Writing

Time Theft

Good Egg Café, March 2014

Good Egg Café, March 2014

Writers don’t have a surplus of much. Self-doubt, impatience, regret, agony, social anxiety… okay, we’re in the wealthy 1%. But in resources we can use to our advantage and slight advancement, we’re kind of a paupery bunch. There’s the sticky issue of cash flow, of course. Anyone fortunate enough to be accepted into a grad program or residency is familiar with the non-economics of thousands in, pro bono out. Almost everyone I know deals with this negative dichotomy. Perhaps just as destructive, however, and even more worrisome to me, is the scarcity of time.

I have no time. You probably don’t, either. This blog post? I’m stealing time to write it. Please don’t tell anyone.

Also like most everyone I know, I have to work. Eight hours five days a week—but then, that’s not the total sum. There’s the hour I spend getting ready to spend the day at the office, because mine is not the yoga pants-allowed sort of institution. There is an hour of driving to get there, and another hour of driving back. There’s the unpaid hour in the middle for lunch. As a result, each workday requires 12 hours of time, a full half. Take out sleeping, and I have four hours to make dinner, clean up a smidge, let my brain rest a second, acknowledge my husband’s existence, and read or write what’s vital that moment. Make that 5-6 hours if I ration away from bedtime. Which means a losing battle on one side, no matter how much I carve up the anemic pie: I don’t get enough sleep and I turn into a zombie. I don’t keep my living space up to a standard that doesn’t make my skin crawl. I don’t read or write and feel my soul begin to wither and die.

Sometimes I get lost thinking about what I could accomplish if I could just write. Write all day until I was out of words, maybe out of projects. Spent. My energy all dumped into my craft, instead of frittered away on the cogs of the daily grind. I can’t think about this too long. It’s maddening. Instead, I have to put all of my minutes on a schedule, like a crazy person.

Several new opportunities have come my way recently, and I can’t say no to more opportunity. Even if I have to take my little pie and re-slice it. Looking at my workload versus my time ration, I decided that my lunch hour at the gym had to go. I was trying to add more balance into the exercise facet of life, one that was sorely lacking in my sedentary job and writing lifestyle. But it was 60 whole minutes, and maybe I could get a bunch done in that chunk of time. I made the trade: the lunch hour every week to type as much as I could until the weather outside gets too hot to do so (sometime in June), and by then I may have less of a project backlog. Hike several miles on the weekend and eat less each day for penance. There’s always a price to pay.

For the last two weeks, this has been a revolution. I get so much typed out in those 60 fresh minutes, it’s unbelievable. An average of 500 words in an hour, versus my struggle for 100 in a typical evening. I gaze out from the café near my office, a fortress of spring blossoms looking out on saguaros and agave and rusty hillsides. I’m warmed up from a morning of office work, but not burnt out from an afternoon’s worth. Not only was I getting more caught up, but my heart and soul and brain and typing fingers felt an uplifting surge as well.

Then yesterday happened.

I pressed the On button on my laptop, and a terrible noise roared from beneath. Like a Boeing jet prepping to take off for the moon. I screeched with fear and shut it off. The laptop was a month old, younger than the package of Laughing Cow cheese in my desk drawer. I didn’t try to start it again until I got it home, where my husband attempted to fix it. The attempt was not successful. I felt sick to my stomach, tears stinging as I calculated all I’d lost.

And no. I didn’t lose a single file. The bright new tech automatically uploads a version of everything I create onto a SkyDrive, accessible from anywhere. What I lost was time, potentially an entire article by now, maybe the beginnings of a new essay. The problem can be fixed, with time. Time to argue with the manufacturer over the warranty and remedy, time to wait for a fix or replacement. Time, time, every day more to wait for, more lost. I feel it drained from an invisible account, and it drains my spirit right alongside.

I don’t have time, and technology fails us all. Sometimes it feels as though you just can’t win, no matter which round of the game you’re playing.

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4 thoughts on “Time Theft

  1. Terrific post, Tabitha. This is a truth that is not written enough about – not just the economic realities of writing, but the time realities – the constant weighing and balancing, the determined earmarking bits of it to create. And so astutely written, as always. I’m sorry to hear about your laptop – how frustrating – but glad this post came out of it. 🙂

    • Aw, thank you Gale! I didn’t want to whine, but this setback is killing me right now. I’m relieved that it came off well at least, with the majority of the kicking and screaming and reverting back to a 5-year-old state filtered out.

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