Grading and Writing and Vacationing — Soon

I’m in the final throes of the semester this week, grading a stack of final papers and starting to return to thoughts of creative writing. I’ll be very excited to get to that time just a handful of days from now when all that is left is the quest to polish my novel (and possibly even send some new work out). In the meantime, I’m thinking about those times of our year when we do breathe a breath of fresh air — and how easily these times of relative freedom seem to slip by. Are there times in your busy schedule when you realize that you suddenly have more free time — and do you find yourself ultimately wasting that time?

I know I’ve done this in the past. It seems that when I have more free time, I simply stretch out my work to fill in the new hours; I veg more and work less. There’s a time and a place for a break and re-boot, for a little reward, a little television, a little socializing, but I think we also have to remember how precious this new time is. When I reach the end of the semester I’m always full of brave new plans; I’m full of exciting ideas. And by the end of that free time, I’m left with the cliche question, “Where did the time go?”

This time, though, I’m resolved to make the most of my newly opening days. I’ll be setting concrete goals, making lists, and using my days in structured ways to meet my creative goals. I’m even planning to go on a writing residency for the first time, and I’m wildly excited about that experience; I’ll discuss that in a future post. For now, try being a little grateful for your opening time — and don’t waste it in treating yourself. Use the time for what it is — a blessed chance to do the work that you care about.

One comment

  1. mary brady says:

    Great post, great advice. I will go ahead & sound like the old fart I am: I wish I’d applied myself more when I was younger.
    I wish I’d really tried to become expert in something. As it is, I am half-assed at lots of things.

    It’s a drag to realize one simply doesn’t HAVE the 10,000 hours it allegedly takes to become really good at an activity.
    Well, you may HAVE the 10K hours, but you’ll be a REALLY old fart by then.

    My problem is that I never continued anything unless I was good at it right away. I’m impatient & I think any criticism is total negation. I don’t know how to accept it to help me improve. And I also got totally blasted daily on drugs & alcohol til age 34, when I finally when to a shrink to find out why I did this. There went another 10 years…

    Anyway, the years whiz by faster & faster–because each one represents a smaller & smaller percentage of your life.
    (I nearly hit the guy who pointed that out to me. I really don’t know why.) So–start using time wisely.

    Make a ‘priority list.’ This is NOT a ‘To Do’ List, though it can be. Just jot down the things you’d like to get accomplished. Break big tasks into smaller steps & start doing those smaller steps NOW. You will feel SO good about yourself when you cross stuff off this list that you’ll look forward to that feeling & do even more.

    If you’re young (20s, 30s), these actions will become your lifetime habits. You’ll be ‘investing’ in yourself, to use a hackneyed term, but it’s true!

    BLH is right: it’s easy to ‘lose’ free time. Instead, plan what you can get out of it. Write out that list, make it real, cross
    off what you get done. It’s a good feeling–especially later in life. You won’t feel regret if you know you gave it your best shot.

    L&K, MaryB
    PS–have a great vacation, BLH! I like reading your posts a lot!

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