Saturday, March 2, 2019

Tom Snarsky : My Writing Day

I teach high school mathematics at an urban public high school in Massachusetts, USA. Taken together with the fact that I’m engaged to be married, my writing day is usually something of a stolen one, consisting of snippets of little moments I’ve snatched away from other, more important tasks, like sending that follow up email or grading papers. That said, here’s how a typical day of writing might be borrowed from a typical day:

5:00 AM to 5:30 AM: waking up and getting out of bed. 5:30 is the absolute latest I should be up, and on good days I’m up and getting ready at the start of this interval, but some days the snooze button is too delicious to ignore.

5:30 AM to 6:30 AM: getting ready and getting to school. When I started teaching I had a 45+ minute commute but now it’s much less than that, so I can bite into this time a little by checking Twitter or reading over drafts from the night before or something. (I’m immensely grateful to Twitter, by the way, not just because it’s the easiest way ever to discover new poets and poems but also because it’s where I met my fiancée Kristi!). For example, this morning I read over a short poem I drafted just before bed last night to make sure wakeful eyes still saw value in it, then I checked on a collaborative doc I have going with my friend Ray McKenzie to see if there had been further edits or if there was anything I needed to change. Somehow throughout this process I’m getting dressed etc., then it’s off to work.

6:30 AM to 7:45 AM: getting ready for the day of teaching, a.k.a. Pedagogical Puttering. I’m writing this at 7:05 as I’m standing next to the copy machine, making sure all the materials for today (and this week, if I’m really on top of things) are ready to go. If I’m not drowning in things to do during this time I might be able to read over that poem from last night one more time, but I’m a little behind so I don’t think that will be possible today. Sometimes time can’t afford to be stolen.

7:45 AM to 2:15 PM: teaching. I teach five classes and my school has a rotating schedule, so every day looks a little bit different. Some days I teach all five classes, other days I teach four and have some additional time to plan/grade/etc., and sometimes we have meetings and other stuff that fills in the space of the day. Although of course I don’t teach all the way through from the beginning of this interval to the end of it, during this time I’m always working with students or meeting with colleagues or preparing to do one or both of those things, so virtually none of this time is borrowable for writing purposes. I have been known, though, to retweet a poem or two over lunch.

2:15 PM to 3:30 PM: after school activities. On Fridays this is usually idle time, but every other day of the week there are A) students in my room seeking extra help, B) after-school clubs in my room having meetings, or C) both of the above. This year I am the advisor for Math Team/Club (Tuesdays and Thursdays), Philosophy Club (Wednesdays), and the Malden High School Literary Society (Mondays). If I’m being honest this is one of my favorite parts of any working weekday — either I’m decompressing and processing a day of teaching, or I’m getting to sit in on a great group of students doing math, philosophizing, or thinking about literature. It’s a joy!

3:30 PM to 5:00 PM: getting to and going to the gym. I suck at this. I haven’t found a way to enjoy it (except for the company!), although poems do come from time to time on the cardio-heavy days.

5:00 PM to 12:00 AM: getting home, making coffee, doing chores, hanging out with the person and cats I love, procrastinating grading, planning, eventually grading, procrastinating putting away laundry, adding to a long poem I’ve been working on for a couple of years called Centurion, eventually putting away laundry (well, most of it), checking on/adding some Google Docs that have some collaborative projects in them, making more coffee, noodling away at a book review, eating food, thinking about a line of poetry that’s been stuck in my head awhile, doing dishes, maybe trying to write something that breathes the same air as that line, getting sleepy, taking pictures of poems and posting them on Twitter, seeing the moon out the window and its little unstable reflection in the water, liking all the poems I see on Twitter, falling asleep with two cats and a person close by, forgetting my dreams.

Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts, USA. He is the author of Threshold, a chapbook of poems available from Another New Calligraphy. He lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts with his fiancée Kristi and their two cats, Niles and Daphne.

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