Still: Time and Distractions

There was a reason I named my blog ‘Finding Time to Write’.  18 months on, and this is still the greatest challenge for me.

I am ashamed that this should be the case. ‘First World’, ‘middle class problem’ and ‘mountain out of a molehill’ are expressions that come to mind whenever I want to write about this, even in the privacy of my diary. I feel humbled by stories of true courage in the face of adversity, such as Amy Good’s account of writing with aphasia  or a poet’s moving account of writing while caring for her invalid husband. I haven’t quite figured out why I can spend hours genuinely sympathising with friends who struggle to balance career, family and creativity, but am so bitterly unforgiving with myself when I dare to voice the same concerns. With others it’s justified and I take their arguments at face value. With me, it’s petty little excuses.

I chide Ice Queen Me for requiring so much space (both physical and mental) to write.  I try to reason with Ritualistic Me that a notebook, a pen and a corner of a table should be all that is required for my writing happiness.  I quarrel with Harridan Mum that absolute silence is not enforceable, practical or necessary for inspiration. And I do daily grim, wordless battle with Ms. Procrastinator, serving her a steady diet of frogs to swallow first thing every morning, before challenging her to a sword-fight.

Yet the numbers speak for themselves.

August: month of no children, family, work or social obligations.

Second draft of novel completed, 21 blog posts posted, 27 books read, 12 book reviews completed, 12 new poems written, 2 poems edited and submitted to competition.

Children came back 10 days ago.

Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica.

Since then, I have done zero writing or editing on my novel, 0 poems written, 2 blog posts (both cheats: one a poem I had written earlier, the other a simple list of reading), and 1 book review which I had half-written previously.  And I finished one book (which I had started before their arrival).

I’ve started reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks journals and so much of what she says resonates with me:

Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody – away from all of these people I love most in the world – in order to regain a sense of proportion.

It is almost frightening how content I was with the lonely life, how quickly I adapted to a day shaped around my writing, how nothing else seemed to matter. Yet, of course, now, when I clasp those bony knees and scraped elbows, making a bundle of them in my arms, trying to fit them still within my protective embrace… I know that something else does matter.  I don’t know if being a mother has changed me as a writer or improved my writing in any way. I fear not. It’s not just the spectre of time that is haunting me now, but also the Ghost of Courage Past. I seem less willing to venture out on that limb, with no thought of return. I need to find my way back. To them, my beloved millstones. Tell myself that old lie, which sometimes fails to comfort: that there is still plenty of time to progress, learn my craft, write and publish.

So perhaps I could have been a writer without being a mother, but I do know that I could not have been a mother without being a mother. Or without being a writer.

9 thoughts on “Still: Time and Distractions”

  1. Marina Sofia – It isn’t easy to set aside time to w rite. In part it’s a matter of actually writing. In part it’s a matter of convincing both oneself and one’s loved ones that that time is precious and important. It’s all to easy to say, ‘I’ll sit down and write just as soon as I…’ But ‘just as soon’ doesn’t always come.

    1. Thank you for your understanding – you are so right! I just wish I had more brains left over to dedicate to writing after doing all the non-creative or mindless stuff.

  2. Oh God, I so hear you. Although unlike you, I’m not even running a business on top of a family! You are amazing.

    I know you’ve tried early mornings (very early mornings, if I recall) and late nights, but how’s this. Harking back to our work days here… why don’t you allocate 30 mins every day at the same time (lunch time?) for writing. It doesn’t matter how little you may or may not get done in that time, but if you make it a regular thing, I bet you’ll find your brain switching into writing gear ahead of time and you can sit down and hit the ground running in your ‘you time.’ Consider another short-answer project in your queue… Am I making sense?

    Either way, you’ll figure it out. These are constructive creative pains, and they’ll lead you some place. Sending hugs!!

    1. Thank you, my dear! Isn’t it funny how organised and ruthless we can be when it’s ‘paid work’ and how we just seem to melt when it’s ‘a hobby’ (that’s what other people call them by the way, not me). You seem better at the organisation of writing bit, though.

      1. HA! It’s still my hobby too, in some people’s eyes. Enough said. Um… Old habits die hard. I think I’m ruthlessly driven, lol, all these ideas fighting to come out. And I’m thanking my lucky stars that I forced myself to learn touch typing all those years ago. I don’t do it well, but well enough to type as fast as I think with reasonable level of accuracy. That’s proving to make a lot of difference, LOL. (I seem to recall you were an ace typer!!) x

  3. I hear you as well. The way I cope is telling myself that developing my writing skills is a long-term project. I have five years until my youngest is done with homeschooling. Writing is what I want to do with the next phase of my life. Yes, I am now working on developing regular writing habits. But, I also want to make the time count with my boys. It’s only a year and a few months until my oldest is 18. I type that out, and I can hardly believe it. 🙂

    I know you’ll figure it out!!

    1. Goodness, you really don’t have much longer to go with the oldest, then! Yes, we do have to make the time count. I feel so guilty when I have to shush them or ignore them. Then I have to tell myself that it’s probably not going to cause them permanent trauma if I do that occasionally.

      1. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They don’t want to spend every minute with me. lol More discipline for writing, on my part, never hurts, and that’s what I’m working on now. Trying to make sure I spend time writing every weekday and journaling every day. It might not be in the amounts I want, but it’s writing, and I’m developing my craft and touching people in the process which is what I want to do.

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