For when there is time

I’m working on a novel now and thinking about how I use my time. It is not as though I have not worked on long-term projects that have spanned years. But it is fair to say that perhaps I didn’t know at the outset how long I would work on it, how long it would hold my attention, sustain me.

It is clear to me, every time I take notes, or identify a research question, or think about a character’s backstory, that to do this, I will be in it for a long time.

I have always tended to work on multiple projects simultaneously. At times, this can feel generative, exciting. At others, I wonder, am I diluting the work? Short-changing it all somehow? At this point in my life, I think maybe some modes of being are too deeply rooted to change significantly. Even now, as I write this, I have interrupted myself to take a note for some possible future thing.

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A workshop leader once opened the class with the question, “What poem have you read today?” When no one rushed to answer, he made some comment to the effect of, “Well I hope you enjoy your hobby.” His point being about seriousness, engagement with the “craft.” I took his point, certainly. I think of it often.

I wonder whether my anxiety about claiming identity – artist, writer, poet, etc. – is at least to some extent, gendered. I have not discussed this much with men, so it is only an open question for now with suggested likelihood implied.

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How many installations must I complete before I can call myself an artist? How many poems must I write before I can call myself a poet? Does formal training make the identity? To what extent, really, does it matter?

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I remember a former mentor who talked about his file drawer of possible projects. Sketches for book projects, workshops, courses he might teach. Some were fairly detailed, other just hastily-scribbled concepts. He was nearing retirement at the time. We’ve since lost touch but I wonder whether he’s been able to attend to any of those file folders now. That drawer full of promises to a future self. For when there is time. Don’t we always think there will be time?