Write On Wednesday: Expanding Time

In a productive, well-ordered life two elements must be managed: time and work. Poor time managers fail to recognize the difference between the two elements: Work is infinite; time is finite. Therefore, you must manage your time, not your work. Work expands to fill whatever time is allotted to it. …The concept of “finishing your work” is a contradiction in terms so dangerous that it can lead to a nervous breakdown – because it puts the pressure on the wrong places in your mind and habits. Time, on the other hand, is finite, though there’s much more of it available than people who manage it poorly think. The real problem is we don’t have enough disciplined energy to use all the time that’s given us. A Writer’s Time, by Kenneth Atchity

wow_button1-9-1It’s probably the most common complaint heard today, and one I’ve made myself many times on these very pages. There  isn’t enough time to write, play music, quilt, bike ride – whatever your consuming passion happens to be, there’s never enough time to satisfy your appetite for it. Time is definitely finite, and while it can expand in horrific ways when you’re in pain or worried or bored, it can also expand positively to allow you the opportunity to feed your dreams.

Within the past couple of months, I suddenly find myself with more finite time available than I’ve had in years.  I’m working part time from home, I’m not currently involved in an active music group, the moving saga is over and our old house tidily cleaned out and sold. Suddenly, my time has expanded before my eyes.

That’s a good thing, but it’s also a scary thing. Because I know how easy it is to fritter the time away with shopping or social media or dithering over what to have for dinner. Now I’m faced with the task of learning to manage time in a different way – rather than successfully juggling dozens of tasks and responsibilities in a day, I have entire days with nothing on my schedule. (I know, don’t hate me.) And I want to make the most of that.

Writing will be a major component of the way I spend my new expanded time. I am poised to make the step from writer to Writer. I have a serious project underway, I’ve joined a writing group for inspiration, support, and feedback.  Soon I will leave this blogging space behind for a self-hosted page that supports this next step in my writing life.

My “success” in any of this depends on two things – willpower and attitude. Willpower to develop writing habits that work for me at this time in my life and stick to them as much as possible, while retaining enough flexibility to participate in life’s other pleasurable and mandatory activities.

Just as important is adjusting my attitude from one of laser focus on the finished product to one of full participation in the process. I’ve always been a product oriented type of person, trying to get things done as quickly as possible. And I sometimes burn myself out early, lose interest if things take too long.  I’ve realized that this constant pressure  to finish things is adversely affecting my work habits. Kenneth Atchity also writes, “Instead of trying to finish your work, you need merely find time to do your work; then simply concentrate on doing it the best you can. The satisfaction will come from knowing that each day you’ve allotted time for the work you love, the work you want to do.”

Do I want to finish this novel I’ve started to write? Of course. But I also want to savor the process. A novel is so much more than the sum of its words. I want to take the time to think about these characters I’m creating, to immerse myself in the work of other novelists who have written books I admire in similar genres, to research and study the psychological aspects of my subject matter, to surround myself with the soundtrack of music that will be a major component in this story. I want to live in this world I’m making so it becomes reality to me, and, as a result, will be a reality to the people who read the book.

The emphasis must be on the process rather than the product.

One of the perks of being menopausal is the tendency to wake very early in the morning. Instead of lying in bed, tossing and turning, I’m looking at this time of wakefulness as a gift, a sign that there’s something I’m meant to be doing, so I’m getting up and doing it.  I’ve set a manageable goal – 30 minutes of actual writing on the novel each morning, first thing with my coffee when I’m at my most creative, and before the distractions of news or Facebook or dogs can deter me.  Any time during the remainder of the day, usually in the latter part of the mornings and afternoons, is for researching,  reading pertaining to the novel, or other writing (blogging or articles for ATG).

Will every day be easy? Will the words always flow in a direct line from my brain through my pen and onto the page? Certainly not.

But there is time. There really is.

It’s expanding all around me.

How about you? Do you feel as if you have a handle on managing your writing time? Are there places you’ve not explored in your daily life where you could find time to write?

9 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday: Expanding Time

  1. Wee hee! This post fills me with such energy and excitement for you. And, I understand the scary feeling of actually having time. Shawn has taken the kids out of town a couple of times for the weekend so I could work on the book, and the pressure of it freaked me out a little… the desire to make every minute count, the fear that I would squander it. I like how you talked about starting the morning with 30 minutes. Anyone can do that. And so then, it’s not about having blocks of time, but being consistent about it. (That’s my personal takeaway from all of this.) Go, Becca!

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  3. Hi, Becca — this is a dilemma I’m already agonizing about in light of next month’s retirement. I don’t want to be a telly-slug. Yes, I’ll be doing a little part time from home and cleaning the basement, trashing and purging and such — but I still fear that a little. What happens when it is done? I’ll be looking to you for ideas and encouragement and support because you are living it!

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  5. I’m sorry – I started laughing when I got to “Productive, well-ordered life”. But of course my life’s a little unusual, in that my work is utterly dependent on the weather, and just as the weather changes, so must my plans. As for finishing my work being a “contradiction in terms” – if I don’t finish my work, and do it in a timely manner, I dn’t pay the bills, I have unhappy customers and my business suffers.

    On the other hand, I do agree with his last point. When I hear myself grousing about not having enough time for this or that, I remind myself that I have all the time there is. The only question is – what am I going to do with it?

    Actually, giving myself the “deadline” of a weekly post has been a phenomenal discipline for me when it comes to writing. Now and then I go eight days, or nine, but for the most part the weekly rhythm works.

    I’ll say this – getting rid of the television and social media’s been the best thing ever – for me. I know that others really enjoy particular shows, and enjoy the interaction of FB and such, but when I excised all that from my life, things improved greatly.

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