Explaining My Work

A challenge I sometimes face is answering the question “What are you working on?” asked in a writing context. Many of my writer friends have a single book they are focused on, sometimes for years. My focus is always rolling and shifting, responsive to dozens of things that are not easily visible to people who are not privy to our behind-the-scenes business choices nor our private family needs. At the beginning of this year I had three months in a row where most of the other things had quieted and I was able to focus on professional expansion for myself on both teaching and writing fronts. During the second three months writing and teaching went dormant while I managed Kickstarter fulfillment. The third three months look to also have heavy Kickstarter commitments in them. I’m going to try to do a better job balancing and giving space to Sandra Tayler: Teacher and Sandra Tayler: Writer, but we need the income running a Kickstarter will bring to us. This means that Kickstarter administration gets to take over my brain for a while.

What am I working on? Well, that depends on how you define “working on.” Do you mean which things am I going to spend time and creative energy on today? This week? Or do you mean what projects do I have pending that I plan to return to? How do I describe projects which are paused for months or years, not because they’re not important, but because in the ever-jostling evaluation of how I should spend my time today keeps pushing them off the schedule? What about the dream projects which I don’t even have the chance to pick up because of all the other things? And how do I explain that no, really, my life has calmed down quite a lot since before the pandemic?

Explaining my job becomes even more complex when I’m talking to a person who doesn’t even have the framework to understand a variable income creative career. I end up having to pare things down, tell only a piece of what is going on. Whichever piece will fit neatly inside the conversation I’m having without having to expand the conversation. It really isn’t polite to hold up a grocery line to explain to the clerk that my plans for the afternoon involve printing postage and shipping out 100 packages that I need to send to Kickstarter backers. The clerk is making small talk, I give small answers in response.

My life feels so normal to me with all of its shifting schedules and moving furniture around to create space for projects. It is only when I try to explain a piece of it to someone else that I remember most people have a predictable paycheck and a daily schedule that is set by other people. I sometimes envy that regularity and other times I am very glad to have my flexibility.