Sunday, March 14, 2010

There’s a Time for Us

Ah, those timeless, fabulous, Stephen Sondheim lyrics. You all know the song, what the Dire Straits referred to as “the Movie Song.” The reason why the West Side Story song “Somewhere” is such a powerful piece of music is because we all know the story of Romeo and Juliet; we all know that Maria and Tony will never find that place, that time. There is no time for “us.”

The same could be said, if you really want to be realistic with yourself, of writing. We all probably have at one point in time entertained fantasies of landing a five book deal that ensures us six figures a year, plus obscene royalties since naturally our books will each land on the bestseller list. Right. But even as we all have allowed, at times, our minds to wander to these totally unrealistic dreams, we all (I hope) are well aware that such dreams will never come true. There will never come a day when we will make a cushy income off of writing and writing alone, when we wake up each morning with nothing else on the schedule but to write. There is not, as it were, a time for us.

What this means is that when we look at our busy lives, when we quantify our busy schedules and try to calculate out how much time we could reasonably spend writing, when we do all this and we see that the answer is very little, the solution to the problem is not to look forward to some indeterminate future in which we will have the time. You’ll write tomorrow, or when things slow down at work, or when your kids start school. You’ll write when you have time.

The truth is that you will never have time. What you’re really doing when you tell yourself you will write “someday” is lulling yourself into a sense of false security. Justifying the fact that you’re not willing to work it out. Denying the fact that you are not a writer, at least, you are not behaving like one right now.

Once you accept that there will never be time, you’re left with only two real options. You can give up and decide that you’re just not going to make it as a writer, or you can realize that most successful writers don’t really have time to write, yet they’ve all found a way to make it work; why can’t you?

I’ve been telling myself for the past few months that one day I’ll land a full time job as a college English instructor – hopefully even as a Creative Writing instructor – and when that day comes I’ll have summers and winters off and plenty of time to write. Oh, it gets me through the bad days, this is true, but there are a couple of problems with this line of thought.

For one thing, in order to really be competitive for such a job I first need to get a book or two published, and in order to do that I need to keep writing as much as I can. I can’t tell myself that it’s okay if I can’t find the time to write right now; if I don’t find the time now then that dream job will always remain out of reach. And then of course there’s the fact that even though I might tell myself now that if/when I get a full time instructor job, time to write will naturally follow, the truth is that I will probably always have other things I could and should be doing with my time. There will always be reasons not to write.

So step one: Accept that there will never be time. Step two: Figure out a way to make the time, already! I’ve been getting up a half hour early every day this month so that I can write a little bit before work. A half hour isn’t enough to get a lot of quality work done, but it’s enough to get me pumped about whatever project I’m working on, and then I’m more likely to figure out a way to squeeze time out later in the day, or to get up even earlier the next day to have more time. (It’s also, by the way, a nice antidepressant. I feel much happier when I’m writing every day, and it really sets the tone for the day if I get some writing done first thing.)

So no, there is no time for us, Tony and Maria, not unless we make the time, but we have to make it right now. Today. This minute. Now.

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