Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite. This…is wrong tool.
I have many, many projects that capture my interest. Writing is foremost among them, but so too are home improvement projects, costuming, digital art, web development, programming, learning to play the guitar, and so on. I often lament that I simply don’t have enough time to do all of that and my job and spend time with my wife and spend time with friends.
But that’s really a load of crap, isn’t it?
The truth is, as it is for most people that make that lament, that I’m terrible at managing my time. I don’t properly prioritize the things that I should (*cough*writing*cough*) and spend an absurd amount of time just idling. “Pacing,” Cody calls it, after my penchant for walking all over the house while I’m on the phone. A sudden need to tend to numerous tiny but ultimately inconsequential tasks. I’ll spend an hour perusing Google Reader or Facebook or Twitter, but that hour would have been better spent pursuing one of my projects.
It’s a form of procrastination, I suppose. Maybe a form of laziness. In either case, it’s something about myself that I sincerely dislike. Only one other time in my life did I identify a character trait that I truly, sincerely disliked. I spent years trying to excise it. I think I was mostly successful. I now find myself wondering if this is my next great personal battle.
In some ways, I suppose it’s about growing up and taking on the responsibility that is necessary to accomplish things once you no longer have the net of flexibility that comes with childhood and adolescence. It sounds so lame, but when we’re younger we just don’t realize how much flexible time we have. That realization only hits when we get older and our responsibilities and obligations mount to the point that our endless horizon of slack time narrows down to the comparatively tiny sliver that remains.
The solution seems simple, on its face. I need to be more regimented about how I spend my time. That carries with it an element of fear: at what cost? If I feel like I’ve scheduled every waking moment, will that turn everything I do into an obligation? A chore? Will that sap all of the joy out of whatever endeavor I’m pursuing? My personal history suggests that it might.
When it comes to writing, specifically, I find myself looking at my authorial idols1 and finding a uniform thread throughout: write, period. “Not in the mood?!” Gurney Halleck said, reacting to Paul Atreides objecting to being asked to engage in shield combat practice for the second time that day. “Mood’s a thing for cattle and loveplay, not for fighting!” Replace fighting with writing and that’s a consistent message that comes through from professional authors. I am in a comparatively luxurious position when it comes to writing: I’m not writing to pay the bills. I’m writing because I want to tell my stories. Were I writing to pay the bills, I couldn’t afford to laze about until the “muse strikes.” There’d be a mortgage dependent on me putting nose to grindstone.
I created a desktop image for myself a few months back. “Have you written today? If not, go knock out 2,000 words. It’s not that hard. Do it. If you already wrote, then congratulations! You’re a winner!” It hasn’t helped, other than to make me feel guilty every time I look at it. I usually look through it, so as to avoid seeing it. What is the psychological factor at play that causes this sort of willful avoidance?
I enjoy writing. I enjoy telling stories. When I actually start putting words on a page, I enjoy the process. It’s not as though the actual act of writing is in some way difficult or unpleasant. What is this placid, sedentary inertia that causes me to turn toward diversion rather than doing the things I really and truly want to do? For goodness sake, it’s stupid! I pride myself on avoiding personal stupidity where possible, and yet here I am engaging in it every damn day.
This is all a long-winded, overly expository way of telling myself to get over it and start excising this negative character trait. I’ve wallowed in it long enough and it’s time to grow up.
- King, Scalzi, and Butcher — what an eclectic bunch they make. [↩]