Long post, short poem. Bear with me.
Last week, I mentioned to someone that I didn’t know when my little engine stopped chanting I think I can, I think I can and started in on You should be done, you should be done, but it was getting to me.
It’s still getting to me, because—as those of you who aren’t keeping track of my every waking hour may not know—I’ve been working on a novel for so long that even my father, who has been my biggest fan* since I could draw my name, has started reminding me that he’s not getting any younger.
This . . . is not so helpful to someone with a history of White Rabbit-level time anxiety.
But then, I read something on this very subject—time management, not disordered Lewis Carroll— from the brilliant and extremely busy Stephen Jay Schwartz, who said, among other things: “I’ve been active, I just haven’t finished my %&!$ing novel.”
And I thought, hey, I know I haven’t been sitting on my hands, because I can’t type that way ** and I’ve written a lot of words these past (cough) years. Many of them made my novel better, even if I deleted them, but a large amount had nothing to do with it at all***—and not a single one of them was wasted.
And not all the time I’ve spent not writing has been wasted, either. That one was tougher to understand, since I do waste time, quite a lot of it. But the main cause of this, oddly enough, appears to be my attempt to force an exhausting, self-imposed, obsessive, 90,000-plus-word dash that makes me want to take the solid writing time I do have and explore I Can Haz Cheezburger, YouTube, and Avenger fanfiction instead, as a form of self-medication.^
But last night, I tossed all the guilt and desperation over my shoulder and went to a semi-spontaneous^ baseball game with my husband, my MIL, and the kids instead of hermiting at home, as is my wont. And, as none of you seemed to notice, I didn’t even bother making an announcement or apology about it here.
No post on a Tuesday? You rebel, me!
Sure, okay, I facebooked a little and Worded with Friends until my phone battery died, and scribbled a few notes about something that could make chapter 29 either fabulous or drag the whole thing down, but I also enjoyed myself in the moment and had a great talk with Janie until the eighth inning, when both teams decided to actually start the game.
It was different and fun and relaxing. Plus, our team won.
Not wasted at all.
We got home late, too late to write a post or type up my notes or do anything but decant the kids into bed and shuffle off to brush my teeth—which is when I realized that the next day was Wednesday and I didn’t have a poem. And people do seem to show up around here for those, even if they don’t comment (ahem, hint).
But then I remembered one I’d found two months ago that I’d given an oh, please snort to in passing, because it flies in the face of everything I’ve been taught about chasing the clock, lest it chase me. At the time, I wasn’t in the mood, because serenity is one thing and finishing a %&!$ing novel is quite another and the clock and I were locked in a sort of tail-chasing, hamster-wheel holding pattern that I actually thought was time management.
As it turns out, that poem was just waiting for me to fall off the hamster-wheel and get it:
Who Bides His Time
(James Whitcomb Riley)
Who bides his time, and day by day
Faces defeat full patiently,
And lifts a mirthful roundelay,
However poor his fortunes be,–
He will not fail in any qualm
Of poverty — the paltry dime
It will grow golden in his palm,
Who bides his time.
Who bides his time — he tastes the sweet
Of honey in the saltest tear;
And though he fares with slowest feet,
Joy runs to meet him, drawing near;
The birds are heralds of his cause;
And, like a never-ending rhyme,
The roadsides bloom in his applause,
Who bides his time.
Who bides his time, and fevers not
In the hot race that none achieves,
Shall wear cool-wreathen laurel, wrought
With crimson berries in the leaves;
And he shall reign a goodly king,
And sway his hand o’er every clime
With peace writ on his signet-ring,
Who bides his time.
This isn’t about waiting for things to happen. This is about working a sane, comfortable amount every day until they do.
I found the poem in my folder without too much trouble, turned to my laptop to write this . . . and then laid the clipping on the keyboard and went to bed.
It could wait until morning.
And it did.
*As in, he finds everything I write fascinating even if he doesn’t have any idea what it means and I’m not too sure myself. I like that in a reader.
**Actually, the first thing I said was “I’ve got to render that in cross stitch and frame it over my desk.”
***I remember a lot of potatoes, octopuses, and physics . . .
^My SIL would say I’ve been zap-frying my pop-tarts again, and she’d be right.
^^Eight e-mails and three text messages to negotiate it all: if the weather wasn’t horrible and if the kids wanted to go and if my MIL wanted to eat out or at home . . .