This is a blog by writers and for writers. I get it. This is where members of the Goddard community reflect on topics germane to us, topics that are meant to inform and inspire: craft and voice. Activism and history. Process, revision, and the amazing book they just read. But I confess what’s haunting me at this very second is not especially glamorous or high-minded or inspiring. In fact, it’s as inescapable as dirt… and that’s time.
Are you as crushed by time (or more specifically, the lack of it) as I am? From their process letters, 99% of my advisees seems to be or has been… and the 1% who wasn’t was probably Anne Bean, a graphic novelist who graduated from the program a few years ago. Formidably organized, she had created a color-coded flowchart that mapped out every minute she had to read, write, and fulfill her degree requirements; and by sticking to it, she managed to sail through the program like she was piloting a luge.
I am not Anne Bean.
Last week was a packet week, which I know is stressful for students. It may comfort you to realize that it’s stressful for your advisors, as well. Each response takes me hours of reading, thinking, writing, and rewriting (which yes, I realize is a lot less time than what you put into the packets themselves, but hey, you only have one). This Monday, mid-semester evaluations are due. I also have to write this blog, which Darrah Cloud on the west coast faculty had very sweetly asked me to write months ago and to which I had blithely, unthinkingly answered, “sure.” I also have to do a second draft on a freelance script I was hired to write in August. I’m not even going to talk about what’s going on at my day job, which is story editing a new series at Nickelodeon. My job is great, but this week, not so much. In fact this week, it was actually what you would call “hellish.”
And everything is due now, or tomorrow, or two days ago. Basically NOW.
I honestly don’t mean to complain, because one, having any time to write at all is a luxury and two, having anyone waiting to read what one has written is a miracle. Complaining about not having enough time to write is like whining about the funny smell your laundry gets when you forget to take it out of the washer in time. It belongs to a particularly rarefied and irritating inner circle of “first world problems.” Again, I get that. I really, really do.
And yet, there are those deadlines.
So what do I do? I do what you all do, basically, which is find the time where I can and jump from packet to script to response letter and back again. Yes it’s a glorious autumn weekend. Yes the Mets are in the playoffs, Picasso is at MOMA, and my friends from out of town are at that terrific Mexican place around the corner. Instead, I submit a short story to yet another online magazine. I wake up early so I can work on another packet and fill out more evaluations and read more annotations. I work on this blog. I ignore dishes, I avoid laundry, I write a response letter.
Even with all of this, it’s still not enough time to get everything done. But at least I know enough to know better. The pile will shrink. I will finish each piece that is due. I remind myself that it’s all a process, that it’s a blessing to be alive, and that as writers, all we can really hope to do each day is generate pages.
So I’m going to submit this blog now and get to work on evaluations. I’ll then have most of the afternoon to work on my script revisions. Maybe if I’m really lucky, I can even get some laundry done.
Hope you’re all generating pages, too.