Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Happy Discovery

When I was in college and dreaming about the ideal job which I’d have when I finished (it tended to involve a quaint bookshop and a stylishly nerdy version of me), the one thing I always imagined was that I’d be able to write during my lunch breaks.  The scenario was that I’d go outside and sit on a bench, eating something suitably sophisticated – not a sandwich.  I’d pull out my notebook (electronic or otherwise) and jot down a page or so in 30 minutes. 

Good things get built in small pieces!
My progress might not be fast, but it would be incredibly steady.

That was the dream at least.  It was a good dream, even if a bit varnished with pretentiousness.  It never came true, though.  I taught and taught, and every lunch I’d have to do school preps.  At best, I’d get out for a walk, but sitting and writing after doing basically the same all day for my classes didn’t hold much appeal. 

It’s funny: as you get older and little teenage or childhood dreams fade away into reality, there’s a tendency to suppose that nothing your younger self imagined will come true.  We smile as fondly at our past selves as we do when a friendly six year old tells us he wants to be a pirate when he grows up.  There’s no rule, however, that all of those little wishes and aspirations have to be abandoned.  Some of them are perfectly legitimate.

I’ve been happy to discover lately that my ambition to write during my lunch breaks is, in fact, legitimate. 

It’s been deeply satisfying to feel that maybe I’ve actually found a version of the place I imagined for myself in college.  Overall I am finding my new job truly enjoyable.  There’s a surprising amount of problem-solving to do, and that offers mental stimulation and satisfaction.  For example, if a woman calls and explains sadly that her pet destroyed several of the books from a recent order, I can only feel happy if I can send her away with a solution, rather than heartlessly charging her for replacement copies. 

That sort of employment has been offering me plenty of interest, and then to top it all off, I realized my 45 minutes for lunch every day gave me a chance to tackle other important things, as well.  No matter how slowly I eat, after all, there’s no way I can make a light lunch last three quarter of an hour.  Not infrequently, I have a whole 30 minutes which at first was just going to waste. 

It may look small, but it has layers and layers!
Then a lightbulb went on in my head, and I realized I could use those spare moments for writing. 

I brought a flash drive to work the next day.  I’m still working on the editing I wanted to complete before starting a brand new story, but in a month I’ve edited three chapters, largely at work.  That’s not incredibly fast progress, but it’s better than nothing.  Not every day works out for an editing session, but when I do have a chance, I can do between a half and three-quarters of a page. 

The benefit of this, too, is that I’ve been too busy for quite a while now to work in the evenings.  I’ve been taking advantage of having some friends in town, since they’ll be leaving again when summer ends, plus July is a month of holidays and parties, thanks to the generally beautiful weather.  Normally when I go out to several social engagements a week, I end up feeling frazzled and harassed, since I can’t write.  Now, though, despite an occasional twinge of regret that things aren’t progressing faster, I’m able to keep my cool.

By just a little creative work of my own each lunch, I reclaim the whole day for myself, somehow. 

Granted, not every form of creativity is equally portable.  It would be hard to take paints and a canvas to work, for example.  You could, however, take a sketch book.  An amateur seamstress could bring some handsewing.  A poet can bring a notebook; a musician an mp3 player to offer inspiration for his performance or composition.  There are quite a few ways to incorporate some small creative act into the daily routine. 

A snail's pace is better than no pace at all!
I’ve always felt that one of the signs of being a writer was happiness with small progress and the ability to seek out opportunities for it.  There’s a tendency to suppose that if we don’t advance by leaps and bounds, we’ll never get anywhere and so perhaps we’d better not try at all.  The famous tortoise in the fable is a better model for our endeavors, though.  He wasn’t impatient with himself, though the hare ran by at top speed.  By continuing with his small, slow steps, in the end he won it all.  


  1. I really identify with this Chiara! I used to think that because I hadn't got 2 hours free in which to write, I couldn't get on with my stories and novels. (poems are easy - they can be written anywhere, on anything at anytime!) But this year I've been writing a page a day in an A5 day per page diary. I don't write a straight novel, rather I write scenes from novels and short stories and then type them up later. I've discovered that when I do have 2 hours or so to write, I suddenly have lots of MSS that are half complete! It's very creative and inspiring! Thank you for this!

  2. Often finding time for what we what means giving up something else. One thing I've given up is watching TV. While there are some shows I like to keep track of there are those that I can get a three sentence summary last night - the hour hubby spent watching a show he likes I penned an addtion to my vampire serial.

    It is satisfing to move at a snails pace. Each week I use wordle word lists to add to a fantasy story that is now over 60 pages. And I don't feel any rush to go faster.

    Breathing, enjoying life. That needs to be taken into account. Continued success at your new job and your editing.