Thursday, June 28, 2018

In Search of Efficiency

In many aspects of my life, I can work quite efficiently. In my teaching life, for example, I get 90 non-supervisory minutes per day. I often create the presentations for six or more lessons, process and provide feedback on 150 or so assignments from the day before, and make three or four phone calls. Occasionally I even eat or use the bathroom. I've become a master at squeezing so much into such a brief time.

At home, with the duties of family life, I'm great at using my appliances and doing one task and finishing another while that one simmers. In forty-five minutes each morning, I can prepare and pack four lunches; feed, medicate, and walk one dog; wash a load of dishes; dog-proof the house for departure; and make sure all four Bryants leave with the right things in their hands.

But when it comes to writing, even though I've been doing this professionally for four years now, I can't seem to be efficient. I am productive, but I am continually frustrated with my rate of production.

I have gotten better. I can produce more words in a shorter amount of time for sure. I have become more disciplined and can make myself stay focused on a single task until it is complete. I use a variety of organizational tools to keep me on track and meeting deadlines.

But there are just so many tasks now…my TBW (to be written) list grows steadily, and I want to be able to get these projects completed more quickly, but it just doesn't work that way for me. Even now, on summer vacation, when my days are more my own to sculpt and use, there are not enough hours in the day for what I want. And even when I have ALL the hours, I can only productively write for so many of them before something snaps and I have to let my poor brain rest.

Art isn't supposed to be efficient.

That's what I tell myself anyway. Art is messy. It's a process, and false starts, blind alleys, and backtracking are part of that process. The first draft of anything is shit, right? Hemingway said so, and people paid him for his words.

But I am impatient to get all my stories out there, into the hands of readers.

Play is part of it. Meandering. Wandering. Seeking. None of these are efficient, start-to-finish clear pathways. But the work suffers if you try to circumvent that.

So where I stand today is back on that tightrope, trying to find the right balance that lets me move forward and feel productive, finishing work and getting it out there, but doesn't make the work itself dull and plodding. Making art on a schedule that doesn't make me or my family crazy. Setting the bar high, but not so high that I can't feel my fingers brush it from time to time.

Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way. Lots of things that need done, I can be super efficient, but writing seems to be a whole different beast.