Friday, May 10, 2013

Finding Time

Two weeks ago, I came up with the idea of writing a post on steppe heroines. I may have promised, even, to do such a thing—I can no longer remember. Either way, I have every intention of writing that post soon. Yet here I am, talking about something else.

The issue is not the steppe heroines. I have spent years thinking about them and have plenty to say. No, the problem is finding time to write the post—or, to be more exact, mustering the energy to frame words on this topic close to my heart at the end of a week’s worth of eight-hour days spent editing other people’s prose.

Many books describe the roadblocks that writers put up against finding time for their writing. Some roadblocks are unavoidable consequences of daily life: toddlers have notoriously limited tolerance for closed doors and a parent’s demands that they hush. Spouses, parents, offspring, neighbors, friends, and pets all clamor for attention. Chores must be done, bills paid, bodies exercised, fed, and rested.

Other roadblocks are psychological. Writers wonder whether they have anything to say, whether the book deserves to live, whether critics (agents, editors, their fellow writers) will dine out on stories of the writers’ awfulness. So much simpler not even to put pen to paper, not to risk enduring the shame of others’ scorn.

These are all valid concerns, but they are not mine. I have published two books and am well along on a third. Tomorrow I will get up early to write. Sunday, too. And if I had the energy, I could have written every evening this week. My child is grown, my husband supportive, my pets reasonably well trained. I have finished enough books (not all of them publishable) to know not only that first drafts always reek but that the best way to keep a story moving is to work on it every day, even if I can’t manage more than a paragraph.

Yet I have not done that recently, because by the end of the day, my mind is fried. My eyes roll around in my head like Porky Pig’s, and those cartoons in the New Yorker look like serious literature. On a good day, I rally enough after dinner to read someone else’s prose. On a less-good day, surfing the Web while sneaking glances at the TV (which I normally don’t watch) seems like an achievement.

Not Porky Pig, but Me at the End of a Long Day of Editing
Clipart no. 21707401

Sometimes I think, “If I didn’t have to work, life would be better.” Maybe it would. I’d have more time to write what I really want to write.

Or would I? If I had more free time, would I do less with the time I have? Or would the habits gained from years of squeezing the most out of the time available ensure that a little less brain-frying led to a whole lot more productivity?

I can’t help thinking it might be fun to find out.

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