Out of Time

I would not have guessed, when I began teaching Fearless Writing, that the most common problem my students would face was time. To be precise, finding time to write, a subject about which I have written often in this space. I would not have guessed it would be such a problem because I had never considered it a problem in my own writing life. Since boyhood I had always set aside plenty of time to write. No problem.

Like most teachers, I teach what I most want to learn, and I think my students and I are not so very different in our concerns about time. It is one thing to set aside two hours a day to write; it is another thing to spend those two hours productively. And by productively, I don’t mean pounding out a certain number of words or pages; I mean entering into that dreamlike flow where I forget about everything but the story I’m telling, where I am receiving more than making, listening more than thinking.

If I am in that state of mind, I really don’t care if I produce 400 words or 4,000 words. I don’t care where what I’ve written will be published or what anyone will think of it. When I’m in that flow, all I care about is being in that flow. There is no better feeling than focusing on something completely, without any judgment or expectation, without any thought of what I have done or might do. There is no better feeling than living the in present moment.

Which is why time remains the single biggest obstruction to my creativity and productivity. Not the lack of time, simply the awareness of it. When I enter into the creative flow, I forget about the past and the future. I forget about guilt, which exists entirely in the past, and I forget about worry, which waits entirely in the future. Moreover, without the past or the future, there is no time, there is only an endless now.

I am reticent to even write the words “endless now,” as that concept is so elusive it appears not to even exist. It is easier for the imagination to picture the past or future than the present moment. In fact, my imagination cannot picture the present moment. It can, however, enter it, and when it does, it is released from the burden of correcting what is unreal and freed to create what is real.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

The Balancing Act

Writing can happen in one place and one place only: The Present Moment. It cannot happen in the past, though we might – while in the present moment – focus our attention upon some past event for inspiration or material. But the writing itself happens in the present moment. And of course it can’t happen in the future, that sometimes near, sometimes very distant land where the story we’re writing will live when it’s finished. All creation happens in the present moment, because that is all that actually exists.

I have to remind myself of this every time I sit down to write. How easy to let my attention drift into the past, where I believe all my failures reside. Failure always lives in the past, in whose shadows, like a moss, it can thrive. In the bright hot light of the present moment – in which life is only potential, in which life is only forgiving, in which life is only curious – the concept of failure has no purchase for its hopeless roots.

And how equally easy to let my attention drift into the future, where I believe the value of what I am creating in the present moment will be revealed. I don’t want to waste my time, after all. Why write something that no one wants to read? To ask such a question is to hold my stories hostage until such time as the ransom of other people’s approval has been paid.

Which is why I have learned to ask myself two questions while I write: What do I want to say? And, Have I said it? Only the present moment can answer these questions. But keeping my attention where it needs and actually wants to be is a kind of balancing act, pulled as I am to the past and future. Drift too far either way and I will fall. No matter. The support of the present moment remains ever true, and I need only return to standing to find myself where I have always been.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Making Time

I have always made time to write. Whether I was working as a waiter or a sales clerk, whether I was designing roleplaying adventures or booking and conducting interviews, I have always made time to write. This was not so difficult because I considered writing a pleasure and what I wanted most in the world was to do only things that pleased me. Making time to write often meant choosing writing over something that did not please me at all.

Yet I imposed a cost on myself for this choice. I called myself lazy. I believed I wasn’t responsible enough. I felt I should do a few more things that didn’t please me, which seemed like a more grown-up way to live. Children just did whatever they felt like, until they grew up and learned the unavoidable truth of surviving. There’s only so much time in the day, after all. If you spend it all just doing whatever you felt like, houses would never get built and groceries would never get bought.

Time’s a strange commodity. It expands and compresses with my attention. When I become happily lost within the dream of writing, the past and future loose their hold on my imagination, trained as it is in the present moment where creation can occur. When I awaken from this dream, it is like waking from a night’s sleep; it is as if I’d traveled five miles of time in a few steps.

When I am doing things that do not please me, I feel every second. I travel each one, step-by-step, measuring my way toward the end of this chore. Time is a measure, not in where I am, but only in my position relative to the end. I live in the future, in that imagined time when I might be happy again.

Time has never actually existed, but happiness and unhappiness have. In fact, they are all we really know. No one actually needs to find time to write. We need only answer this question: Is my life about doing what pleases me, or doing what I must? Which is actually more important? How I answer that question creates or destroys all time.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Free Time

It is officially summer in the Kenower/Paros household, meaning our homeschooling – such as it was – is over. Meaning, I have a lot more free time. Free time is always great in theory, but not always in practice. It is every bit the blank page of my day, except that I have far less practice filling it.

I remember the summer conversation I would have with my younger brother more or less every morning. “What do you want to do?” I’d ask. “I don’t know,” he’d reply. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know,” I’d say. We’d spent our school year waiting for this, talking about this, filling this in our imaginations, only to be confronted with the long, muggy emptiness of it. This was our emptiness, of course, which made it better than school, but sometimes only a little.

Time has a way filling itself if you let it, which is what I usually did as a boy. I am a man now, and I have trained myself to place different expectations on my time. This is one of the great reliefs of writing. When it’s going well, I forget all about time. While I am writing, I am as unaware of time as I am the chair in which I sit. But then I am done writing, and I hear again the wall clock announcing every new second, and the chair tilts as I lean back from the desk, and I have free time to fill.

My brother has a full-time job now, so I can’t bother him. I wander to the window, and notice that the bush by the gate is looking mangy, and the clovers have begun their yearly creep. I am uninspired. Not surprising. I am looking in the wrong place for inspiration. The blank page offers no advice or direction. That the world looks like a page already written is a trick of memory, mistaking what has already been for what is possible, mistaking time for measurement rather than an invitation.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Wasting Time

I was teaching at a conference the other weekend when a student asked me familiar question: How do I write this book I want to write when I don’t have enough time? As usual, when I asked the class how many other people felt this way, half the students raised their hand. The answer I gave that day did not help the one who asked the question, and I have thought about it a lot since. The answer I eventually received to all my thinking was surprisingly simple.

If you feel you do not have enough time to write, ask yourself this: Is writing a waste of time? You only have so much of it in a day, in a year, in a life. Are you wasting it by retiring to your little writing cave to tell some story? It is easy to know why that job you might or might not like isn’t a waste of time: it provides you with an income, and a sort of social life, and an identity – but mostly an income. And you know why talking to your spouse or partner isn’t a waste of time: you enjoy it, and it nurtures this relationship you value. And you know why you do the laundry and clean the kids’ rooms and take the kids to ballet and soccer. You’re a parent. It’s what you do.

And you also know why you watch TV and play video games and go to movies and draft your fantasy football team and talk on the phone with old friends and knit: these things are pleasing and relaxing, and you must relax, you must have fun. Life can’t be all work. These things may not bring you money or maintain the ship of state that is your domestic life, but you need to occasionally simply enjoy yourself for no other reason than it feels good to do so.

But then there’s writing. You don’t know when or if you will make any money from it. It takes you away from your friends and family. And it’s not always fun. Some days, it’s harder than anything else you have ever done. And so why are you doing it? You know why you spend your time on all your other activities, why are you bothering with this?

I never wondered whether I should spend two hours a day writing; to choose not to do so felt like committing suicide. But I often wondered if all this writing would ever produce anything in the world other than a pile of pages in my desk drawer. There were many dark nights it seemed little else would come of it. It took me years of writing and midnight agony to understand what the word faith actually meant, what it was to believe in something I could not see or touch or measure.

The question is not whether writing is a waste of time, but whether you believe in something only you can perceive. Your writing hours are spent making real what lives only in your imagination. Do you also believe in how much you love those stories? Or that that love will travel beyond your workroom? In the end, the only thing we know for sure is that we love our stories. Is that enough? If it is, you will always find the time.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Free Time

It is officially summer in the Kenower/Paros household, meaning our homeschooling – such as it was – is over. Meaning, I have a lot more free time. Free time is always great in theory, but not always in practice. It is every bit the blank page of my day, except that I have far less practice filling it.

I remember the summer conversation I would have with my younger brother more or less every morning. “What do you want to do?” I’d ask. “I don’t know,” he’d reply. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know,” I’d say. We’d spent our school year waiting for this, talking about this, filling this in our imaginations, only to be confronted with the long, muggy emptiness of it. This was our emptiness, of course, which made it better than school, but sometimes only a little.

Time has a way filling itself if you let it, which is what I usually did as a boy. I am a man now, and I have trained myself to place different expectations on my time. This is one of the great reliefs of writing. When it’s going well, I forget all about time. While I am writing, I am as unaware of time as I am the chair in which I sit. But then I am done writing, and I hear again the wall clock announcing every new second, and the chair tilts as I lean back from the desk, and I have free time to fill.

My brother has a full-time job now, so I can’t bother him. I wander to the window, and notice that the bush by the gate is looking mangy, and the clovers have begun their yearly creep. I am uninspired. Not surprising. I am looking in the wrong place for inspiration. The blank page offers no advice or direction, only an invitation. That the world looks like a page already written is a trick of memory, mistaking what has already been for what is possible, mistaking time for measurement rather than an invitation.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Free Time

Most authors I know who are at the beginning of their writing journey struggle to find enough time to write. There are so many demands placed on an adult with a job and a house to keep up and maybe a spouse and some growing children that finding an hour or two five or six days a week seems destined to end in a Sophie’s choice between art and sleep. Writing, after all, is a tree that can take years to bear fruit, whereas dishes, and homework, and bills and all the daily business of being alive and a functioning member of society form an endless harvest from seeds already sown decades ago.

In fact, most of what we call our life has been growing around us for so long that it is hard to remember who sowed those seeds in the first place. It is easy to forget and call it reality, the way schools existed before we were fed into them, and our days soon became wed to the weekly rhythms of a song written long before we were born. When I look at life this way, my life feels like something that happened to me, a job handed me at birth that I am made to work until I retire into the grave.

But the writer must accept his freedom. The page is blank and only a conscious exercise of that freedom will fill it. The time to write can be found within the recognition of our inherent and persistent freedom. My days have always been a perfect portrait of what I believed about life. When I believed the world was divided into have and have-nots, into the servant and the served, my days were spent toiling to write books to set me free from a life of indentured servitude in a job for which I had willingly applied and willingly worked for seventeen years.

Somewhere in all that toiling I began to see my writing as in service to life, and the clear division between haves and have-nots became increasingly blurry. I eventually discovered I did not need that job anymore, and soon my days were no longer divided between what I wished for and what I had. Time was mine whether I wanted it or not, and I had exactly as much of it as everyone else on the planet.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Valuable Attention

Students and clients frequently complain about “not having time to write.” It’s odd phrasing in reality because it’s impossible to not have time. The only way to not have time is to be dead. What these writers mean, of course, is that they do not know how to focus their attention on writing instead of all the other things they believe they most focus their attention on. These other things require all their attention. There is none, or virtually none, left for writing.

Yet even virtually none is more than none, so if you have found yourself complaining that you do not have enough time, the first question you must ask yourself is: Is it true that it is impossible to focus my attention on writing? If the answer is yes, then you’re done. You can no more focus your attention on writing than you could jump to the moon. But if the answer is no, if it is possible, then it is only a question of how long you will choose to focus your attention on writing.

And what is writing? Writing is asking the question, “What do I value most? What is most interesting to me and me alone?” It is not asking the question, “How can I survive in this world? How can I not die?” Nor is it asking the question, “How can I please this other person?” No, it is only focusing your attention on the question, “What do I value most and how can I express it?”

Is that question worthy of your attention? Can you think of anything more worthy of your attention? I cannot, though I frequently allow my attention to drift elsewhere, to other people and what I believe they want. Fortunately, all anyone actually wants is to know and express their full value. In this way, the more I express my value, the more valuable I become to others, for in the sharing, author and reader alike are reminded of what we are meant to do.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

Making Time

I have always made time to write. Whether I was working as a waiter or a sales clerk, whether I was designing roleplaying adventures or booking and conducting interviews, I have always made time to write. This was not so difficult because I considered writing a pleasure and what I wanted most in the world was to do only things that pleased me. Making time to write often meant choosing writing over something that did not please me at all.

Yet I imposed a cost on myself for this choice. I called myself lazy. I believed I wasn’t responsible enough. I felt I should do a few more things that didn’t please me, which seemed like a more grown-up way to live. Children just did whatever they felt like, until they grew up and learned the unavoidable truth of surviving. There’s only so much time in the day, after all. If you spend it all just doing whatever you felt like, houses would never get built and groceries would never get bought.

Time’s a strange commodity. It expands and compresses with my attention. When I become happily lost within the dream of writing, the past and future loose their hold on my imagination, trained as it is in the present moment where creation can occur. When I awaken from this dream, it is like waking from a night’s sleep; it is as if I’d traveled five miles of time in a few steps.

When I am doing things that do not please me, I feel every second. I travel each one, step-by-step, measuring my way toward the end of this chore. Time is a measure, not in where I am, but only in my position relative to the end. I live in the future, in that imagined time when I might be happy again.

Time has never actually existed, but happiness and unhappiness have. In fact, they are all we really know. No one actually needs to find time to write. We need only answer this question: Is my life about doing what pleases me, or doing what I must? Which is actually more important? How I answer that question creates or destroys all time.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

My Enemy

I used to tell a sad story about my love life. I was a kind of tragic hero, who sought love, who knew its value, but who was doomed by the uncaring hand fate to be denied its enduring company. Case in point: When I was seventeen I saw a girl in a play and thought, “She’s the one.” And she was. I knew this from our first date. Six months later her family moved 3,000 miles away, and she was gone, Seattle as distant as the afterlife if you’re a teenager living in Providence.

For seven years I told the sad tragic story of love and fate. I had been telling it casually before, but I told it now in earnest, for life had revealed herself to me. She giveth and taketh without regard. Let the dust called humans blow about in the desert; they’re all headed to the same grave anyhow.

Until Jen and I found ourselves together again. Until I moved across the country and called her, and I was single and she was single, and wasn’t it strange that just a week before I called she had told her best friend, “I think I should date someone like this guy Bill Kenower I used to know.” Yes, how strange. And wasn’t it strange how we both agreed that it was best we had been apart seven years. Wasn’t it strange that we needed to date other people and do other things apart from one another, and wasn’t it stranger still how ready we were to be together when I made that call.

To call our time apart and eventual reuniting chance is to lose the gift that story offered me. To call life tragic, unkind, unfair and indifferent even as it arranged itself for me. I had no other words for what I was seeing. I was a character in a story, and the author loved me and sought the best for me for I was her hero, but I wanted her to hurry up and get to the end already, which she most compassionately would not.

I remain in that same story even now. I still find my author’s pacing irritatingly slow, find her obstacles and antagonists uncalled for, and yet have come to love her endings, where Time, my greatest enemy, collapses into the moment and becomes my friend again.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter