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Questions of Time

I think everyone faces this at some point or another, at least everyone who has some creative pursuit. Where can I find the time to do what it is that I love? I'm lucky, in that writing doesn't require a lot in terms of "extra" time. I don't need to buy materials (other than needing to replace my computer every so often). It can be done in the comfort of my own home, rather than requiring me to go to a studio or other external location. I am not forced to rely on others, because it is a solitary activity until I choose to share it. And still, I find myself struggling to find time to let the creative juices flow.

Of course, I find little windows of time, little moments here and there, sort of the way that we all find change underneath the sofa cushions. (I wouldn't be writing this now if I hadn't found such a nickel of time in my schedule.) But when we find the change in the sofa, while we might appreciate not not having to scrounge the house for bus fare or laundry money, we don't labour under the illusion that this somehow represents a fortune, the mother load. It's much the same with finding little bits of time. Sure, it's nice to take a mental breather and get those creative juices flowing, but don't kid yourself, you still need to find solid blocks of time where you can sit in front of your computer (or over your page, if you're old school) and work. Because, as with money, getting a little isn't really much more than a tease. It makes you think how much easier things would be if you were able to get more.

I feel guilty even writing this. After all, part of the reason that I don't have time is that I have a great life. I have a healthy relationship and good friends, I have wonderful, loving animal companions, I live in a city that I love and I certainly don't want for any material comforts. Each of these things takes up a certain amount of time- relationships of various sorts, caring for my family of cats, taking time to enjoy the city and working to ensure that I can continue to be able to support myself in the manner to which I have become accustomed. I don't have an argument with that. At different times I've had to do without all these things and it makes me realise that it's important to keep a balance between all of them. But I struggle to find ways to fit writing, possibly the key thing that defines me, into the mix.

Perhaps it's because it's just so easy to put off. That would imply a lack of discipline, something from which I try to overcome. There are lots of things that require my attention aside from what I've already mentioned- things like keeping the house in order, paying bills, cooking/ eating, etc. And of course, there are times when I just want to collapse and scan through the internet for things that are entertaining or sit in front of a screen and absorb something appropriately mindless and fun. Being tired has to be one of the major enemies of creativity. It,s hard to get worked up about a project when your eyelids feel like very powerful magnets, difficult to pry apart.

Another major factor, though, is because of what writing is to me: It's an activity I do by myself that gives me pleasure. It seems like those are always the things that we're supposed to put off, the kind of things that we're supposed to feel just a little bit guilty about. Even doing things that are fun are acceptable as long as they're done with other people. After all, we're supposed to be social animals. We learn that in grade school. But doing things in a sort of self-imposed solitary confinement simply because we like doing it, because we feel passionate about it is at best seen as selfish, at worst as abberant. Logically, I know that this is a load. Taking time for myself to write when I could be vacuuming does not make me a bad person (as long as the vacuuming gets done eventually). Eating something pre-packaged may not be my favourite thing, but it won't kill me (right away) and it might just give me that extra time I seem to be missing.

The problem is that guilt is a very effective programming mechanism. If you internalise the belief that you're being bad by taking that time for yourself, you're never going to feel entirely comfortable doing so. Something will always be nagging at you- the belief that there are things that need to be done that are less enjoyable, but perhaps more obvious than creative work. After all, for most of us, creative work begins and ends in our own domicile. Ultimately, that's the challenge that I need to face. There are all sorts of things that I could be doing. I just need to make sure that writing doesn't get the short shrift because, like everyone else, those things require more time than I'll ever have.

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