“Higher! Higher!” I remember hearing the voices in my head when I was in high school and wanted to run hurdles on the track and field team. If I could just reach my leg a little higher, stretch my stride a little longer, I’d find the rhythm that would make hurdling easier. Alas, a toe would drift down and graze the top of the hurdle, I’d stumble or knock it over, and occasionally I’d hit the ground. It didn’t register then that I wasn’t as tall as some of the other girls who more easily glided over the course, and my legs might never give me the clearance I’d need.
Anyway, I turned to sprinting, minus hurdles, and I managed to secure a spot on the relay team that had some success and made it all the way to Regional competition. I was no Olympic wanna-be; I just wanted to belong and do something I was good at.
“You’re a runner; you can do this! No. It hurts. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. I can’t breathe. Yes, you can do this. Just a little more. This is crazy. Who cares about a stupid record?” And because I kept up the conversation in my head and didn’t stop running, when I was in the U.S. Army’s Basic Training, I completed a 2 mile run within time and captured a record, a big one. I was the first woman EVER to get a perfect score of 500 on the Physical Training (PT) test. I happened to be in the last class of the Women’s Army Corps before it was absorbed into the regular Army, so, I guess my record stands.
Much has changed in the past 40+ years, at least as far as athletic accomplishment goes . I couldn’t jump over a hurdle now if my life depended on it, and sprinting around a cinder track would most likely take half a day and hurt a lot. I kept up the longer-distance running for a while because it turned out I liked the moderately slower pace and the feel of being healthy and limber, but I let a marriage, three kids, and a full time job get in the way of my routine. Now I’m happy if I can stroll around the neighborhood with the dogs without getting worn out.
But I have – fortunately – learned a few things along the way, three lessons that have stood the test of time and now serve as nudges when I get stuck in a rut or completely run out of air. I was reminded of them the other night when I heard Greg Lilly, a local author and publisher, speak about how writers can get moving again if they are feeling unproductive or blocked, but they apply to most efforts to finish something we have started (or get started at all). They are the lessons of managing Time, overcoming Doubt, and finding Inspiration. In this post, I’ll talk about time, and I’ll cover the other two in future posts. Time is the biggie for me, even though I’m no longer tied down to a full-time job outside the house. I still have plenty to do with volunteerism and a menagerie of dogs to love, but solidly managing my calendar to allow writing time trips me up sometimes. Wait til you read about the solution below!
I am usually amused when someone says they don’t have time to do something. We all know we have the same amount of time, so what they are really saying is that the something is not a priority. When we don’t want to do it, we fudge a little and blame it on the thing we all relate to: not enough time. Just yesterday I canceled a coffee meeting with someone I had recently met at a networking meeting. Rather than talk about my business, I realized that he was trying to sell me some kind of insurance when he sent me a video the night before and asked that I watch it in advance of our meeting. I copped out just a little – I sent a text instead of calling him, but in my defense, he sent the video by text also. Anyway, I told him it would be a waste of his time and mine, since I wasn’t interested in the insurance product, and I canceled the meeting. I have to admit it felt good to be honest (I could have said my dog got sick or something). And it felt freeing, because this was now “found” time I could use for writing.
Discipline v. Commitment
Writers, like other artists and creatives I suppose, like to use the word “discipline.,” We way we “just aren’t disciplined,” or “I need some self discipline.” What it comes down to is really just putting our butts in the chair and getting to the business of writing. But I like how Julia Cameron referred to this in her book The Right to Write. She said that people think they have to be disciplined, which in itself has a negative or strict connotation. What we need instead, she says, is to make a commitment, and then we will find the time. “Commitment” is a choice, which is a positive spin, which is motivating. Tomato — to-mah-toe? I am on the side of commitment.
Newton v. Einstein
Another take on this issue of having enough time comes from a fascinating read by Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap. He says that time is a paradigm, or set of beliefs, we hold and that there are two views on this. There is the Newtonian paradigm (from Isaac Newton) which says there is only a finite amount of time. We have to be careful with how we spend it so there is enough time to do…what we want to do, what we need to do, before it runs out, since we can’t make more time.
Unless we can. The solution to this, the other paradigm, is Einstein Time (yes, Albert Einstein). Hendricks suggests Einstein had a new way of “being with time” that lets us get more done in less time and helps us enjoy plenty of time to discover and express our abilities and feel good at the same time. Einstein time gives us a way to expand time, if we allow ourselves to become the source of time and slow things down. Essentially, we have to change our thinking to taking full ownership of time.
Sometimes I get it, this idea…and sometimes I am confused and skeptical and … you know what I mean, you’re probably feeling that way right now, too. I can’t discount it completely because I have been able to stretch time on occasion, but to consciously slow things down so there is enough time to get things done; I have to think about this. Time has stood still for me on occasion, and I have had the experience of time flying (like those last 40 years). I really have to get my mind around this concept, though.
In sum, Lilly’s advice is consistent with Cameron and Hendricks. We “find” time for what we have decided is important to us, and we do that by claiming it and staking our ground. Maybe we shut ourselves away in a room or leave the house to do what we “need” to do. Maybe we trick ourselves by setting a deadline. Offering rewards to myself doesn’t work for me because I’ll just go ahead and get what I want anyway if I want it enough, but it might work for you. The big idea here is to drop the guilt about spending time doing what we love to do. And engaging in that act of creation or whatever, being in that moment, giving ourselves permission to do this is a way to overcome the hurdle of time.
Since I’ve been “solowing,” my time paradigm really has changed, and I’m much more aware of and respectful of time. While we like to say “we never know how much time we have” in terms of life expectancy, I know this to be true. So I have shuffled my priorities, discarded some projects or responsibilities, made time for others. It’s possible I am shifting from Newtonian time to Einstein time! In any event, I value time now in a way that keeps me from getting blocked or stuck. I take my commitments seriously, and I don’t make appointments that will be a waste of time. If you have a time-saving tip, if you have experience with expanding time, if you have a story to tell about when the time was just right, please share! It might help me and others to make shifts in our thinking.
In my next post, I will touch on the hurdle of doubt and fear. I hope you’ll check back for that soon. That one is a huge one in terms of making it to the finish line of achieving our goals.
I always enjoy reading your blog. You get me thinking of how I face things and how I prioritize my time. I am 85 now and I want to enjoy what time I have left with upbeat family and friends. I have to reshuffle and prioritize my wants and needs to fit my life style now and I have found many things that I would have missed if I had not done that. I certainly look at things differently than I did previously. Thanks for your insights.