Making Time

It’s Christmastime, probably the busiest, most hectic time of the year. One of my local radio stations plays constant holiday music from Thanskgiving Day until the end of December. In the last two weeks my favorite song has become an oldie rock-and-roll song from Chuck Berry called, “Run Run Rudolph.”

That’s me! Running here. Running there.

A few evenings ago, I sat down to write Christmas cards. Do I have time for this? Does anyone? Because I consider it important, I have this task organized. My list of people with their addresses is at my elbow. I stick to about three or four bits of news, depending on the recipient, and I keep the message simple. It goes fast, and I hope my friends and relations appreciate a handwritten note, even if it’s only a couple of paragraphs. If my note is too blah, everyone’s been too kind to tell me so.

Last year, in a fit of pique at relatives who now rely on Facebook to share their year (maybe even their life history), I purged my list. So the other evening, after I finished addressing and sealing envelopes, I looked at the short stack in surprise. It saddened me to see how small my list is now. For years, I’ve kept it right about 18-20 individuals, roughly the same number as a book of stamps. There’s always slight attrition as some friends drop away, but new ones are made. I’ve even kept in touch with a couple of people since college. Granted, I know folks who send out over a 100 cards each year, so my list is admittedly modest. I think I’ve overlooked about three individuals this year that I intended to add. As soon as I locate their addresses, I’ll get that done.

I can just imagine you all shaking your heads at me, the fuddy-duddy still living in the past century. For the modern world, it’s not even newsletters via email anymore. Facebook pages, baby! Tweets! Yeah, yeah, these days it’s all about the technology.

I say, Phooey!

I can’t bring myself to print out emails and display them on the piano. Where’s the fun in that? If I’ve followed every micro-inch of your life this year on Facebook, down to what you eat daily for breakfast, what news is there to share for Christmas tidings?

So far this year I have about five cards on display. (Yes, I admit I’m so desperate for real mail that I’ve included the card from my stockbroker.) A few more will perhaps trickle in during the next few days, but in this high-tech world so many people have dispensed with the “bother” of cards and the expense of postage.

(I still wonder, what are we conserving stamps for?)

Convince me that I’m still dear enough to you for you to make time to pen me a note. I don’t care if it’s only two sentences about your dog. It means you bothered for my sake. I matter in your world, and you’ve given me the gift of both your time and a stamp spent on my behalf.

Everywhere I turn these days, I see people desperately pressed for time. I’m hardly in the big leagues when it comes to being busy, but most days I find it easy to become over-scheduled with errands and commitments. Fact is, there are still as many minutes in a day as there ever were. We just have more choices and options of what we can spend our time on. We don’t want to sacrifice our fun or our jobs. We want to do everything!

Well, we can’t. As writers, we shouldn’t.

To pull this post finally to the subject of writing …

Some of the most important things a writer needs are soak time, think time, and writing time.

Soak time means a chance to be quiet, to sit without distractions, to have the computer on screen saver, the phone turned off, the email chime silenced, the cell phone in another room. You’re alone with your book, alone with the images and characters in your head.

Think time means more quiet, where you’re actively sifting through that scene you’ve just written, evaluating the dialogue and the conflict intensity, making sure you haven’t left anything out. Or you’re planning the next section of story that you’re about to write–figuring out how many characters to include in the action, whether that plot twist you want to use is going to work, and deciding which viewpoint to use.

Writing time is exactly what it sounds like. Time that you carve from your busy, busy day in which to plant your backside in the chair and type those golden words that constitute story.

Every time I think about my book, I’m sacrificing something else I could be doing. Every time I work through a writing session, I’m getting pages done, but at the cost of some other activity. I accept that. We can’t have it all. We shouldn’t have it all.

No matter what we say, we always do what we most want to do. If you aren’t writing, what are you doing instead? Why? What’s really behind your priority choices?

And no matter what, take time to send your granny or uncle a holiday card. It’s a bother, yes, but aren’t they worth it?

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