Creative Writing Rant: On Stealing (Rather Than Managing) Time as a Writer

Time, time, time

See what’s become of me

As I look around for my possibilities.

I was so hard to please.

But look around,

The leaves are brown,

And the sky

Is a hazy shade of winter

-Paul Simon

(Song lyrics almost always suck when taken out of the context of music!)

In winter, I yearn for New Orleans, where, a dear friend told me in the dead of winter, the mercury sank all the way down in the lower fifties yesterday! “Poor baby,” was all I could mumble in response. When I told her that I’d gotten stuck twice, that I’d had to dig my car out yesterday not once but twice, she paused, then said, “Did it fall into a hole…twice?”

It took me a few seconds to realize that she wasn’t joking. “Out of the snow, Shelley,” I finally informed her, and she, a New Orleanian to the bone, said only, “Oh, yeah. That.” Then she informed me she’ll not be visiting me here in exotic Kalamazoo until “all of that” is finished.

But the great thing about bad weather is that it represents an opportunity to stay home and write. And I have to say that for most of my life that’s how I’ve regarded any Midwestern winter-weather events, actually any disruptions in the usual flow of life; at such times I’ve felt myself part of a conspiracy with the weather to make stories, poems, and essays!

…as though the weather, the world, the universe give a tinker’s damn about my compulsions, particularly those issuing from my quaint literary ambitions.

Friends, the fact of the matter is that life conspires against every writer’s ambitions, every writer’s deepest sense of purpose. When I was young, I was a blatant thief. That is, I stole time from the university where I matriculated, and I stole time from every crummy job I ever assumed. I stole time, too, from my family and friends and lovers. That is, I stole rather than managed my time, and the difference between stealing and managing time, I suppose, is primarily a matter of attitude.

Whether it is in your nature to steal or manage time, and to some extent the difference is usually a matter of what phase of life you presently occupy, time is rarely, as it once was for Mick Jagger, on your side. That is, if you’re not a trust-fund baby or a lottery jackpot winner, you’ll rarely experience unencumbered, wholly free time.

My belabored point is that your efforts as writers should be, even if often disrupted, constant. You should condition yourself to remain engaged in whatever project you’ve conceived such that even when you’re compelled by circumstances to focus on matters practical or impractical but fully other than working on your project, your dream box can do its mysterious job, a job it can only properly perform if you are indeed fully engaged, consumed by that project!

Consider this more of a pep talk than a rant!