Punching Out the Donuts (Guest Post featuring Of Woods and Words.”

As a college undergrad, I had a tendency to freak out about my chosen major (English) and the career path I’d have to negotiate after graduation. Turns out, my freak outs were totally justified; I graduated in spring 2007, right as the great recession began settling heavily on the world’s shoulders.

To alleviate my growing panic about “the real world,” I’d often call upon my professors during office hours to “talk it out.”  Since they’d all chosen to stay in the (what I consider) insular world of academia with their own English majors, their insight was rather limited. Still,  a couple of them said something to me during those talks about how I could make a living with my writing that I’ve never heard before or after.

“You’ve just got to keep punching out the donuts,” they said.

Maybe I misheard them.

Writing was supposed to be angst-y, inspired, imaginative, fulfilling. It wasn’t supposed to be a repetitive task like punching out donuts.  The whole reason I’d chosen to study English and focus on my writing was because I loved discovering stories, finding new angles, and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me and my interactions with it. In short, I wanted to be a writer because it was the most exciting thing I could think of to do with my life that I was actually qualified for and capable of.  (After brief consideration, I decided to leave Mt. Everest for other braver souls to summit.)

Now, four years out of college and still working away at making my living as a freelance writer, I’m starting to get what they were trying to say about those donuts. I think they were saying (metaphorically of course . . . they were English professors) that writing is a job.  A really freakin’ awesome job if you ask me, but a job all the same.  One you’ve got to stick with, through the good, the bad, and the nonexistent feedback, to succeed at . On Twitter the other day, I spotted a tweet that summed up the donut philosophy perfectly: “Note to my 15-year-old self: don’t become a writer. It can get boring sometimes.”

There are many mornings when I rise early to get my required writing done before heading off to the 40h/w job.  There are plenty of mornings when I’d rather catch a few more winks of sleep or spend that precious alone time at the desk sipping my black tea while reading through other bloggers’ recent posts.  But my words must come out. Articles, commentaries, and blog posts all have to get written. There are deadlines and payment involved, not to mention, important “platform building” for if I ever (oh please, please, please) get a book contract.

“Dogged” and “panic-stricken” often describe my writing lifestyle better than “exciting” or “glamorous.”

I’m totally punching out donuts these days. And those donuts aren’t always especially inspired, imaginative, or fulfilling. But you know what? Sometimes they’re down right delicious.

Ada blogs at Of Woods and Words about writing and rural living.

Don’t fear: Ms. Narragansett No. 7 herself will return TOMORROW!


  1. Been there, done that! As a fellow c/o 2007 English (Creative Writing) major, I’m not really “punching out the donuts” as I thought I would be, but I’m thankful every day that I not only have a job where I can write, but that I also have amazing friends found through the blogs I’ve kept over the years. Keeps the chops up, and the connections strong!

    Love this guest post. 🙂

  2. YES! exactly!!! perfect, perfect, perfect!!!! 🙂

  3. TexaGermaNadian says:

    LOVE THIS! And love the saying, it can really apply to soo much. Good for you punching out those donuts!

  4. This post was extremely timely for me, Ada. I was actually not brave enough to get an English degree though I have loved to write since I was old enough to put a pencil to paper. I got a chemistry degree and now work 40 hours a week as a scientist, but I get up every morning to punch out my own donuts before my ‘real’ job.

    “Writing was supposed to be angst-y, inspired, imaginative, fulfilling. It wasn’t supposed to be a repetitive task like punching out donuts.”

    That’s what I thought too. Then I realized that you have to make dozens of donuts before you can get someone to buy a box. I also learned that the more you do it the better you are at it.

  5. This is so true of EVERY vocation, whether it’s your job or your marriage or being a parent. Some moments are glorious and some are heart-wrenching and many are not particularly noteworthy at all. The question becomes: do I want this badly enough to keep punching out these donuts?

  6. I definitely think there are days where it feels inspiring to choose a career you love, and days where its scary as hell. I haven’t quite given up my day job (in fact I’m a long way off) to write like I want to, but maybe some day!

  7. Ada you could not have written a more perfectly apropos post (aproPOST? Eh? Hahaa… oh.) for me. I just had a conversation with my mom about this very thing the other day… however, it was more of a one-sided musing during which she just nodded and generally agreed. 😉

    You, my dear, recognized something I’ve wanted to recognize and have been too blinded to see ALL ALONG. For that, I will be eternally grateful to you! Seriously girly you have NO idea. I am saving this one in my pristine, very minimal POSTS to REMEMBER folder. I love it with a passion, you changed my point of view!!!!!!! (Hard to do, usually.) Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  8. Great post, Ada! And one I can relate to so well. Sometimes writing a weekly column for a local newspaper becomes boring, tedious…NOT AT ALL what I imagined when I got my own English degree. But even then, I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. My “day job” is what I want to escape from. I want to escape into a career as a writer…even with all its struggles and flaws.

  9. Love the doughnut metaphor! I’m not a professional writer but even as an enjoyable hobby it can get monotonous at times. lol Great post!

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