Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on time-management, parenthood, and the life of the mind

Here's what I meant my last post to say:

I love, love, love to spend time with my kids. We have all sorts of adventures, which include such things as planting beans and camping and cleaning the floors and going to the library and catching potato bugs etc.

I love, love, love teaching. It jazzes me up every time I walk into the classroom. I can't believe I get paid to enthuse about poetry from 400 years ago and poetry from 4 minutes ago. I can't believe I get paid to crank up other folks' brains about the stuff I love.

Between these two adored occupations, I write.

I write poems. They happen all the time, whether I set aside time to work on them or not. (In fact, if I set aside time to sit down and Write Poems, the poems suck: heavy-handed, forced, rushed things.) Poems take time to write, but the time is snatched piecemeal. I write while I'm running, when my body is engaged fully in rhythm. I write in the car. I write while I'm reading. I write poems really, really slowly and all the time. Poems are brutally hard for me to write, but I don't need to block out hours of time to work on them. More to the point, I can work on them when I'm teaching or parenting without taking time out from either teaching or parenting.

I write criticism. And unlike poems, criticism requires blocks of time. I need to sit down and devote sustained attention to the stuff I'm reading. I need to mull without interruption, to pace the house talking aloud to myself about a concept until I hear myself find the words that best articulate the principles. I need to wrestle with a paragraph for four hours without having anyone call me to play or to wipe a butt or to feed them. It's less torturous to write criticism than poetry, but it requires scheduling. And frustratingly, three weeks past my self-imposed June 1 serious resume-criticism-writing date, between teaching and kids and various other little responsibilities that I didn't see coming, I haven't had a free hour, let alone 4, let alone an afternoon or (!) day in isolation with books and computer.

If I don't have defined time, I can't produce criticism. And I don't know where I'm supposed to find that time, given that I'm finished teaching just when my kids are finished with school. That imagined "free time" that nonacademics begrudge us academics so much--you know, the time that we're supposed to use to write the stuff that keeps us our jobs and is therefore absolutely a part of our jobs--is pretty hard to come by.

5 comments:

squadratomagico said...

Sorry about the time-crunch-craze: it sounds really tough. I don't have any advice, just sympathy.

Btw, writing a poem in the voice of a medieval weapon sounds so wonderful!

Moria said...

Oh, god.

I feel so, so guilty. Oh GOD.

I wish I could give my time to you. It would be in better hands, that way.

Meanwhile I must pledge to use it better, to be a better steward of this precious time.

God, I feel guilty.

the rebel lettriste said...

What I was thinking about this morning is that a poem can happen in the interstices. It can be picked up again after a spate of doing otherwise.

But criticism doesn't work like that.

And therein lies the rub.

Ink said...

I'm experiencing the exact same thing right now, though rather than calmly reflecting, as you do, my thoughts on the subject more often burst out in frustrated flails during which I stomp around and proclaim that I am just going to quit writing criticism altogether (but then I don't).

Many hugs to you!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Daycare is solving this problem for me. It feels somewhat self-indulgent to me, but it is giving me time I need and keeping me sane.

Alternative? Playdates!