The mind is always elsewhere, won’t stay put.
Whose merciful hands, then,
Could bind us to our longing?
—Katy Didden, “The Penitentes’ Morada”
In my early twenties I used to daydream of the perfect job to complement writing. The criteria were these:
It had to be part-time; I wanted hours leftover to write at my desk.
It need not be high-paying; I was a budgeter, lived simply.
And then this: It should require the use of my body—offer some light physical labor to complement the labors of the mind. Potter’s assistant, garden nursery worker, sign-maker. I imagined spending several hours in pleasant, undemanding tedium, savoring the useful work of my hands. Then I would go home, shower, and pour stories onto the page, as if from a bottomless pot of coffee that had been percolating while I worked.
When I think back on this daydreamed job, it’s not my own romantic notions that I rue, but my failure to try them. Instead I took the good jobs that came along: fulltime or nearly so, my hands not tending saplings or wedging clay but tapping keyboards.