Halving, doubling, and Virginia Woolf

When I am asked, "Why did you decide to go back to school?" or "How in the world can you work a full-time job and take two classes at the same time?", I can often provide at least 43 separate answers. That is the blessing and curse of my loquacious gift, which makes essay-writing easy but a succinct answer impossible.

I have a couple of good reasons I toss out about why I prefer taking two classes at a time: I often find points of unexpected connection between the classes, which I wouldn't find were I taking them one at a time; I'm going to be old by the time I get this degree, so let's hurry it up; I find the pressure of the second class provides time/energy constraints that force me to think creatively about my schedule, priorities; and so on.

Those are all nice, quantitative answers. But there's another, bigger reason that also goes to the heart of why I came back to school in the first place. I can't remember where I read it, but it's a quote by Virginia Woolf that goes approximately thusly:

After the age of forty, a novelist must either halve her output or double it.

For whatever reason, that quote and its idea has stuck with me. If you've published or written a lot in your early career, Woolf's advice is to slow the output and create fewer, denser works. But if you've thought more than you've written, then you need to use your remaining time to better advantage.

When I look at my last 25 years or so, I see that my output has been low. Others who look at my life may disagree, but for me, emotionally, I think I could have done more. Probably lots of people feel that way about their own lives.

So, one of my reasons for going back to school was to boost my output and make as much of the time and energy left to me as I can. Yes, I'm racing around like a maniac, I'm frequently overwhelmed, and my task diary is a paper-based super-collider of conflicting tasks, projects, and personal obligations. But--and here's the punchline-- I'm learning, writing, and producing a quantity and variety of material that, in my opinion, dwarfs what I have tried to attempt to do on my own over the last 10 years. And since I have the energy and the stamina now to take it all on, I want to make the most of this time and this opportunity.