by David-Matthew Barnes
Spalding MFA Faculty, Playwriting, Screenwriting, Writing for Children & Young Adults
Time. It is the most elusive thing. It is a luxury of which some of us are willing to beg, borrow, and steal for. People wish for more of it, convinced if they had just a few minutes more the results could be life-changing.
It’s true. We are busy people. Our schedules leave us exhausted, delirious, overwhelmed. To survive, we are constantly juggling, balancing, shifting, always dangling just above the edge of a looming deadline.
I lose count of how many times I hear the words, “There’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done.” It pains me most when it’s my voice saying them.
We are a breed of our own: the busy.
To achieve this livable state of sleep deprivation, we make caffeine our favorite food group, existing in a jittery existence of the fear and consequences of nodding off. We are masters of the to-do list, the weekly calendar, the span of 24-hours.
This constant battle against the clock must be universal. Surely, others feel the tremble of the ticking constantly beating beneath every step they take through their mine field of a day. We constantly avert any possible social scenario that can pose a threat to our down-to-the-second agenda, knowing if we stop long enough to smell those ridiculous flowers the less-busy always talk about, we’re doomed.
They say the early bird catches the worm, time waits for no one, time is money, and there’s no time like the present. We are constantly bombarded by the insistence to do more, be more, live more. This is our fuel.
And then there’s writing.
I recently had an online discussion with two fellow writers in which time was our topic, specifically how to find more of it. As creative people with unconventional lives and schedules, we are often time-shamed. Example A: “When you’re done with your little writing thing, do you think you can actually spend time with your friends and family? We miss you.”
To ask someone who is not a writer to understand how we work and why time is everything to us is asking for the impossible. Non-writers can view our desire for writing time as selfish; our writing – and the time we need for it – can inconvenience many people. We are expected to keep a more world-friendly schedule by only tapping into and channeling our creativity during business hours – and never on weekends.
Finding the time to write can become the most challenging aspect of a writer’s life. It certainly is for mine. We can tape as many Do Not Disturb signs on our home office doors we want, but that tiny flicker of guilt still remains each time we sit down at our laptops and the world continues to happen without us, hopefully missing us. It is indeed a high price to pay.
Yet, the results can be life-changing – or, more specifically, career-changing. Many of us dream of one day writing for a living, of reaching a point in which our talent and creativity sustains us. But we cannot get there without time.
The discussion with my writer friends ended with the conclusion that each of us need to be more protective of our schedules, that we collectively have to guard our writing time. We are soldiers, protecting our own very precious turf. Because every second really does count, as much as every word we write.
The struggle against the clock, our own lives, and the demands we must meet can be a difficult one to endure. Yet, in the end, those few moments in which the world around us slips away and nothing else matters but the words on the page – they make the pace worth it. It’s usually then we feel like we won. And, as they say, even the smallest victory counts.