Thursday, January 15, 2009

The anti-Flashback Friday

Here we are. Tomorrow is Flashback Friday, but I haven't added any fresh insights to my blog since the last one. My fear in initiating FF was that I would at times neglect or be unable to post Saturday through Thursday, and as a result turn my blog into one flashback story after another without the more intellectual musings holding them together. After successfully conquering NaBloPoMo, Flashback Friday remained the motivating force encouraging me to write 3-4 posts per week so I wouldn't have a loser blog. Up until this point, it has worked, but I have also realized that I often write to fulfill my obligation to maintain this self-imposed "schedule." I find myself trying to think of something to say so I can write, rather than writing because I have something to say. Big difference.

Then, I read Bridget's list of 65 books she read in 2008. By my calculation, that's one and one-third books per week! One reader mentioned in a comment that she read 97 books in 2007. That statistic, for me, is more frightening than impressive. For a long time I just haven't had much interest in reading. Running multiple locations of my own business took so much of my time, and now having a toddler leaves me cramming an 8-hour workday to-do list into a 2-hour nap [Note: it does not work, and I constantly feel a day or two behind].

Recently the urge to read has reappeared. I suddenly recall novels that gripped me years ago and long for that melancholy stupor that lingers after the last page of a really good book. When I learn of literature that intrigues me of late (often reviewed by Bridget as well), I find myself yearning for time to investigate them. When asked by another reader how she manages to read so much, Bridget responded that she has always been a fast (while still thorough) reader, and she chooses to spend her "discretionary" time reading, as others might choose to knit, watch TV, scrapbook, etc.

I am not a fast reader. I never have been. The wiring in my brain requires me to read each word as if I were reading it out loud. Imagine how much longer it would take you to read a novel aloud to someone else than reading it to yourself, and that's about how long it would probably take me. If I try to read faster, I end up having to go back and re-read a whole paragraph either because I actually missed a word and get confused, or because my obsessive-compulsive concern that I might have missed a word demands it.

We all choose how to spend our discretionary time, and some of us have more of it available than others. I feel like I have very little, and wondered why that is. And so I did what any self-respecting nerd would do: put it to research. For five consecutive days, I analyzed how I spent my time. I basically punched a proverbial clock each time my activity shifted, recording what I was doing and labeling each segment under broader categories. I tried hard to avoid reactivity, genuinely going about my day as I normally would. This was a very interesting exercise, and I learned some weird things. For example, I spent an average of 2 hours per day just preparing and eating meals, and an additional, equal amount of time "getting ready" (for the day, to go somewhere...).

Pertaining to discretionary time, I realized that when I am not specifically engaged in a necessary task such as getting my daughter dressed or making dinner, I am constantly trying to work. I try to sneak work in whenever I can. When Madelyn is distracted, I'll make a few phone calls. I'll let her watch TV so I can work on my computer. And as soon as she is asleep or under my husband's care, I am immediately drawn to check my to-do list and accomplish work-related tasks before anything else.

What this discovery revealed about my priorities was unsettling. But as I mentioned above, it is very difficult to fit a full-time job into a few hours a day, and this is the way I have grown accustomed to managing my predicament.

When I do feel satisfied enough with my productivity to put my work aside, I am enticed by blogging (as well as reading several others). At the risk of humiliating myself, I will disclose that a coherent post takes me about 2 hours to write and edit. On one of the days in my "study," all of my discretionary time was spent updating my two blogs. But Bridget blogs more than I do, and she has two kids, not one and finds plenty of discretionary time on top of it all. I'm not trying to compete with her, or anyone else, I am just trying to understand why I don't have time to read five books a year, let alone 65. My day-to-day analysis did not reveal any obvious "here's where you're wasting your time" activities, and believe me, I was looking for them so they could be eliminated.

So this leads me to the reason for this Non-Flashback post. I want to read. I want to blog, but only when there is a matter I feel compelled to write about. And therefore I am demoting Flashback Friday to a bi-weekly feature. Most likely no one would have noticed or cared, but I wanted to talk through my process of justifying less frequent posts. I'm sure there will be spurts of creativity when I'll be writing more. But when presented with the little bit of "me" time that I am afforded, I don't want to decline an interest I would rather be pursuing because I am pressuring myself to write a certain number of posts each week.

Right now, for example, New Moon (second in the Stephenie Meyer Twilight series) is propped up behind my laptop screen, begging fiercely for me to crack it open and start. I read Twilight last week instead of writing 3 blog posts, and I can't say I regret it. Now I'm off to continue the saga, feeling better that I have at least touched base with my devoted fans.

Ahem. That's you.


Bridget said...

For what it's worth, I found this post to be very interesting.

After I stopped working for the dictionary, I thought I would have tons of "free time," but I really haven't noticed a difference. It seems like whatever I things I have to accomplish are like an accordion - they tend to expand or contract to fit the time I give them. You obviously have a lot more to fit into your "accordion," so it's no wonder you're left without much discretionary time.

Plus, potty training. Aren't you in the middle of that right now?

jaeyde said...

To piggy-back on Bridget's comment, there's something to be said for *only* having 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Honestly, I have enough trouble with those, and I'm pretty sure if we all had more hours in the day, we'd also all have longer to-do lists, more activities, and even more stress. Which also makes me oddly thankful that after a certain amount of time awake, our bodies shut down and demand that we rest. ;)

barb said...

I'm working on living up to the devoted fan title. Happy to be caught up on your blog once more! It's better than Twilight, in my opinion.


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