"Iíd love to write every day, but I just donít have the time!" Sound
familiar? We know the joy that writing brings, the expansive happiness of
considering, reflecting, discovering in words. Like exercise, writing can
be (and, depending on your point of view, should be) its own reward. The
writer, like the runner, the walker, the dancer, the swimmer, is rewarded by
the process, by doing. Time falls away, worry crystallizes into
understanding, and you leave feeling healed, cleansed, renewed, energized.
Like exercise too, writing becomes even more fulfilling if itís done every
day. The mind, like the muscles, craves activity. It wants daily use. And
like the muscles, the mind rewards regularity by growing suppler, stronger,
sharper, swifter. You begin to look forward to the ritual of activity. You
save up things to write about and find your thoughts clearer and more
insightful each day than the last.
And yet we put off writing. When we schedule our week and spend the hours,
the minutes, of each day in it, we never seem to have time left over to
write. In our prioritized list of to-dos, writing gets bumped farther and
farther down, eventually falling off completely and put off for another day,
and then another, and another, until it seems like forever since the last
time we stole a moment alone with our journal. We have great excuses,
usually. If youíre anything like me, you make time for obligations to other
people (family, friends, community, coworkers) putting off indefinitely those solo activities like writing and exercise that, ostensibly at least, help no one but yourself. Women, especially, I think, are reluctant to be "selfish"with their time and energy, investing all of it in the care of others and neglecting their own spirit, mind, and body.
What are the consequences of this continual self-neglect? In the case of
exercise, the long-term consequences can be serious health concerns. Even in
the short term, a sedentary body moves more slowly, tires more easily, and
has trouble fending off illness. Canít the same be said of the sedentary
spirit? Doesnít your heart feel heavier, more sluggish and ill at ease when
you donít write? I know mine does. We must make time to write, but we never
seem to have the time.
Actually, when it comes right down to it, you do have time. Time is, in one
sense, incredibly democratic: Everybody starts out the day with 24 hours.
Sure, some people live longer than others, and sure, rich folks can
essentially "buy time" by paying other people to do what most of us have to
do for ourselves. But with the exception of people who are severely disabled, we all get 24 hours, and we all get to choose what to do with it. Yes, choose.
Even so-called obligations are, at bottom, self-inflicted. Truth is, you
could refuse to make dinner, stop changing your carís oil, quit your job, or
walk out on your spouse and kids. The reason you donít is that youíve made
choices about your lifeís priorities, choices that are based on your values:
You love your job because youíre good at it; you need your car to run so you
can get to work; you adore your spouse and kids; and, frankly, youíd rather
eat a dinner you made yourself than trust the cooking to anyone else in the
house. Youíve chosen to spend your time on these things because theyíre
important to you. You donít have to; you want to. And once you decide (I
mean, really decide) that writing is important too, youíll find time for it.
Start by figuring out which things you do are less important than writing.
Sleeping, for example. Many writers get up to write in the dark hours before
work or write in the dark hours after bedtime, and if you can do that, more
power to you. For me, sleep is right up there with food and oxygen, so Iíve
had to let go of other things to make time for writing. Television, for
instance. Arguing. Not worth the time. Shopping. My yard looks like a war
zone. I've learned to say no to friends. One year I gave up smoking, and
found all sorts of extra time - ten minutes for every cigarette I used to go
outside to smoke. Iíve also taken inspiration from writers throughout history who wrote in fifteen-minute scraps at a time: while the baby napped, on the subway, on their lunch break. Other people get inventive with "multitasking". I know one writer who keeps a tape recorder in her car and "talks" her journal during rush hour. Another writes on the toilet.
Itís not so important at first where you find the time to write but that you
find it. Once you start writing every day, for even just ten minutes, the
process comes to life, gathers steam, churns with its own momentum. The
ritual of doing takes over, propelling you forward on its own power, making
it easier and easier for you to find the time you had all along.
Jennifer Scott is a poet and freelance writer who lives and teaches
writing in the Seattle area.
Her poems have been published in Poetry, Poetry
Daily, Point No Point, Switched-On Gutenberg
Bellowing Ark, Pegasus, Lonely Pilgrim
and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts 1999 eChapbook
Her poems have also been printed on broadsides for Frog/No Frog and the Saltonstall Foundation.
Articles and interviews have been appeared in The Duelist, Duelist Online,
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