Stalking Time

I received a present on Tuesday that made it difficult not to break down into tears on the spot. I’m pretty sure presents aren’t supposed to make you cry. Even if you do have PMS.

We have a professional writer on staff at work. And while she gets paid for technical writing, she is also in the process of finishing up her own fiction novel. I consider her a real writer. She’s not only trained in the craft, she practices it.

On Tuesday morning she handed me a paperback book, the pages of which are littered with highlighted pages and black ink underlining. “I’m not using this anymore, I thought that you might have a use for it.”

The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction.

The title jumped off the cover and punched me in the gut. It reminded me of another title that I’ve been haunted by in recent weeks – the title of my own book. Of course, this book, The Truth of the Matter, is sitting in my hands, completed and edited and published. Real.

It is a sickening contrast to my own. To be fair, I shouldn’t even call it “my book”. I should more accurately describe It as “the series of essays and thoughts and paragraphs and sentences that have been plaguing me since the light bulb came on and the title fell out of my mouth.” Because that’s what it is – that’s all that it is.

I’ve wanted to write my entire life. Of course, I’ve also wanted to be an actress and a fashion designer and a trophy wife. Writing has long been a fantasy with about as much teeth as the possibility of passing Bill Gates in an airport and instantly mesmerizing him with the power of my terribly small bosom. But a girl can dream, right?

Except I’m no longer content with the dream.

For the first time, the words are there. The story is there. The perspective and the voice and the purpose and the theme… all of it. Is there. Well, if “there” means “in my head”.

I haven’t written a word of it. And it’s killing me.

For once it’s not the fear or the uncertainty that is preventing me from putting all of It on paper. But the time. Or rather, the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any.

I know. I know. We never have enough time. We never get it all done. The story of a working mother with more responsibilities than hours is not new and it’s been years since I’ve tossed around the phrase “in my free time” without a dramatic eye roll to indicate THERE IS NO SUCH THING.

But this is different.

I find myself getting extremely resentful of my work. Not the work – but the time. To be honest, I can get my work job done (and done well) in about 5 hours a day. Six if there are excessive emails and returned calls. But between the day care run, the commute, and the Required To Be At Your Desk Hours, I’m away from my house for almost 11 hours a day. Five days a week.

And all I can think as I’m driving back and forth and waiting for the phone to ring is “this is time I could be spending writing it down.”

Of course, once I get home there is more time – and even more things to do. There is dinner to be made and children to be played with. I can’t in good conscience sacrifice either of these things because the little bastards have to eat… and they won’t be little bastards for long.

After baths and bed time there are emails to be answered and posts to write. If I’m lucky I’ll read a few blogs here and there. And all the while I’m thinking “I need two hours. Just two hours to sit down and get some of this out of my head.” But I don’t give up the blog because it is the very thing that led me to this place. If I’m not writing The Story – at the very least I’m writing something. And it’s something I happen to believe a great deal in.

And then there is The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction.

The timing of this gift was uncanny. The title itself answered a lot of questions I’d been having in my own head in a single flash. I hadn’t finished the first paragraph before I realized that a lot of the Floating Gunk was starting to take shape.

And still… there is the question of time.

EDITED TO ADD: Apparently when it absolutely, positively has to be written – you find the time. I’m at 4600 words between my lunch break, an afternoon slow down, and the kids watching cartoons for 30 minutes.

Holy shit. I have 4600 words.

In other words… this whole post is shit.

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