Tag Archives: time

Nobody Actually Has Time to Write a Novel (But We Do It Anyway)

train-1November 1 kicked off the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the long-standing tradition in which writers and readers alike decide to write a novel (or 50,000 words at least) during the month of November. The idea isn’t to have a novel finished by December 1, but to have written enough of a first draft of a novel (or memoir or novella even) to build on during the next year, something to return to and tinker with at a more casual, realistic pace.

Writing at a bout 1600 words a day, writers might finish. Most don’t. I’ve only finished once, and I was a very sleepless college freshman, full of ideas and not much else. Now, I’m a graduate student in English. Now, I’m full of ideas and stress, and not much else. I have deadlines to meet, books to read, authors to research, research to catch up on, and workshop material to write. I have classes to teach and a full 13 credit hours of graduate coursework to focus on, as well as graduate applications and a brand new hip flask to make proper use of. Do I really want to add the pressure of a novel to that?

The answer, of course, is no. But I’m doing it anyway. I don’t expect to finish, even if I write during all of Thanksgiving break. Even when I inevitably don’t meet the standard 50,000 words, I’ll still have a novel draft to tinker with in 2017. Like many writers across the globe, I’m enjoying more ambition than I can justify having, and the companionship of fellow writers struggling near me.

So, to my fellow November-long novelists, I wish you luck and sudden bouts of free time. Say goodbye to your loved ones and the prospect of having clean dishes. It’s noveling season.

-jk

Useful Tips for Making Time to Write

make-timeStephen King once suggested that aspiring writers carve out time to write every single day, which probably works for wealthy retired people like him. For the rest of us proles trying to be writers, carving out time to write can be a challenge. There are, however, numerous ways one can make time to write.

  1. Give up sleep. Talk to your doctor to let her know that you no longer require the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep; four or three or two should be sufficient. That’s what coffee is for, right? If your doctor protests, just let her know that she can have a free signed copy of your fantastic novel-in-progress, American Noun, once you finally get it written.
  2. If sleep is too difficult to give up, try giving up on friends. Thanks to social media, dropping off the face of the Earth has become quite easy. Delete your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Bumble, Thorax, PurpleDeth, and whatever other social media you have. No more notifications from you will quickly let your friends know that you are now and always have been an illusion. No more friends, no more distractions! Now get writing!
  3. If you somehow need friends and sleep, another way to make time is to quit your job. Many aspiring artists have done it. You can call it breaking out of the system, but we all know it’s to make time to write. After a month or so, you can consider more tenable versions of giving up on a well-paying job to pursue your dream, like getting an MFA in something or volunteering with the Green Party.
  4. If you’re the kind of loser who needs sleep, friends, and a job, another way to make time to write is to literally create time. For many writers, this is the most realistic option. Build a time machine (instructions are on Wikipedia) and spend a day writing, then go back twenty-four hours and respend that day working with friends and sleeping. You’ll have a novel in no time, but the problem is that, to the rest of us, you will age twice as fast.
  5. Making time to write is difficult, and you may have to give up a few things: regular TV, some social events, a few good meals. The important thing is to not give up on writing, if you really, really want to write. You can’t have it all, but the parties you get invited to after publication will make up for it.

-jk

Poem: Litany of Gratitude

Snowsteps

Litany of Gratitude

I failed to look at the weather reports,
and now I’m ankle-deep in snow
staring above me at white sheets of snowfall, like paper
curtaining my memory in the open street.

There are no sad snow moments for me,
even when there should be. I am only grateful
for the alls and everythings I’ve known,
that I have friends who can knit hats
or produce scarves, socks, all cozy chic;

that I was not born to dig for copper,
or in the malarial sectors of our history,
that luck has placed me in a retrospective personality
surrounded by a box of mirrors,
that I am not the kind of person to scorn
such blessings as a given but as icy coincidence
no more deserved than a cracked skull on a freeway
over sleek, glossy, cold-kissing pavement;

that my new tiny watch fits my wrist
an hour ahead of the friend who put it there
so I can send postcards from the future:
a storm is coming, wrap up warm,
this orange slice of time is serene, I hope you’ll enjoy it;

that simple things make me whimsical,
that it is right that we should at all times and in all places
be whimsical, that the possibility of giggling
is as real as the dance of snowflakes on our tongues;

that snow is not stupendous but soft,
not a knighthood adorned in force
but a book whose pages are whitened sidewalk squares
recording the theologians and cops and the homeless,
the students and plumbers and construction workers,
farmers in heavy boots, bankers in leather shoes,
sheet after sheet of snow, and feet making brief prints in time,
like a ferocious typewriter, as we move
in search of someplace else, something soon, out of the snow;

that I have enough ego to record the sainthood of passerby,
all of them leaving a mark that will melt,
just as this poem will dissolve soon enough
into anti-syllabic nonsense. Still,
I am grateful for these blessings
and the tumultuous motion of others
stamping their feet where I stand, numb,
staring at the snow-forlorn sidewalk
giving sidelong glances to the saints.

-jk

Very Near the Last Best Place

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” -John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Snowy Horseman

It’s been especially cold in the Bitterroot Valley this week. The air is fat with moisture, and below-freezing temperatures are typical. Still, there is clarity in the cold, standing at the center of the Valley’s balding head. The crown of mountains rolling up and down across the horizon like changing statistics are garnished with snow and the torn fabric of clouds. The trees carry tufts of it, the fields and sleepy barns hold sheets of it stretched thin into ice, and the sky lets down more, flake by perfect, God’s-eye flake.

River Icy

In the middle of the ring of mountains, I stand surrounded by the monumental totality, the jagged white-purple strips draped below a hazy, bitter blue sky, like skin left out in the cold too long.  My nose hairs freeze as I breathe in and look at the sunlit snowscape, a territory lost in cold dreams of something to bloom later, something better to come, something beautiful in the future. I find beauty in the waiting, or try to. The snow is a fixation for me. This frigid terrarium of agriculture and forestry is astounding.

Fence

Maybe there really is such a thing as timelessness. Maybe there’s a way to stop time, step out of it like out of a beater truck, and frame time within electrical confines. Keep it forever, or send the past into the future untarnished by change. But the snow will melt, and something gorgeous will replace it. Trees will philosophize, flowers will converse, and a listlessness of birdsong will fill the air.

Snow Mountain

I pull my camera from my bag, take my gloves off, and take a picture of the landscape. The snow is so lovely, and it melts so quickly when touched, so I try to hold it in another way. I can hardly use my fingers when I lower the camera. I didn’t notice how numb they’d gotten in the photographic thrill of momentlessness.

-jk

All photos copyrighted material of Lost Compass Photography, 2016. Donations, or else get-well-financially cards, are always welcome.

 

The Snow, the Writer, the Time

Campus Snow Day

Yesterday started so safely. It was overcast and raining, but the roads were clear. By 11:00 AM, though, the city of Flagstaff was covered in snow and slush. Ponds sprouted in road dips and parking lots became marshes. Northern Arizona University cancelled all classes after 2:00 PM, after everybody was already on campus and desperate to get home. Students, faculty, and staff were told to leave before it got worse.

Com Building

I opted to stay on campus and not wait in the snow swamps amid dozens of tense drivers. I chose not to risk driving down Milton or Butler to get home, not wanting to wait ninety minutes because some inevitably bad drivers congested traffic after skiing their cars into each other. Instead, I found a warm corner on campus and set up shop with everything I needed: my computer, hot chocolate, a lengthy playlist of folk music, and a window giving me an unmitigated view of the snowfall.

Cline and Tree

I not-so-secretly harbor an obsession with snow. It’s often a subject in my writing. I’ve written many poems about snow alone, how it feels against my skin and glows under streetlamps. I’ve set numerous short stories in a mountain town in December, a Russian field in January, a Montanan cabin in February, or Flagstaff in March. Snow delights me immeasurably, and imposes an opportunity to sit back and do what I have so little time to even contemplate. When it snows so monstrously, I refuse to let the cold and darkness drag me down. Instead, I accept them as unexpected gifts. I don’t think sitting in front of a cold window improves my writing, but it often gives me direction and motivation. Yesterday, it forced isolation upon me, and isolation prompts writing. I’m grateful for being ushered indoors sometimes. Otherwise, I might never begin sewing the words together.

-jk