Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ten Minutes at a Time

Can a book be written ten minutes at a time?

This might be the Shakespeare/Shakespeare's Sister dilemma. A real writer, a true writer, a person who's already written something famous-ish, can sit in his or her library all day. There's an eloquently documented terror in that kind of life (try Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott), and I don't mean to minimize the stresses of it.

But I don't live that life. I live this one, where I have something like zero-sum time management. Yet here I am, dressed and ready for work and I don't have to leave for 10 minutes. The laundry is started. Sean Connery, the red Roomba, is vacuuming upstairs. My bed is made. My gym bag is packed; my stuff is gathered for the day. I'm going to stop for gas and the world's fastest oil change (they PROMISED!) on the way to work. Good enough.

Today I'm apparently using that available ten minutes for blogging -a good thing in my world. But some days, surely, I could use it for other kinds of writing.

Here's the project: Just over a year ago, my brother and his wife lost a premature baby. Well, they didn't lose her; they know where she is. She died, because she was born wildly prematurely and with no lungs to speak of. Rachel Grace still lives with us, in a real way, even though I never saw her and she only lived about 24 hours. She was the baby we were meant to have at that time; I absolutely believe that. She changed us.

And there's this other truth that I'm a knitter, and a knitting teacher, and a thinker about knitting and women's communities.... Slowly, slowly, the idea is coming together: a book of knitting patterns for premature babies dedicated to Rachel. I have two knitting patterns in my head that would work for premature babies, I think. One is a sweater that instead of buttoning down the front has a front panel that buttons down the left side and the right side (side-front, essentially at the clavicle...does that make sense?). That would allow the baby to wear cute sweaters made by doting aunties AND be attached to life-saving machines (that have cords and leads and things). If I'm a clever girl indeed, I could figure out how to turn this pattern into a sacque or even a jumpsuit sort of thing. (A slight pause here while I wish I still had access to geometrically-trained in-house help.) The other one is just a pretty blanket, with a satin binding. We don't use multiple fabrics much in knitting, and I don't know why. The thing babies LIKE about blankets is the satin binding, in my experience.

There will be more patterns if my brain remains active and appropriately caffeinated. Each pattern could be (will be) associated with an essay. I need these essays to be, well, fabulous. So far what they are is platitude-filled drivel. This is not an auspicious beginning. But again, I refer to Anne Lamott -shitty first drafts, is her advice. That we have ;)

But the question on the table is, can a person write in 10 minute slots of time? It will annoy me, no question about it. It's like snacking, rather than dining. On the other hand, it might provide some needed urgency. "Get some words on the page; the timer is about to go off."

So, what happens if I stop wondering if I can be (if I'm allowed to be) a writer and just step into that role? A real writer -a true writer- couldn't let 10 free minutes pass by without writing -any more than a dancer could avoid dancing when she hears a scrap of music or a singer could avoid singing in the shower or the car. Writing. That's why the universe provided those 10 minutes in the morning. I should honor that gift and claim them. Eventually I'll have a book, and eventually is better than never!


Lisa :-] said...

How about soliciting essays from parents/families of premature babies? You would take on the role of editor, of sorts. Lots easier to do. And probably more meaningful...

Anonymous said...

Or some of both. Your writings interspersed with those of families, NICU caregivers etc.

I think ten minutes a day sounds perfect. Can't wait to read it.

Kimberly said...

I keep reading a lot of books on writing and they seem to agree that writing regularly is what matters--not necessarily writing for long periods.

Robert Boice (Advice for New Faculty, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency) is a psychologist who has studied what successful writers (and professors) do that differentiates them from unsuccessful one. He thinks one of the keys is brief, regular writing. When you do that, it's always near to hand, and you can pick it up quickly (vs. writing in binges, which requires some ramp-up time, and typically results in a brief depression afterward).

Here's a blog I was reading this morning that seems relevant: Write to Done: 7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers.

I think you can do it!