Finding the Time Thingy

“When do  you find the time to write?” The question is posed as a colleague and I are ushering our families into the showing of a movie at the local theater. I do not recall the answer that I provided but I am quite certain that it was along the lines of, “Oh you know, I work it in here and there,” accompanied by some self-effacing laughter the conversation turns to the weather, our spouses health, progress of children in school or one of a multitude of those everyday conversation threads that entwine themselves into the brief passage of two people.

While the question and its setting are quite happenstance their result has not been. A number of times this summer, when I have had the opportunity to sit and think – usually while driving between family during our vacation to the Maritimes, I have wondered when I am going to have the time to write and post with anything that resembles regularity? An examination of any of the blogs that I currently work on shows that I tend to only post when I am off of school for the summer. If, as you read this, you feel that perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit for some sort of editorial effect, I would offer in my defense that today is the 04-Nov-11 and this post has not been touched since the 19-Aug-11; driving home for me again the topic of this post – Finding the Time Thingy.

I tell my students that writing is one of the greatest self-indulgences that you can engage in – I have expounded on its cathartic qualities, its ability to allow a writer to reflect upon major or minor occurrences in their life and to, if they choose to share it, build connections to others around the world. While I occassionally assume the pulpit in this fashion with my students it is my own practice that I must seriously begin to examine. I must admit that the allure of writing usually coincides with times when I have much to do and very little time to do any of it. There is no question that I have a full schedule during the school year – though as some of my friends point out – it is a full schedule that is largely a result of my own choices. There is fire practice two evenings a month, two more for station maintenance, six evenings a month out for cadets not to mention about 6 weekends a year that are devoted to exercises and community service, and I play darts every Friday evening at the local legion. There is a third of my evenings and about one weekend a month – though in September and October of this year the only weekend that I had off was the Monday of Thanksgiving weekend. While this may seem like a normal range of activity for someone who values social interaction and wants to be involved in the community it does not reflect the number of nights and weekends that are given over to planning and marking during the school year – which erodes volumes of what others would consider to be disposable or personal time.

I am not complaining, only attempting to provide insight into the situation that I seem to have gotten myself into, as I do enjoy all of the activities that I am involved with; they provide me with a great deal of personal satisfaction – especially as  my son is involved in the Junior Firefighters program and both of my children are members of our Air Cadet Squadron. On the other side of the scales are the parts of my life that I would like to get reacquainted with; these include but are not limited to friends, writing, completing home renovations, my dogs and most importantly my wife. The question becomes how best to achieve some balance between these two competing aspects of my life. I have friends and family who in the past have said to me, “Just say no…” when I indicate that I cannot join them for a different activity or event my question to them has often been to which element or part of my life should I limit or eliminate. If we are, in part, formed and nurtured by these experiences then which parts can one limit or remove and continue on as before. In some instances there are others who could be impacted negatively should I make a decision to become less involved with say cadets or the fire service – do their needs, hopes, or demands get to play a role in decisions regarding what will constitute balance in my life?

Or, perhaps I am looking at this matter from too much of a balance perspective – perhaps balance is not to be found in this situation and what I really have to decide is am I happy with the way that I am now and the way that things are unfolding in the present. If I enjoy being heavily involved in my community, my profession, and all of these other things that contribute to making me who I am perhaps I need to be more accepting of where I am at in life. Perhaps I should simply take greater joy in the time that I do devote to any of the elements or tasks in my life that I do. Be grateful for the time that I do have to write, the time that I do spend with my family, fellow firefighters, friends, cadets and students rather than trying to figure out how to better compartmentalize and streamline my life.

In either case I will probably continue to smile, work in things like writing here and there and maintain the self-effacing laughter – it tends to keep a person “real”.


Write What you Know…

I am not sure how many times I have said these words to my students; but suffice it to say that both they and I have lost track of the number of times that I have tried to make this their mantra.

Often, when faced with the task of writing something, students will very often repeat the age old litany of complaints, “I can’t think of what to write.” or, “How long does this have to be?” or “Is there another project that I can do for credit?”

To these, and the myriad of other complaints associated with trying to motivate others to write, I respond with, “Write what you know.”

It seems an easy enough initial solution. Students often find it easier to write from their own experiences, hobbies, summer adventures and the like than attempting to invent some sort of narrative on the spot. I encourage them to use that which they have lived as it is easier for them to develop their descriptive writing, there is also a chronology of actual events that they can use to keep their story straight.

Early on I had to fine tune this mantra a bit as I had students that chose to “over share” events that they had attended that were not appropriate for school. This again proved, for some of my budding writers, to be a point of frustration – as one student chided me for censorship. I countered with the fact that while it may seem that way, in actuality it was about responsible writing – that one could be held accountable for that which they have chosen to write. In their particular case I explained, the parents of said budding writer may conclude that the written excerpt was tantamount to a confession about what had happened over the weekend and choose to proceed accordingly. At this point the objection to my “jack-booted” style of  censorship was immediately withdrawn and a more appropriate topic explored.

That said, I find myself in a bit of a quandary when it comes to my own writing. It feels like a classic case of, “do as I say not as I do,” as I explore the genre of writing that I really want to engage in – that of the fantastic. I must confess that though I have read a great deal of this sort of fiction and been taken away to castles, caverns, mountain tops and fiery pits where I have vicariously engaged in battle with everything from orcs to evil wizards; all of this falls outside of what I legitimately think of as “what I know.” So, my question at this point in the writing process is not how to overcome the writer’s block; it is a matter of figuring out how to “Write what I know” so that I can start down this path of exploration.

While this does amount to a self reflection question – I would welcome people’s thoughts or links to posts that might be of assistance in this matter.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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