Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Making The Time 2.0

By Jay Stringer

Something we've talked about a number of times on DSD is making the time. Dave has talked about making the time to write, the tough-love that if you want to be a writer you have to get down and do it. There have been day-in-the-life diaries on here that show how some of us make that time.

I've talked about something equally important; finding the time to read. It's easy -too easy- to fall into the excuse of, "if only i had the time to read." I seem to get in trouble one way or another when I bring that up, but it is a trap. Find the time. Doesn't have to be a lot of time. Doesn't have to be a major sacrifice.

And it's not just us. This is one of the regular topics among writers and readers. It's probably frequent enough to make it onto Dave's list of writing cliche's, but then it's because it's also true.

As far as I know there isn't a machine yet that can fit more hours into a day. There's still no magic button that stretches things out or freezes everything around us so that we can chill out and read, or stress and write.

If you're anything like me, time is an evil thing. An old work colleague once came up with the phrase 'job creep,' which was his phrase for all the extra jobs that crop up during the working day. You get to work in the morning with a list of about 637 things to do, and by lunch time the list has swelled to 742, even after you'd started clearing it.

Writing can be like that, sometimes. It takes a whole lot of work just to stand still. You might start the morning with a work count of 20k, and then after four hours and much typing you have a word count of 19k. They are better words, it's not time wasted, but to any outsider you would seem to be standing still at best.

I adapt my colleagues old phrase to life creep. You start the week with a million things to do, and the list just keeps getting bigger. Some of them are chores, they are done out of duty. Some are done out of love or respect or friendship, and you don't begrudge them, but you also wouldn't begrudge a little break every now and then.

And on top of the day job, the night job, the washing, the ironing, the cooking, the shopping, the kids, the husband, the wife, the travelling, the stressing and the many buckets of coffee, you also have to fit life. You have to find time to unwind, to watch a movie or read a book. To dress up as a Klingon and re-enact battles that won't happen for several centuries. Then you have to find time to write, and you secretly start to begrudge the people at work who lead "simpler" lives; those who go to work, then go home, and don't spend all their spare time having to cram in all these other things. Their lives aren't simple either, but that doesn't really interfere with that bit of you that wants to hold a grudge against somebody.

And being a writer or a reader, the person you most hold a grudge against is yourself. If you were better as a writer, then you would have more time. If you were better as a reader you wouldn't be needing to make time. If you didn't just flat out suck, then chapter 22 wouldn't sag under the weight of its own disappointment.

And to make matters worse, you get some limey guy preaching at you from a website, busting you to make more time. Screw him, huh?

Making the time has always been pretty straight-forward for me. I like to read books and comics, I need to write, and I like to watch movies and TV shows. Added in to all of this is a full time job that often takes us 6 days a week. I've always taken the -to me- logical step of cutting out the one optional thing from my day. Sleep.

I'd work a full day, then come home and be normal for a while, or go shopping, or get some exercise or be sociable, then I would read for awhile, write as much as I could, watch a few episodes of THE WIRE (or whatever box set I was working through) do a bazillion emails and then slip into bed in time to get two or three hours sleep before doing it all over again.

I've hit a point now where that needs to stop. My body, and more importantly my brain, at 30 has decided that it wants to sleep like a normal person. The people at my day job would rather I turn up in a state approaching alive and my body is a fair way off 'in shape' simply because of the way I stretch myself. I'm also noticing that my writing is starting to suffer for the first time from my brain needing more sleep.

So i'm here to ask a question rather than preach at you. I've told you how I do it. I find a way to stretch the day out for as long as I can. I reckon there's probably a number of you do the same. But for the rest of you, you crazy people who manage to sleep and still make the time, how the hell do you do it?


Patrick Murtha said...

This is kind of an easy one for me, although my "solution" will not be to most people's taste. I stayed single, I avoided "relationships," and I didn't have kids. Voila! Plenty of time. I also had to find a job that has little if any spillover into my personal time, which is not easy these days, when your life is just something for your job to colonize (if you're lucky enough to have a job). Right now I'm teaching ESL at a private academy in Korea, with the goal of teaching at a Korean university after my contract at the academy is up. It's working out well.

Isn't what I just described lonely? people might ask. Well, not for me. I'm not prone to loneliness, or boredom, or homesickness. I'm plenty sociable electronically, and in person when I have friends living nearby. I always have a pet or two, currently a cat and a rabbit who are pure delights. At 52, I aspire to the life of the senior scholar in Sir Walter Scott's novel "The Antiquary," who had assembled a good personal library at low cost and made a "resolution to lose no moment of instruction." I find it a very agreeable lifestyle -- but again, not for everyone.

Dana King said...

No answers here, but I'm now facing your dilemma from a different direction. My job recently changed so I work at home almost all the time, thus saving 2 1/2 hours a day in commuting. Sounds sweet, right? The problem is, I've already found things to fill that time--all worthwhile, and things I didn't have time to do before--but without the hour-plus each day on the subway, my reading time evaporated and I have to find a way to replace it. Here I thought I'd have more time to read and I have less, unless something else worthy gets dumped again.

Ah, for a 25 hour day.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I'm really not a girl who can answer this. I have a toddler at home, I teach and I've been running around like mad touring with my first book. Time to write? What time?

And yet - somehow I find a way to cram in some writing during nap times, late at night or other times when I should be doing a large number of other things. If I don't get pages written, I feel guilty which is worse than being sleep deprived.