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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter


Last year at this time I left my position at the university where I had been for over a decade. I loved my work (equity issues in education) but my job had extended and extended until it became easier to work then not to work. Easier to respond to emails before bed, revise articles on the weekend and shorten vacations to avoid the backlog. Even more energy consuming than doing the job was thinking about it, concerns slipped into my dreams and invaded my conversations, no matter where I was.  It became apparent that if I was to realize any of my other dreams and goals outside the field of education I would have to leave the university.

I have, I did and I am. Though the life I pictured sitting at the desk in my old office does not necessarily feel filled with the ease I thought would be mine. The first 6 months of this new life were so full of relief that it did feel like I was driving in the zone. I was no longer supervising a staff, managing multiple grants, making meeting after meeting – I was working from home, directing a small nonprofit and could create time for reading, walking and writing, prose and poetry. But today I feel like I am bumping along this newly constructed road trying to find the right speed, the best way to bank the curves and find the joy in the ride itself.

Old frameworks let me think I could measure my progress with goals, objectives, benchmarks. That works for the foundation but it does not work for assessing a writing life.  Yes, ultimately there is a finished piece (with benchmarks of progress along the way), but before that there is the construction of a writing life. Days made up of reading and research, rough drafts and revising, tracking submissions and counting rejections, celebrating the occasional publication, giving readings.  

However, the aspect that is most difficult to define, yet absolutely essential is space- the creation of space that opens the doors and windows to dream memory and access to the caverns where the imagination waits to be stirred and mixed into words –and measuring space without dimension – well that is not so easily done.

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