We spend so much of our lives being told what to do. Society and necessity bound our behaviors. They channelize our use of time. When we go to work, even if we’re ostensibly the boss, we have customers or shareholders to worry about. The majority of us not-the-boss-types are beholden to bosses and workplace necessities. Substitute teaching sometimes consists entirely of workplace necessities: other people’s lesson plans, other people’s lack of lesson plans, basic riot prevention, usw.
On the plus side, substitute teaching sometimes comes with half days. The pay’s not as good, but on those days—including today—I can do other things. Today was the first time I’ve had an afternoon-only half day. I spent the morning writing. It was one of those mornings when my characters did interesting things, the words formed pleasing shapes, and I didn’t even need coffee to jumpstart the process. I read what I had written and thought “I feel this. It has legs.” (I might not feel the same way about it tomorrow, but…)
What struck me most, though, was the freedom of writing. I had no lesson plan to follow. I did not have to leave notes for the permanent teacher at the end of the class. Nobody clamored for my attention or tried to hide from my discipline. Nobody handed me a syllabus when I took the job. I did not worry about course evaluations, or whether my research was going to pass peer review. I was just telling a story.
The freedom isn’t boundless. Somewhere along the way, there are readers to consider, and perhaps an editor. The freedom of writing is also the freedom to starve, the freedom to suffer when the words won’t come, the freedom to doubt. But to write, to create is to make something out of nothing, to add something to the world that was not in it when you started. Isn’t that cool?
When we make art, we step outside society and allow only as much necessity as we please. (Culture is a different matter, and I’m not plunging down that rabbit hole today.) We’re still stuck with time, but its grip relaxes when the work is fully flowing. It’s as close to true freedom as we get. That’s a useful thing to remember when society and necessity are wearing us down.