Hey everybody. Life is full of surprises, yes? Many of them good, some of them bad, probably all of them poised to topple some longstanding belief we held for some antiquated reason or another.
This rambling preamble (preramble?) is all to say that I’ve been surprised by something recently. I’ve learned that I have a lot more time than I thought I did. It’s not that I’ve magically added hours to my day, or found a way to go back and squeeze the most out of every minute. No, I’ve just started to differentiate useful activities from useless ones.
That sounds a bit harsh, I think. Let me explain myself. For a long time, I was addicted to video games. I poured literally hundreds of hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for instance, and that’s just one example of all the time I’ve dedicated to scouring worlds not my own. During those times, and others like them, I grabbed a controller and ignored almost everything and everyone else. I didn’t have a job for most of those times, so I was “free” to explore pixelated wonderlands.
The problem with all that freedom is that I squandered it, mostly. I don’t want to be too hard on myself, because we all make mistakes and it’s important to forgive ourselves and learn from the past, but I could definitely have utilized all that free time for more useful purposes.
It’s taken me a long while to figure out that time is not malicious, and we must choose to respond to the time we have. I used to play a ton of video games and tell myself that I was researching storytelling and character development so I could write my own stories someday. This was partly true, and drawing inspiration from sources outside oneself is important, but a personal creative effort also requires time devoted to oneself. You can’t just feed off the work of others – you have to work, too.
I have to “work” forty hours a week to pay my bills. That means that anywhere between eight and nine hours are eaten by my job five days out of seven, every week. This kind of work is important in that it buys me the relative stability and comfort I need to sit back and do the real work I want to do.
This brings us back to responding, and how it’s key to making the most of our time. I could respond to my full-time job by saying “I’m so damn tired, I just want to sit back and relax.” This is not a terrible response, because downtime is necessary to a healthy lifestyle, but there is danger in too much downtime.
I would know. I used to spend hours a day in virtual worlds that I didn’t create. So, with more limited time available for downtime and creative time, a balance must be struck. I have to admit, I still spend a good amount of time enjoying the work of others. I call this the “consumption” phase of my life process. I consume the work of other people and digest it, to take lessons and good pieces from it, to inspire myself to create something of my own. I still play video games most days. I don’t play them for hours on end, but I pick up a controller and immerse myself in other worlds.
I also play board games, which is a whole other creative realm. I’m still not sure how to qualify this aspect of my life, but I don’t think I need to, necessarily – a lot of clever thinking and designing goes into board game creation, and I like to sit down and enjoy the unique results of board game creators’ thinking.
Then there’s Dungeons and Dragons. This is a mix of consumption and creation – the pieces of an adventure story are set up for me and my friends, but we get to create characters and act as them as the game/story progresses. We make decisions as these characters. We become them, so D&D becomes an awesome mix of acting, gaming, and story crafting. We create our bits of the world, and consume the results of our actions.
Finally, I’ve been watching a lot of tv lately. I jumped into Sword Art Online with a curious interest at first, and that curiosity bloomed into a ravenous hunger. My brother started watching The Boys last night, and we were both drawn into its gritty world of corporate exploitation of superheroes. Fuck, it’s well-written. It’s based on a comic book series, and it’s great.
As you can see from that long list of shit that I take in, I do a lot of consuming. Part of it is to sit back and relax when I’m not working, but another part of it is to take in creations and learn from them.
Where does time come in? And how have I discovered more of it? Well, that list is pretty big, and it involves a lot of time-consuming activities. So I work. I relax. I play games and watch tv. But I’m also setting aside time to write.
I’ve been okay about writing at least a page a day. Some days I skip writing in favor of watching something or playing a game, but when I do that, I write two or three pages to make up for it. In an ideal world, I think I’d have my basic needs covered without working a full-time job, and I could write more.
In my own little world, though, I have to make time work for me. I work forty hours a week, and I have fun when I can. Late at night, after work, I sit down to write. On my days off, such as today, I can write in the daytime. I wrote two-and-a-half pages of my book before I decided to write this rambling update. I’m probably going to write a few more pages later, because I have a good idea of what my next scene needs to be. When my brother gets home, we’ll probably watch The Boys. I think I’ll be able to fit some gaming into the day, and still make a bit of food. My journal is sitting on my desk – I can probably update that too.
There are so many things I like to do, so many things I want to do, and all I need to do is, well, do them. And most days, the time is there. I just have to meet it and work with it. I’m only writing a little bit at a time, but over time, consistent small efforts add up to something big.
I’ll finish my book. I take the time to make it happen.