Gabler’s Law

Image: Christian Gonzalez

A lot has changed in the weeks since my last post. When I was offered a place at Stony Brook Southampton, it came without funding. So, I immediately began looking for work and was excited when I was hired by the Office of Student Life at Southampton.

Over the past few weeks, the department I work for has been going through a massive staff change. By the middle of July, I was the last professional staff member standing. I’d only been working for two months, had no formal training, and was suddenly in charge of making sure Southampton didn’t burn to the ground.

I found myself in charge of a staff of five, with another staff of six arriving shortly. The residents in the residence halls were in full panic waiting for fall room assignments to post. I’d previously had two supervisors with whom I shared the duty phone – a professional staff member cell phone that our staff would call in case of emergency. When you are “on duty” and have the duty phone, you cannot be more than fifteen minutes away from campus at any given time, and you must always answer when it rings.

I have been on-duty for 52 days. In those 52 days, I have not read, written, or seen my mother. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do…and I happened to be awesome at it.

Under an enormous amount of pressure, and no relief in sight, I decided to apply for the position directly above mine. What’s more, I was encouraged to do so by my remote-supervisor, whose opinion means a lot to me. Getting the position would be huge for me – more money, health benefits, etc. All I’d have to do is scale back on my classes a bit, and I could make this work. As an adult, this made sense.

Then I had class with Neal Gabler, and everything changed…

Neal Gabler is the writer’s equivalent of the token war vet. “He’s been there, you know. He’s been in the shit.” He speaks from experience, shares his truth, and suffers no fools. Neal Gabler has zero time for your bull shit, so don’t try giving it to him.

“Writing is an addiction.” he said to our class of eight.  “Either you’re addicted or you’re not.”

And in that moment, I realized something – I wasn’t Lauren Sharkey, Student Life Assistant. Lauren Sharkey, Student Life Assistant is my email signature – it’s not me. It’s that fucking simple.

Gabler told us his ethos about writing was simple, and quoted a line from Ride the High Country: I just want to enter my house justified.

That’s what I want. In fact, isn’t that what all writers want? Everything this man said just made so much fucking sense. It made me question everything I’ve been doing (or not doing) up to this point.

“I always want you to come in here and empty your tank. I want you to give this everything you have. Writing is about abuse. This is about will.”

And then he shared with us the first step to becoming a great writer – Gabler’s Law.

Gabler’s Law: First, you just sit there.

 Because sitting there is everything. Sitting there is the promise that you’re going to continue sitting there until there’s nothing left. Sitting there is where greatness begins.

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