“This is not the right time…” I say under my breath to my husband. Loud enough for him to hear over and above the clatter of soapy plates in the sink, sitting belligerently in awkward angles piled on top of the other, waiting impatiently for their turns to be rinsed off and put away.
“The right time is NOW.” He quips in response without taking his eyes off the newspaper.
The ‘Right’ Time
When is the ‘right’ time?
I have spent the majority of my adult life studying. I have written a research thesis, which has been published as a book. I have written several academic papers but received more rejections than acceptances from peer-reviewed journals. I say writing is not for the faint-hearted because there will be rejections, and disappointments are sure to be had.
After submitting an article to an academic journal, the feedback that follow from reviewers can be both helpful and harsh at the same time. I have been known to take days, even weeks, to recover from their ‘constructive’ criticisms. I do not know a ‘right’ time to submit a piece of work, because all there ever was were deadlines.
It is when the deadlines fall away and left in a space entirely of my own making, I find myself faced with the question of the ‘right’ time.
Recently, I changed my perspective on time. Put it another way, I permitted myself to think about the issue of timing differently. My mother was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma. Since learning her diagnosis, I started reading up on cancer and whatever material (blogs, books, scientific studies) I could get my eyes on, I read. Learning about cancer transformed my perspective on the finality of life. Whenever I have a dilemma regarding when to do something, my new perspective begs the question.
If I knew I had x amount of days left to live, what would I rather be doing?
Most of the time, that answers my question.
Becoming a creative writer is new to me. I fantasise about taking up yet another degree in Creative Writing, and why not?! But time, away from my children, and money are very real considerations. After years of learning, I should be earning and making financial contributions to support my family instead of doing more reading and writing, says my inner critic. The thought of learning a new craft appeals to me although the idea of starting again is a little more than overwhelming. So, I chose to put classes aside for now.
After the birth of my third child, I find myself without a job. I needed some intellectual stimulation to fill in the waiting hours between making lunches and dinners; and the children’s naps. I needed to make magic while waiting! So, I decided I would take a giant leap of faith and give my best shot at writing (and blogging).
I chose to start with Medium (what a unique writing platform!). My inner critic chides me. Will I be able to withstand the pressures of the digital age in sharing (hang on, selling!) a piece of my soul on the Internet? Suddenly, I hear a sonorous voice. It is Mephistopheles from Goethe’s Faust whispering seductively in my ear,
“I’ll be your servant here, and I’ll / Not stop or rest, at your decree: / When we’re together, on the other side, / You’ll do the same for me.” (lines 1656–1659)
Beguiled, I leapt. And then, I wait.
We are taught in our research classes at University to put words on paper (or, rather, words on the screen), that is, to write, just write every day. Whether you write a paragraph, a line, a page, it is imperative to put words down. This advice is not prescriptive, there are others who disagree with the need to write every day.
I used to get home after class, read a few articles from my research pile and then started jotting down notes on a document before saving it to file for future reference. In that way, I am doing some amount of writing though not necessarily the creative kind. Not the most exciting of tasks!
I certainly did not write consistently since words are like a river which ebbs and flows according to its tides.
The second most important lesson I learnt about writing is that the first draft is never the finished product. Writing is an unending learned craft that undergoes revision upon revision. Most of the time, the finished product is far from perfect, but one has to complete somewhere. It can be hard to know when to stop without a deadline. Looking through my digital archive, I found at least five drafts of a single chapter saved. I cannot claim that I am an expert when it comes to the editing process. Polishing a piece of writing can feel tedious. I am an impatient person. Although, I find that if I keep asking myself at the end of each page, is this what I mean to say? It makes the process a lot less painful.
Finally, it is essential to keep on reading. Read, read, read!
There is alchemic magic in the becoming. Moving between the different stages of our lives can be both physically and mentally challenging. Perhaps the most magical and difficult part of the process of becoming is in the waiting. Waiting for a response on your submission. Waiting on an article to be accepted, or rejected. Waiting to do yet more revisions. Waiting for the baby to sleep so that I can write. Waiting for your next caffeine hit. Waiting for the next job interview. Waiting for the next wave of change.
What do we do while we wait? I say we make some magic.
I cannot say that I have mastered the art of writing let alone writing for an unknown and invisible audience. The thought of putting pieces of myself out there scares the hell out of me. But what have I to lose? What have you to lose? After all, life is finite. If we keep on waiting for the ‘right’ moment to take the plunge, what happens if that moment never arrives?! Or, what happens when the ‘right’ time surfaces, but we fail to grasp it and take no action?
Well in life, there are leaps to make, bridges to cross and whether you like it or not, there are bullets to bite to reach the “other side”.