Many times, I have vowed to keep a daily writing schedule; many times, I have failed to keep this promise. Each time I return to my journal, I realize that it’s been more than a week, a month, sometimes longer since I wrote my last entry. And yet, I have a story to tell, many stories to tell. What is it that keeps published writers to the grindstone? What is it that sustains their ever productive inspiration and endeavor?
In 2002, after many years of teaching, I decided to enroll at a New York City college to further my education. I had graduated from the University of the Ivory Coast in 1989-1990 and been teaching since then. Once in the United States, these credentials became worthless as I strived to continue my teaching profession; I had to do it all over again if I wanted to join the field of education here in New York. Maybe worthless is a bit of an exaggeration. But I was made to feel as if I had not spent four years studying assiduously at an institution of higher education. Out of the 175 credits that I had received for my bachelor’s degree in the Ivory Coast, only 17 were initially accepted for transfer. I would spend my first few months at the college visiting the admissions office to try to convince the employees in charge that I deserve much more than they had credited. Eventually, I would receive 37 transfer credits! Nothing more.
I was unphased and focused on completing my degree program as fast as I possibly could. I left the main campus, transferring to a satellite campus known as the Center for Worker Education, where courses carried four credits each. Each semester, I would sign up for four courses, a total of 16 credits per semester. The first time I chose my four courses, my advisor started shaking his head. “This is too much work. Are you sure you want four courses? Most people only complete three per semester.” I said, “Yes, four courses if there are no official rules against it.” The grades started coming in, Dean’s List, a series of 4.0’s most semesters! I was on a roll! Just to think that a mere year or two earlier, a two-year college was giving me a hard time, asking me to take noncredit courses before joining mainstream classes because, according to their calculation, I did not have a 2.0 GPA for full admission! How is that possible when I received honors at the University of Ivory Coast? The systems are different, and there has to be a better way to evaluate credentials from certain countries! Anyway, while working toward the completion of my degree, I signed up for an autobiography course in 2003. Although the course was in two parts, theory and practice (the actual writing of the autobiography) spread over two semesters, I took only the first semester. To be honest, I did not like the grade of B+ that I received on the course, so I said, fuck it! and stayed away from the second part of the course.
Now, during my first semester in the course, I had gathered enough material, acquired enough background to start drafting my autobiography. The work progressed rather fast and soon I had some 50 pages! As I write this piece, I have 124 pages completed 10 to 15 years ago. Once in a while, I will open the document, read several passages from the unfinished autobiography, promise to revise and build on it. But each time, days, weeks, months, years go by without the thought ever crossing my mind again. I am convinced that it has taken me so long to complete the piece, not through lack of skill. My English has greatly improved since moving to this country some 23 years ago. As an aside, I completed my bachelor’s degree in three years and went on to get a master’s degree in English Education from the same college. And I subsequently taught English Language Arts at the middle and high school levels before beginning to teach college freshman composition courses. So language skills are not the issue. I read abundantly and in a variety of genres, so I have more than one model to tap into. Yet, here I am with a piece of writing that could have been completed some 15 years ago!
Well, if language skills and writing models are not the issue, then what could be? I know I have been very busy, sometimes working two and a half jobs at a time… reading and providing feedback on student essays, observing teacher candidates in various public schools of the city and providing feedback on their teaching, and quite frankly a host of other things that have taken much of my time, drained me of much of the youthful energy I once had, and sucked out quite a bit of my initial motivation. The inspiration is very much alive, but the extra push that will keep me to the grindstone seems to have vanished over time. I don’t mean to make excuses; after all, we all have super busy lives. Who, in a large cosmopolitan city, doesn’t? But yeah, this is my reality. Still, I have not given up; never will. Maybe a sabbatical can help… but wait, I am not a full professor and a sabbatical is a luxury I can’t afford. Well, other people set time aside for daily writing, usually early in the morning. Okay, but I go to bed after one or two o’clock in the morning. Do you expect me to be up at four or five? I need my rest. Just speculating here and committing my thoughts to this document. But quite honestly, I have to find a way to continue writing more consistently. I have published several shorter pieces and still several projects on which I am currently working. I will finish that autobiographical piece. I am determined to get it done!
If you chance upon this piece and take the time to read it till the end and have any tips, please feel free to leave some here, and thank you!