All week long I’ve been engulfed by interesting and exciting ideas. I’ve frantically jotted down notes between moments, and managed to grab a time-out yesterday to reflect with my diary yesterday over coffee. Yet what I’ve really been itching to do is to write. I didn’t find (or maybe make) time.
I’ve three really exciting papers I want to begin (and hopefully finish) before I take a holiday in a few weeks from now. Sure, I’ve time set aside for research, but when I sit down to write, the words don’t readily emerge. Instead, I find my mind ping into action as I dim the bedside lamp, when my breathing eases into my thrice-weekly run, or when I plunge my head into the torrent of my morning shower. Introductory words to my papers effervesce to my frontal cortex and surface as sentences I want to get down on paper. But alas, I drift off to sleep, delve into my post-run porridge, or dash to catch the next tram.
Today I really feel like writing, but I don’t have time. It’s Saturday. There’s a house to be cleaned and shopping to be done. Maybe I’ll find time before sundown. My dilemma is however compounded by the very fact that it is the weekend. My writing is a part of my job. I’m granted ‘work’ time each year for my research. Why should I be scribing in ‘my’ time? Don’t I need some headspace? Indeed, why am I thinking about work in bed, on a run, and in the shower? This is of course a frustration many of us confront in contemporary life. and I’m not whinging about it. In fact, I embrace it. I’m luck enough to be paid to do something I love; to write.
What I’m concerned with here is the perpetual narrative of life, which limits our time to narrate. Many writers face such ordeals and work out strategies to confront and overcome such temporal limitations. Roald Dahl had his garden shed. And I recall Annie Proulx once describing in interview a cabin in the mid-West she retreats to to write. Such spacial sanctuaries offer us refuge and respite from the goings-on of the World outside.
Routine helps too. In a thought-provoking article noting developments in ethnographic writing, John Van Maanen describes a fictitious daily routine he admits to wanting but not being able to adhere to (as often as he’d like), due to other happenings in his life. Yet it seems to keep him grounded. His desire for a daily routine of eating, writing, reading, writing, running, and reviewing tells me that when he does find a day to write, he darn well does so!
Personally I fight against routine and structure in all areas of my life, but reserving a time and space to write is now reaping rewards for me. For a long time I sought my sanctuary, and now I think I’ve found it. Each Friday I attempt to sit in my purpose-bought lounge chair, bathed in sunlight (hopefully), in the corner of our new lounge room. I pull together all those thoughts and jottings I’ve accumulated while counting sheep, seconds and droplets. I reserve some ideas, discard others, and extract what I need for the day’s writing. Generally it works, but not every Friday. And when I hit a brick wall, I’ve a cafe around the corner I flee to, diary and books in hand, for inspiration.
This Friday though (yesterday) my chair remained empty. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the office. Perhaps this is why I lament now. Perhaps this is why I long to write today. Yet, regardless of the whys and wherefores, I’m in the mood to write. My challenge, should I accept it, is to drink it in before the bubbles die.