The next submission deadline in my schedule is this Thursday; it’s the rare production opportunity for half-hour one acts, and so I’m trying to take a piece of mine that didn’t quite succeed as a ten-minute play – it runs 15 to 20 minutes in performance, depending on the actors, and feels rushed at that length – and expand it. As of this writing, I have four days to complete the necessary revisions, which in theory should be plenty of time. I don’t have ninety six hours of uninterrupted time, however – things are starting to get busy again at my day job, and then there’s the whole pesky matter of eating and sleeping. For most of us, it’s hard to block out any large amounts of writing time. But I did have this past weekend, one of the few of late in which I didn’t have any sort of commitments scheduled. So I got most of what I needed to do finished on Saturday and Sunday, correct?
Well, sort of. I got a lot of work done on Sunday. But Saturday was pretty much wiped out for me, the precious hours available to me felled by a sinister, inescapable force.
Since I was out of town watching the production of my short play The Mascot Always Pings Twice last weekend, my laundry had wound up piling up. Four loads’ worth, to be precise. So my plan was to work on the latest round of revisions in half-hour increments or so throughout the day, in between trips to my building’s laundry room. I didn’t factor in the folding of clothes, and the scrounging up of quarters, and all the other minute little tasks that go into this particular errand. So those half-hour breaks became more like twenty minute breaks, then fifteen, until ultimately they became lost time altogether. I wound up doing more than making a few notations, planning for the work that I was now putting off for the next day.
I mention all this not out of a petty need to complain about trivia, but to make a larger point about the difficulties of the creative life. We’re constantly judging by the standards of writers who came before us, who had vastly different circumstances. Namely, a great many of them had servants or spouses to take care of these tasks for them. Or they had fellowships of sufficient largesse to cover their basic needs. Or they were ensconced in academic programs that provided them an oasis in both space and time, allowing them to concentrate on nothing but their writing.
We don’t have that luxury.
We have jobs, and we have pets to take care of (mine is sitting on my arm as I type this), and we have errands to attend to, and we no longer live in a world where any of us can expect anybody to do any of these for us. (Unless you’re in the top .1%, but I don’t think I have many of those folks among my readership.) Nor are any of us able to afford our creative lives solely through our creative actions. And yet the standards by which we judge ourselves are relics of a time when this wasn’t the case.
I’m still on track to finish the revisions by deadline; finding the time is difficult, not impossible. But it is much harder than it’s ever been, and it’s worth taking a moment – if only for our mental health – to acknowledge that.