Monday, March 4, 2019

The Recipe for a Career

Last week, several of you left comments indicating that my new “recipe” for writing sounded like a renamed, still ambitious, version of the old. Today I’m writing the first of three posts to explain the differences between the old Dee—worker bee—and the new—nonchalant feline.

Today, I’ll detail the years to retirement; next week, retirement to now; third week, new recipe. Please bear with me; I hope you don’t get too bored.

Let’s begin.

Throughout grade and high school, college and convent, I responded promptly to a clanging bell announcing a change of class or task. That bell set the rhythm of my day. After I left the convent, I taught for several years, once again responding to bells. The routine eked into my bones. Very Pavlov and his dog.

Then, in 1973, I began to work for a well-known Roman Catholic publishing house in Minneapolis. As a senior, trade-department editor, my work day went from 8:30 to 5:30. No bells; no classroom assignments to grade; no manuscripts to assess at home. I managed to meet my deadlines within the set hours of the work day.

In 1980, I became director of the curriculum department. My staff consisted of five creative editors as well as an insightful administrative assistant. The staff went home at 5:30, work left behind. As director, I spent the day in numerous meetings and phone conversation with authors, leaving little time for managing the numerous projects. I began to take work home with me.

Arriving home around 6 PM, I’d fix supper and then work for four more hours to keep abreast of the editors’ work and that of designers and marketers. Each evening, I considered religious trends and writings and planned for future projects. By doing this, I produced—for the publisher—numerous five-year plans for the curriculum department.

In July 1984, I wearily resigned and became a freelancer. For the next seventeen years—until I retired at age 65 in 2001—I did curriculum projects for Roman Catholic publishers in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, and Minnesota. This sometimes required attending meetings at the publishing houses.

During this time also, I taught at least one evening class a quarter or semester at the University of Minnesota or the College of St. Catherine’s. So I had to drive back into the metro area and also plan lessons and grade papers.

Often, I’d be working on curriculum projects that entailed several components, each with its own deadlines. Publishers contacted me because of my work ethic, my creativity, and the fact that I met every deadline during those seventeen years.

To do all that I had to develop a rigid work schedule because I wanted—and needed—to include walking 3 to 4 miles a day in the nearby cemetery, praying, meditating, doing daily T’ai Chi Chih, and writing my own manuscripts.

Also, I wanted to enjoy meals with friends, an occasional television program, movies, grocery shopping, and browsing the library. Thus, I had to work seven days a week to include these “wants” along with the “needs” of my publishing deadlines.

To do all this, I’d make a schedule each night for the next day. It might go something like this:

6:30AM:Rise/Pray/Dress/T’ai Chi Chih/Feed Cats; 7:30Work on My Ongoing Manuscript; 8:30Breakfast; 9:00-1:00Latest Project; 1-2:30Lunch/Feed Cats/Meditate/Nap; 2:30-5:30Latest Project; 5:30-7:00National news/PBS Newshour/Supper/Feed Cats; 7-11:00Latest Project; 11-11:30Read mystery novel; 11:30-2:30AM:Latest Project. 2:30Bed.

Clearly, I didn’t get enough sleep. The result: ill health from 2001 to the present.

Next week: the first 17 years of retirement.