"Time is not free"

I came across this neat article from the 2010 issue of Sunset (What's Sunset? A magazine I guess.)  I wasn't actually searching for someone to validate me for signing out of Facebook, although I have found myself feeling somewhat more mixed about it than I anticipated. When I came across this article, though, I was simply wasting time, scrolling through Anne Lamott stuff on the web. Her son Sam, the one she wrote about in that absolutely blow-your-mind best book on motherhood ever written Operating Instructions (and even that's not over-hyping it, really), is now 20, and has a kid himself.

Anne Lamott's trying to convince her students that they really do have time for a more fulfilling and meaningful life. It reminded me of hundreds of discussions I had over the years, more with band members than writers, trying to figure out a time for them to practice when they claimed to not have a spare 5 minutes even in any given day. We'd go through everything:

Earlier wake up time? 
No--exhausted as it is. 

Less time on email? 
Can't--have to do it, for work. 

Less socializing? 
Already cut back so much, friends are getting mad. 

Skip party this weekend?
Cancelled on that person last time.

Leave dinner earlier?
Need to stay on good terms, those are work contacts.

Tell your family this Sunday isn't good?
It's my nephew's birthday.

Shorter shower?
Long hair, need to condition.

As soon as you get home from work?
Too stressed. I think I'm entitled to five minutes to unwind and transition.

So after that?
Too late, have to get ready to go out.

The argument would inevitably end with me saying, "Okay, fine, but you could have been practicing now, rather than having this discussion." I always thought that would be the knockdown punch, but it wasn't: "But I hardly ever get to see you." It took years, but finally I realized the question for me wasn't how to get person X to admit he/she has time to practice or write, but why am I surrounding myself with people who are not serious?  

Here's the article: Time lost and found, Anne Lamott. I pulled out the best parts, to save you time.

"I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief—and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions—that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this. This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement." 


"...what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for."


"I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day."


  1. yes to the quiet time. and she has a new book coming out...about her son's baby...looking forward to reading it! i've actually never read her before.

  2. quiet time! yes - her new book comes out tomorrow I think, written with her son. Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My son's First Son. Her book on writing--Bird by Bird--is one of my all-time favorites. I read it again and again. I also love Operating Instructions -- as I mentioned above - on the first year of her son's life. Unfortunately I've never loved any of her fiction - Hard Laughter was a decent book, the others had great moments, but were not particularly memorable. It was bothering me last night to think about how the books on writing I like the best -- Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg -- neither of them could really write great fiction. But then I thought about how coaches don't have to be the best athletes, just like great writing teachers aren't necessarily great writers themselves. Maybe it's true for all fields. Still, there's something odd about it to me -- that their writing when it is advice on writing is so beautiful and pure and free, but when you see them taking their own advice, it's just kind of mediocre.

  3. Every day you decide what you want to do with a precious resource that is constantly being depleted till it's gone.

  4. Hawkeye - I love how your comments sound, how did another commenter put it once, fatalistic? Dark? But they're merely stating the facts, and that in itself should be a giant wake up call.


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