Friday, November 18, 2005

Part-time Jobs

I've only actually applied and interviewed for one job in my life (and while they had already decided on someone else for the position, after my interview they decided to hire me instead -- I confess to feeling a little guilty about that). Every other job I've had has just sort of fallen my way as I was either in the right place at the right time, or someone had heard about me and actively came looking for me.

It seems it's happened again.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I teach two astronomy night classes at one of the community colleges here in Phoenix. One of their other astronomy instructors has accepted a job somewhere else, so the department asked me if I'd be willing to take over her class (there are only four weeks of class left). The lecture class meets Friday mornings and the lab meets early Friday afternoons, so my newly-flexible schedule makes it pretty easy for me to teach it. So now next semester they want me to teach that slot again, which is fine with me. They also found out that my undergraduate degree is in engineering physics, and I worked in orbital mechanics at NASA, so they've asked to teach a mechanics class (a branch of physics) on Monday and Wednesday nights next semester.

Once again, I seem to have fallen into a job (though not a full-time job, thank goodness) without really trying.

This leads me to the fundamental dichotomy between writing and eating. If you want to be a professional freelance writer (as opposed to the salaried writing I was doing at NASA), the odds of you being able to feed yourself, at least for the first five or ten years, are pretty small. That's why everyone cautions you not to quit your day job until you have a lot of royalties coming in. My family doesn't really need the money, although it's nice, of course. I mostly agreed to take the classes simply because I love teaching, and I've missed it over the past few years. The nice thing about this particular job is that it only ties up one working day a week (I don't usually write much in the evenings anyway -- that's not when I most creative). There's still papers to be graded, but again, I do that in the evening when it doesn't interfere with my writing time. Overall, this is a pretty good fit for someone just starting a writing career.

I can't help feeling a little guilty, though, as if I've betrayed the mission by doing something other than writing one day a week. Objectively, I know that the benefits (emotional as well as financial) far outweigh the drawbacks, so I'm sure I'll come to terms with that. There's just something about saying, "Yeah, I don't do anything but write all day" that's good for the soul. :) On the other hand, I really do love teaching, especially physics (and most especially mechanics -- there's a reason I love orbital mechanics so much). I guess the real litmus test is this: Suppose I wrote the next Harry Potter and it nets me a bazillion bucks. Would I still teach these classes? I can honestly say that I would, so in that sense, I think it's all good.

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