Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Passed a Milestone

Almost two months ago I decided to hop on the inter-tubes and get blogging. Almost two months isn't much as far as milestones go, but yesterday I passed the big one oh oh. Over 100 posts, two a day, every day, since I began.

Now that's nothin' stuff compared to almost every other blogger out there, but it marks a bit of a sea change for me. As someone who has pursued writing relentlessly since the beginning of high school, to actually go about and do the business seriously, not as a requirement for an assignment, but for the sake of it itself, is new.

Like a lot of writers, I got used to writing sporadically, in spurts. Back in high school I took two extra credit courses, independent studies that had to be completed after school, in addition to everything else, where I wrote a series of short stories, and then a novella. In my OAC year (This was back when Ontario still had grade 13), that is, my second OAC year (I liked high school so much that I took, in effect, grade 14), I took Creative Writing, got the highest mark, an award at the end of the year, etc. This led me to decide that I'd take a B.A. in Creative Writing, which I earned at York University, which led me to take an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, which I'm doing right now at the University of British Columbia (Number 34 on the Time Higher Education's top 500 list, ahead of Berkeley! Woot!).

In retrospect, I may have made a foolish decision to pursue the course I have. I never went about writing overly seriously, but kept studying it at successively higher levels. But to what purpose? Newspapers are dying (no jobs there), publishing houses are falling (very little new talent development now), and with a full sized family at my back I don't have the luxury of scrapping it out as a lowly P.A. in the TV biz, hoping to get a shot someday as a TV writer. It's like I'm looking at a barren desert out there.

If I had been able to see the future, way back when, no doubt I'd have done something different. I would have taken a more practical view of my education, and pursued a course that streamed me into a career. I would have run for the money, just as pretty much every foreign student I knew (including my wife) had done.

But I didn't have that crystal ball, and when I think about it a bit more, I'm glad I didn't. For if I had, I wouldn't have had an education, I'd have had training. You don't need education for an occupation, you need training. After having worked umpteen jobs, and going through training for each, I know now that, for the most part, an education is wasted on a occupation, the way building the Taj Mahal is a waste if it's only something you need to keep the snow off your Jack Russell terrier.

Training is something you can do in a short period of time. You learn skills for a specific job, skills which often transfer to other jobs which you can be trained relatively quickly for also. But an education is what you need for a vocation, and it is what I needed for my vocation - writing.

I'm stuck with this thought now, and it's not an original thought by any stretch, that what I do and what I do, are two separate things. That is, what I do for money, and what I do because it is what I'm good at.

Lately I've gotten to feeling that what you do for money, your job, your profession, whatever, is important, but only in the way breathing is important, or remembering to eat breakfast. It is a necessary task for survival, but in no way constitutes living, or life in general.

But what you do because you are good at it, or because you like it, is something else entirely. That is the essence of a vocation - the expression of a talent or predilection that it either God given, or if you're a devotee of Dawkins, a result of genetic expression influenced by cultural and geographical externalities.

That's why, almost two month's in, I've realized why I stopped worrying and learned to love the blog.


  1. Blogging -
    James - I really love your blog--it's provocative and invigorating to read. You write more in a day than I write in a month, but that's okay, I can live with the fact that I am a slow reader and a slow writer, and always will be.
    But I confess, I am having some trouble finding my way around your blog and going back to read comments to previous posts. Are there any "tweaks" to organization of the blog that you can make? Like these 39 posts in May in the column to the right, can you add dates, maybe in parentheses, to them? Maybe add the genre, i.e. poem, story, essay? You've got some links to good blogs -- do they organize things a bit differently?

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. My posts are organized chronologically, but just listing the titles. Blogger seems to have limited flexibility for changing that. But above the list of posts, I've put in an index, listing the tags of the posts. I tag all of my posts as "comment" or "essay," (basically meanig short or long) and add a subject. Poems are just "poetry."

    If I can find a gadget that gives me greater flexibility when indexing posts, I'll add that. So I'll keep my eyes open and let you know!

  3. The new index with the listing of the tags of the posts helps a lot! I wanted to re-read the Dubai posts, and it was much easier to find them.