not into open marriage, polyamory or anything like that (noth tathere’s anything wrong with that among consenting adults!).
My mistress is my writing. I sometimes wonder if it’s not tearing my life apart. But I can’t stop it.
The other day I called Alice, my wife, and said, “I feel guilty about writing.”
“Why?” she says.
“Because I feel like every time I sit down to write or think about writing I’m taking time and energy away from the business and work and – “
“If you think that way then you are.”
We practice a certain form of “Thinking makes it so” in our household along the lines of The Big Gay Leap and Archangel Michael. She went on.
“You were born to write. You must write. It’s in your being to write. You’re a writing being,” she said to me.
And she’s write. I mean “right.”
It’s a cliche but like all cliche’s it’s got a grain or more of truth: I write because I must. When I don’t I get rather cranky (some might find it hard to tell the difference) mopey and unpleasant. Actually for about 8 years I didn’t write and focused on music instead. So perhaps it’s better to say I must be doing something creative or I become difficult.
I try to accept it and work it into my life. Yet for whatever reason I still have this burn about it, this difficulty with it where I’m always experiencing a certain degree of guilt with pursuing my writing work (I hesitate to call it art but I suppose you could do that). Perhaps it comes from the feeling that until I get paid for writing and paid regularly for it I should be doing something that pays. Waiting for that day which frankly may never come could make me crazier and insaner.

Perhaps it’s an issue of legitimacy then? Like I’m not spending my time in a legitimate (i.e. Productive) way. God, that’s such a puritan way of looking at things but some great writers were puritans or at least of great yankee stock like me (can I be of Yankee stock if my dad is from New Jersey?). It’s gotten many a great thing accomplished also probably kept people from their dreams.
Yet I think of people like William Carlos Williams, Charles Ives, Toni Morrison and so many others who’ve held down a day job and produced this amazing art. I mean, I’m listening to Charles Ives right f’ing now and he was an insurnace man for Christ’s sake and also this amazing wacko composer. These people all found a balance. A time for their work and and a time for their – sigh, it’s so pretentious, but here goes – their art.
Why can’t I?

Le sigh. I fall upon my daybed and hope the butler will catch me (the maid is too small and I;d hate to crush another one).
So the big conflict then comes for me in this form: I must write out of some compulsive need of expression but not to escape or run from the work I must do. This has been hard to do as often I have written instead of dayjob work (and it’s all the easier when you are self-employed as I am). So there’s a lingering guilt about it.
Always with the guilt. I was raised Presbyterian but the levels of guilt makes me feel like I was raised Jewish and Catholic. I’ve been told I have apocalyptic levels of guilt by people from both of those groups.
Thus, as of now I’m taking a new approach that my writing is actually helping my work and the rest of my life, allowing me to live fuller and freer: everything is a contribution to the whole. It’s rather relaxing instead of worrying about whether or not every time I pick up a pen I’m taking food out of my kid’s mouth and money from my family to enjoy things.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna do some writing and then some work stuff.

Updated: February 8, 2012 — 2:02 PM

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