Having time versus making time

Quotation on love

Wrote in my morning pages today, which turned into this heartfelt entry on my LiveJournal. I had lunch and a brief thrift-shopping date with Jinny, then came home and spent the rest of my afternoon writing 15 emails of varying overdue-ness (most extreme: replies to emails 2 months old). And that was pretty much my day.

Back when I was in school or working part-time at the adult literacy center, I used to think longingly of a day when I might not have other commitments, when I might be free to make art and pursue my own projects full-time. Now, thanks to what Erik generously calls the Erik K Lee Artist Grant, I have that luxury every single day… and it’s still hard to find time (luckily, the grant is unconditional πŸ˜‰ ). Life takes time; I guess it’s perfectly accurate to say life is time, since every minute that ticks by is what our lives are made of. I could spend that life doing nothing more than maintaining our home and garden, or trying to eat healthy and stay fit, or keeping in touch with friends and family, or immersing myself in books and films and concerts. I could dedicate it to raising children, to rescuing abandoned and mistreated animals, to giving back to the community. Instead, I have to find ways to meld all these things (well, not the kids yet) and still make time for my art. The truth is, what we give our time to depends on what we most value.

“Some writers say they cannot write in front of a window; many say they cannot function without almost perfect quiet. A writer with only two hours a day can write in the back of an open truck on the Interstate.”

– Gene Wolfe

In art as in relationships, we have to make time for what’s really important to us. It distresses me that although I write in my journals (private and online) for about two hours almost every day, outside of the journals I can’t seem to commit to a regular writing practice. What does that say about me as a writer? And what does it indicate that, even though I consider myself a more experienced and fluent writer than visual artist, I can commit much more easily to daily drawings? At VONA people said that the work that’s really important to us will haunt us until we get it done. My past couple of years of full-time creative work have taught me a lot about time management and setting boundaries, but prioritizing is still difficult. What does it mean if the only work that’s burning a fire in my brain is writing about myself?

At any rate, I did learn something lovely and valuable today. After tiring myself out at the computer writing those 15 emails, I went to the piano for the first time in months, uncovered the keys, found some Schubert impromptus and began to play. I’ve often lamented that piano is the only thing I’m really decently trained at, having played daily from age 4 and through some of college — lamented, because I was never good enough to be professional, and even if I were, tendinitis stopped me. But I found out today that this training serves my writing very well. While I picked my way awkwardly through Impromptu No. 1, my fingers were familiar enough with the motions that I could let my mind wander a bit… and it went to some interesting places, prompted by the music, the long-dormant sensation of performing and practicing the instrument, and the writing I’d been doing all day long. I don’t think my wrists will stand for this on a daily basis, but it’s good to know that playing the piano badly does something very untangling to my brain. It’s probably right-brain activity. It was like being awake and dreaming at the same time, being able to take strands of thought and weave them effortlessly into new connections. After I finished the impromptu my wrists were stiff and sore, but I went immediately to the computer and wrote down my thoughts from the session. Still not “real” writing on the pieces I’m supposed to be working on, but I’ve learned a wonderful new tool and plan to keep on using it!

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