That Literary Life: Trading Hours



 It’s late at night. The entire house is asleep. I work in the basement. My wife is asleep right above my head and part of me wants to be there now. Not the part of me that’s not tired, the part with a brain that’s too busy, the part of me that wants to squeeze every minute out of 24 hours I can without completely shirking my obligations to my family and few close friends. The part of me that would rather give up this trade off and live a more predictable life.  

I’m not even working on my own writing tonight. I spend my days working on my poetry and stories, two different blogs, and two different podcasts. But none of that helps pay bills right now, so I salt my time with some freelance work. It’s not exciting work. It’s also not difficult – which is why I use the hours between 11pm and 3 in the morning to do it. Writing about credit card processing or whatever one of my clients needs me to write about doesn’t take that much energy or inspiration. And in this market, it doesn’t even pay that well.  

But we live a simple life. We don’t have cable. We don’t take expensive vacations. We don’t go out to eat much. We garden a little. My daughter and son-in-law live up in our attic and we share some expenses. My wife, who is an artist in her own right (she’s a storyteller and a damn fine one) works a day job. She’s had the same job for 13 years. The longest stretch of regular employment I can boast was when I was teaching. I was an adjunct college instructor. I did that for 10 years, albeit at entirely too many institutions, until the system spit me out.

I used to be a college instructor who also wrote. Now I’m just a writer. I keep myself grounded with poetry and with the knowledge that I’ve probably been out of the work force so long that no one in their right mind would hire me for a regular job. People feed feral cats. They don’t bring them in as pets.  

So I spend a few hours, late into the night and early into the morning, plying my trade at work that is not art. I do this so I can spend my days working at my art–my poetry, my stories. I spend the evening with my family and use the night so I don’t have to waste the daylight writing clickbait and web filler. I do this because it’s work, and because it’s the only way I can write poetry and still be the kind of guy my family still wants to spend time with. I do this because for as long as I’ve been writing, it’s always been about trading time for money so I can steal some hours for poetry.  

I think I’m making progress, though. And in the end, that’s all anyone can ask for.

Mick Parson‘s work has appeared in Rabble Lit, Inscape Art and Literary Journal, The American Mythville Review, The Licking River Review, Antique Children, Dispatch Litareview, and on His work on is going to be included in a permanent archive collection at the Weston Gallery in Cincinnati, OH that represents the best of regional end of the century writing. He recently performed at GonzoFest in Louisville, KY, where he lives with his wife Amanda, his daughter and son-in-law, 3 dogs, and two cats. He sporadically mows his yard.

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