Time to write

Another interesting quote featured in Mary Pipher’s book;

The fastest way to write is to pretend you have all the time in the world. -Philip Gerard

Interesting, because I wonder how many children Philip Gerard had, and where he wrote.  I wonder how many distractions he had to deal with as a writer?

The fastest way to write is to pretend you have all the time in the world.

I beg to differ.

I’ve been mothering children for 30 years. A total of eight children. My oldest is 30 and my youngest will be 7 this summer.

Oh, yes, and I homeschool, which means my children are home every day, not just during the summer.

I’ve been writing for 20 of those years, some years quite prolifically, and sometimes it has been all I could do to get a letter or a short journal entry written. I’ve had over 100 essays published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies.  I wrote my first book as the mother of a newborn in 1993 and 1994. I had to snatch minutes where I could. Yes, minutes. Not hours.  In all those years, there has been no leisure time, no laid-back, relaxed writing when I didn’t feel like any moment, any second, I could be interrupted. Not even when I go out to breakfast alone and sit at a table with an unending cup of coffee and write.  There is always that clock-watching, that mom guilt that makes me feel like I should get back home, and that niggling realization that a child could call any second with some emergency. So, I cannot write as though I have all the time in the world, because for one thing, I don’t know what that feels like.

For another, I’m not sure I would get anything done.

If I had all the time in the world maybe I would spend an hour or two reading while I had my morning coffee.  Then perhaps I would rearrange the linen closet and clean off the kitchen counters.  And hang out the laundry.  Maybe run some errands.  Stop at the library. And then ride my bike, because of course I do need to exercise. And when I finally sat down at my computer, maybe I would stare at the blank screen for awhile, and with all the time in the world to write, come to the conclusion, that since I had all that time, I’d just write later.

Could it be that because I have so little time, whenever I get the chance, I DO write? And by that time, my brain has been ruminating so much on what I want to work on, my hand works overtime to get it down on paper?  I just sit down and start writing, and quickly. The editing and revising might be slower and more relaxed but that first rough draft looks like chicken scratches. I’ve written in the dark before, sitting next to my children’s beds, with just the dim light of a nightlight illuminating my paper. Frankly, it’s difficult to tell the difference between that writing and any of my other rough drafts.

The fastest way to write is to pretend you have two children about to wake up, a load of laundry to hang outside, a husband who needs his lunch packed before work, and no other time this day to write but now. Start writing.

3 thoughts on “Time to write

  1. Julie says:

    A very thought provoking quote! I haven’t read the book you cited, or anything by Philip Gerard. So I may be totally ignorant of any facts I’m overlooking unintentionally. If so, just pretend I’m not here. Heh.

    I thought the quote was actually very refreshing, something vastly different. I only pretend to write, as I’m neither very good, nor published. I seem to recall from various English classes from eons ago that the path to literary success is paved with “crank it out, writewritewritewritewrite, even when you don’t feel like it.”

    My problem is that when there is a deadline, I get stressed out and, as a result, blocked. I can’t think of anything to write, and end up wasting time just sitting there doodling or hitting “delete”. It’s very frustrating to me to even *feel* like I’m wasting time. Unless I have scheduled it, of course. Usually, the ideas hit me like an avalanche when I’m up to my eyeballs in other tasks, and then I can’t write them down fast enough!

    Maybe the idea of pretending you have all the time in the world is the way to keep stress (or distress, if you prefer) at bay in the first place. It’s much easier to write, at least for me, when I’m relaxed and at least not *feeling* any pressure. Maybe it’s the perception of a deadline, even when one only exists in your mind? Hmmm.

    So, then I want to know, why is this the case? You’ve intimated that deadlines are necessary, at least for you. Similarly, I don’t get anything done unless there is a deadline, and I am inclined to procrastinate as often as possible. But it’s primarily because I’m lazy, not because I have too many things to do. It’s rough being a Type A brain in a Type B body, you know. Haha.

    If I had to choose, I’d rather be a good mom, and a good person than a good writer, but way down deep I want them both. You seem to have a pretty good handle on both, so you’re light-years ahead of me.

  2. Susan says:

    Your words are an inspiration to a mom who also home educates (just two here though!) and writes whenever I can. Thank you for the reminder that there’s always time to write…even if it’s a few minutes.

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