Monday, March 15, 2010

Time and Energy

I just put up my most recent post for Stygian Publications about the upcoming Necrotic Tissue, issue #10 and noticed that I haven’t put out a personal post since November. I check and rechecked that date because I didn't believe so much time has passed. I started the personal blog to talk about my writing. Even if no one ever read it, I've always found that writing about an issue has helped me think about it and work through it. Sometimes I will have the edge of a thought about a topic and won’t be able to get a full handle on it until I start to type. So why haven't I posted since last November? Good question. Part of the reason is of course the holidays, immediately followed by the January submission window for Necrotic Tissue. That stretched into late February and transitioned into putting together April's issue #10. When these two timelines overlap, there is very little "free" time.

I do have a day job. Actually it's a career, which takes more time and energy than the jobs I used to have. It's harder to stop thinking about the issues when I walk out the door and sometimes, it intrudes into my home life. It takes time and energy, so even when I have time, I may not have the energy.

I have used the term "making time" in the past, but there is only so much of it in a given week. I "make" time by not doing things I see as wasteful. I used to love video games, still do, but I know they take too much time and give me nothing back but pleasure while I'm playing them. I'm not against fun or pleasure, but when I started writing seriously, part of the reason was the time I spent playing the games took too much and gave me little in return. Sure, I had enjoyed the game and sure I was able to escape the pressures of daily life while playing, but when it was over, I had nothing to show for it. When I was younger, that was okay. Now that I'm past 40, it feels less so. I can feel the clock ticking, and I don't want to waste what I have remaining. That doesn’t mean I will never play a game again or have fun, it just means that I won’t let it consume all of my free time as I once did. The same goes with TV and Movies. I need these things and I'm not willing to give them up, but I need to do them in moderation, and only focus on a few shows that I truly enjoy instead of vegetating and watching whatever was on, like I used to do.
Time and energy. How I use what I have and how to keep a balance can be a challenge. Habits can be good and bad. Writing is a habit for me. There are times when I do it frequently enough that I don’t need to remind myself. I enjoy the process, but it takes time. Novels take more time than short stories. I'm not sure of other writers feel this way, but I can’t just walk up to the computer and type out a couple of pages of a novel. I need to crawl into my character for awhile, sometimes reading the past 10,000 words or so to get into the grove. Interruptions complicate this process, so for the best effect, the time has to be in sections lasting at least three hours in order to be productive. It's a bit frustrating since before, I was able to utilize even half hour blocks to great effect to work on short stories. Perhaps it's my lack of experience with the novel form. I've only written two short novels and I am working on two others, so perhaps the more I do it, the easier it will be to jump in and out of the process. For now though, time is what I need, time and energy.

Some of that time I gave up to teaching. I wanted to see if teaching were something I enjoyed as much as I thought I would. I taught a masters level class on Decision Making last fall at St. Mary's University of Minnesota, where I got my masters. I am teaching the same class again this semester. I do enjoy it, though I need to get better at it. I also taught a security management course at the bachelor's level earlier in the semester and that was too much. I tend to overextend myself, and while I didn't seek the additional class, I didn't say no when asked either. So that brings me to now. Five months since my last post and no significant progress on my latest novel. I have only about a month left teaching the decision making course and won’t teach again until fall, but I need to decide if I have even that much time.

From now until July, I want to finish my third novel and make progress on my fourth. These need to be done and I have the concept firmly in my mind, but I want to skip to my fifth. The fifth is different. An old idea that has new life breathed into it and I want to see how it develops. For some reason though, my mind is trapped in sequence, and I need to finish these first. Something has to give and I need to admit that I can only do so many things at one time. My career is important to me, and not just because it pays the bills, so I need to give it the energy it deserves. Stygian Publications, and especially Necrotic Tissue, gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. I'm not willing to give that up and I've made committments to people. Writing gives me a different type of satisfaction and pleasure, and I'm not willing to give it up either. It may be that at this point in my life, I'm not ready to teach. As I stated above, writing helps me sort out issues. As I am writing this, it occurs to me that when I started looking for places to teach, I wanted to teach writing. That was the goal, but a writing class wasn't available and I had never taught a college class. Now I have and I know I can do it, but I'm teaching something that, while it interests me, it is not directly related to what I love. Work can take energy from me, but writing gives me energy. Teaching about decision making as it relates to business, takes energy because I associate it with my day job. What I need to do is find a place where I can teach creative writing. Specifically short stories, since that is what I know best. I am self aware enough to know that I have written some good short stories. Not great, or award winning, but solid. As editor for Necrotic Tissue, I have learned to identify the problems in other people's short stories and am able to suggest improvements. That sounds a lot like real teaching to me. Not covering a subject and discussing readings and thoughts on a topic, but rolling up the sleeves and actually teaching someone how to do something they either don't know how to do or helping someone that does know how, get better.

Time and energy. I don’t have as much of either as I used to, so I need to spend both wisely. My family comes first, then the career, then publishing because I've made commitments to people and because I enjoy it, and then my writing. If I do anything else, it must benefit one of these four things.