Time Time

by Tracy Barrett

time time said old king tut
is something i ain't
got anything but
        Don Marquis, "Certain Maxims of Archy")

Archy the cockroach, hard at work, as I should be

Don Marquis, the creator of free-verse poet (and cockroach) Archy, was a busy man. When he had his alter ego put the above words in the mouth of the recently-discovered Pharaoh Tutankhamen, the idea of having nothing but time must have been very appealing to him.

And it does sound idyllic, doesn't it, to have all the time in the world? At least, that's what I used to think. Just imagine how much writing I could get done if I had more time!

That was when I had two kids at home, a full-time job teaching at a rigorous university, and a hefty volunteer position as Regional Advisor of an SCBWI chapter. I still managed to crank out roughly a book a year, but I felt such strain that I frequently questioned whether it was worth it.

So now I have no kids at home and I left the day job three years ago. We've moved away from the hectic university area and are surrounded by woods and deer and the occasional coyote. You'd think I'd be writing up a storm, right?

Wrong. My last book came out more than a year ago, and while I'm working on one that I have high hopes for, even if I finish it in a hurry and an editor falls in love with it and pushes it through well, as we all know, it will be a long time before it sees the light of day. I don't think I'll ever write a book a year again.

I know what the problem is. When I had only an hour of writing time between getting home and my kids' return from school, plus the pressure of a stack of essays to correct and a quiz to create, I'd leap on the computer and BIC FOK TAM* for that hour.

Now I have 12+ hours a day when I can work. But all that time turns out to be a problem. It's easy to say, "Great, I'll just run these errands and then I'll have all afternoon" and then in the afternoon I notice that the bananas are getting black so I'd better make banana bread and that means I have to run the dishwasher but I need to empty it first and then the poor dog hasn't had a walk all day and . . .

. . . and before I know it the day is gone.

But you know what? It's okay. Different stages of life call for different kinds of focus. I write enough to keep me happy. My agent seems happy, my editor seems happy.

So maybe King Tut was right after all.

*butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, typing away madly


  1. I definitely see what you mean! While I do wish for more time, working full-time plus teaching plus... life has made me treat the few hours I get for writing more seriously than when I was working part-time and had larger stretches. I think my production level is probably about the same, but I definitely force myself to stay focused knowing I don't have much time.

    1. That focus does come back from time to time, but it certainly isn't as present for me as it was in the past!

  2. I wonder sometimes, too, how much I can actually write in a day? People ask me a lot how I ever get any writing done with a small child, but the truth is, I don't think I do any less than I ever did. I would love to be an all-day-long writer, but I don't think I ever will be. For me, anyway, there's only so much in that well on a given day.

    1. Agreed, Courtney. I've never been a "write every day" kind of writer, and I sure don't write all day long! After a while the words just run out.

  3. I have so many banana bread / dog needs a walk days!

    1. It never ends. There's always something you could/should be doing! For example, the dryer just stopped. I should take the clothes out before they wrinkle. But you know what? Let 'em wrinkle!


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