Wednesday, February 22, 2006

my thoughts on a romantic and optimistic day

A rare chime in on my part to a discussion on the Women's Poetics List:

I do think that the increased reliance of underpaid, overworked, benefit-less adjuncts at most universities around the country is related to an economic trend that people talked about more in the 90s: "the new economy." Now I feel like it's taken for granted at many businesses and organizations (not just at universities) that a large number of the people who work for them are contractors and not full-time.

I didn't get/haven't gotten an MFA, but from what many folks have said on this list, and from the experiences of my other colleagues, not all of them felt professionally prepared to enter academia or even the professional world outside of academia--this is something many of you have already discussed in detail already. I'm not sure that many BA programs prepare students for the realities of working in the world either. Most forms of employment are often pretty terrible--and no one in universities really talks about it.

I taught at the Corcoran College of Art + Design for two blissful years before I moved to San Diego, and the way the students approached this problem was often very pragmatic. They were all pretty aware of how hostile the professional world is to art, and so they started learning and developing strategies early on to deal with this problem--how do I work and stay healthy (well, sort of healthy) and still make art?

Adjuncting and/or working as an independent contractor as I and many of us now do is a perilous existence. I wish I didn't have to buy my own health insurance, and I wish I could make more money, wish that someone had told me not ever ever to go into dept as an undergrad, etc--but as someone who has worked in various more standard, stable, and better paid jobs, I'd rather have the unstable life of an adjunct and contractor than go back to regular employment. Would I rather have a tenure track job?--yes, but in the meantime, this is my best solution.

For many artists/writers, our goals and main interests are not necessarily tied to our employment (though sometimes they are), and so employment becomes about doing the thing that drives you the least crazy. And I don't mean a job that doesn't drive you crazy--I mean the job that drives you the _least_ crazy.

One of the things that helped me be brave enough to really commit to a life of writing was meeting many of the poets in DC. The majority of these poets don't have tenure track jobs--actually, none of the ones I'm thinking of do. Some are adjuncts, some manage book stores, some work in offices, etc, but they're all still writing and publishing books, and giving readings.

So these are my thoughts on a romantic and optimistic day, or at least until I find another way to do things.

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