Good and Bad News About Time…

Originally Posted: November 24, 2010

Mood: resigned

A few weeks ago, in preparation for speaking on a panel about time management, I chatted up my writing buddies, and discovered some good and bad news about this time issue… The bad news, my friends, is that you’ll probably never have more time than you do now.  During my informal interviews, I found that pretty much everyone is overscheduled, regardless of numbers of offspring, levels of employment or income…  (well, with the exception of two 80-year-old retirees). There seems to be an osmotic pressure ruling our hours: got a free space in your week? Something will inevitably flow in to fill it up.

The good news, though, is that needing reams of time to write is actually a myth.  I know this, because in 1999, I won a $12,500 Massachusetts Cultural Council grant.  I was a part-time working mom, writing grants 15 hours a week, for $15 an hour, and the grant would allow me a long-coveted 6-month leave—time enough, I figured, to finally dust off my poor, neglected manuscript and complete it.

Somehow, the pressure to perform put me off my game.  Terrified of failing, I ran lots of errands during my fifteen hours, sorted through stacks of baby clothes…  In my defense, I didwrite a chapter or two.  I think I finally sent out birth announcements, too, though my daughter was nearly two and everyone was quite aware of her existence.  Long story short, having extra time didn’t solve my writing dilemma! I’m a big supporter of grant money for the arts, but I bet I’m not the first writer to unwittingly waste hers.  I just wasn’t ready to buckle down.

When I turned 40 and realized I no longer had unlimited swaths of time before me, I got determined—or maybe desperate.  I now had two kids and was teaching and running a literary arts studio—my time more taxed than ever!  But I knew if I didn’t finish a book soon, I’d have to admit that writing was a pipedream, like learning to speak fluent Chinese or reading the complete works of Hegel.

Julia Cameron, in her book The Right to Write, says, “The trick to finding writing time is to make time in the life you’ve already got.  Stop imagining some other life as a ‘real’ writer’s life.”  Once we learn to write from the sheer love of it, she says, there’s always enough time, but it must sometimes be stolen, like a kiss between lovers on the run… While finishing Outside the Ordinary World, I finally found the will to rise at 5 am, four days a week, though I’m allergic to mornings…  I also learned to utilize that “waiting mother” time—during flute lessons, dentist’s appointment, soccer games—perhaps the most abundant untapped resource moms have access to.  (I once completed a chapter during a 40-minute dance practice).

And when these stolen moments didn’t add up to a publishable book, I swiped weekends: every six weeks I’d spirit off to a writer’s retreat in Ashfield and shut myself in for 3 days straight—I was that hungry for silence and solitude.  Did I feel guilty leaving my family?  Yes.  So I channeled the angst into my novel; I created a fictional affair.  I figured that was a much better deal for my husband, anyways…

Speaking of affairs, Cameron also likes to point out that the busiest, most important woman in the world can still find time for someone she’s in love with.  True? If something is important enough, we do somehow find a way.

Posted by: Dori

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