Any Twilight Zone fans in the house? They run marathons of it on the SyFy channel during major holidays, so I’m sure at some point, you’ve caught an episode or two. One of my all-time favorites is an episode with Burgess Meredith (aka The Penguin from the original Batman series with Adam West) called “Time Enough At Last.” In it, he plays a bookworm (you can see why this episode appealed to me right from the get-go ;)) who’s so obsessed with books that he spends all his free time — and sometimes steals time away from his everyday activities — to read. He survives a nuclear blast because he’s locked himself in a bank vault to read, and when he emerges to see the entire world is gone, he’s able to set aside his grief only when he realizes there’s now “time enough at last” to read.
Except this is the Twilight Zone and there’s got to be a twist, right? Well the cruel twist in this one is that just as he’s lined up all of the books he’s planning on reading, he knocks off his glasses and breaks them.
Now he can no longer see. Which means he can no longer read. Which means he’s got all the time in the world now, but can’t use it to do what he loves to do most.
Told you it was cruel.
I think about this episode from time to time because I can relate to Henry Bemis’s longing to find time in the day to do what he loves to do most. As a writer who’s also balancing a full-time job — one that requires a two hour round-trip commute — I struggle on a daily basis to scrape together enough time to work on my novel. The only way I’ve been able to make it work these days is to work on it when I get home from work (after I’ve had a chance to unwind from the exhaustion of the commute), which typically means I’m writing late into the night and getting to bed at 11:00 or midnight. There goes sleep. On the weekends, I have the luxury of more time, but not as much as I’d like, either. There are errands to squeeze in and family and friends to catch up with, and often the “extra time” I have to write really only means 3-4 hours, rather than the 6-8 I’d love.
My life is about to change in a major way, though. Next month, my employer will start offering employee shuttles from where I live, which means a solid, uninterrupted hour of writing twice a day — freeing up my evenings to relax, de-compress, and hey, maybe even have a fairly active social life again :). As I count down to “shuttle day,” I can’t help but think about “Time Enough At Last” and how Henry Bemis must have felt, knowing that he’d finally have the time to devote to his passion. Having two hours a day to devote to writing, at a time of the day when my brain is fresh and creative, fills me with such anticipation. But I have to admit, there’s also part of me that’s starting to wonder, “What will I do with the extra time and energy I’ll have?”
For the last three months, I’ve been pouring every ounce of energy and every free moment I have into this first draft, to keep on a chapter-a-week pace. I’ve been able to make it work, but I do find that it’s required some sacrifice on my part (mostly in the sleep department — will I ever get 8 hours again?). Now the prospect of getting to stick to my chapter-a-week pace (and possibly even accelerating that pace!) WHILE NOW GETTING EXTRA TIME is blowing my mind.
This weekend, I’m getting a bit of a dry run in this. I finished this week’s chapter early, so the 3-4 hours I would normally devote to writing today, I actually have free to do… well, whatever I wish. And all of a sudden, I find that I’m thrown for a little loop. I think I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have free time and — gasp! — realized that part of me actually likes having every second of my day accounted for.
I know that ultimately, this new routine will do wonders for my health (physical, mental, spiritual). It’ll restore balance again. And I can’t say enough how excited I am to finally have a solution to my commuting woes. But to my surprise, it will take some adjustment. Thankfully, it’ll be an adjustment I can get on board with.