That Four-Letter Word

Towards the end of Ulysses, Bloom asks Stephen why it is that he left the house of his father. Stephen’s prompt response: To seek misfortune.

Stephen (a stand-in for Joyce himself) understood from the get-go that there was no point in even pretending to do the normal thing, which is to get a job. He does have one at the beginning of the novel, and has held it down for two months, but even an old fool like Mr. Deasy foresees that he will not keep it much longer. Sure enough, by the end of the novel he has no intention of returning to it.

Unfortunately, I bought into the notion of work very early. I got my first job at fifteen, worked summers during college, and got a job after I graduated. Not a job that would obviously lead to a career, mind you, but a job nonetheless, and I kept getting jobs while I kept telling myself that I was not yet ready to start writing in earnest.

Inertia can be a terrible thing.

Starving in a garret is considered romantic when you’re young. It’s not as easy to pull off as a greybeard, after you’ve gotten used to regular meals and so on. Henri Rousseau managed it. He retired at 49 on a small pension and devoted himself to painting. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pension at all. I’m hoping to scrape by on a few days a week as a substitute teacher and the occasional dance lesson. Unfortunately, the more days I work the less I write. It’s not just the eight hours. It’s the mental fog that results from putting up with high school kids, and the inconvenient fact that those eight hours take away bicycle-riding time, which would normally be the best way to dispel the fog. Last week I worked three days and consequently didn’t manage much more than a minor revision of fifty pages or so of BRCM. This next week I’m working five days, but at least it’s at an elementary school.

There’s got to be a better way. The first draft is so close to completion. I really need to wrap it up so I can step back and take a better look at it. Yes, I’ve already thought about robbing banks. The long-term odds are lousy.

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