The Space Between: Reading, Writing, and a Third Thing (Thinking?)

I’m not a very efficient writer.

I have 20 hours of childcare a week, and usually lose two or three of those hours to late arrival (mine), getting settled in, and winding down.

It feels like I ought to be spending every minute of that time either reading or writing.

But I actually spend a lot of it giving my mind space to process what I’ve read or reorganize what I’ve written.

Brigid Schulte writes about realizing that many of the world’s great male artists had women (wives, housekeepers, mothers) who protected their time for them. They used this time not just for the physical act of producing, but also for taking long, silent walks where they thought through their work. Schulte points out that throughout history, women’s time has been fragmented, and they have carved their work time out of these little slivers.

My time is extremely fragmented, though less so than when my son was an infant. He sometimes blesses me by taking a long nap, which I inevitably use as leisure time rather than work time because honestly, my brain is just usually no good for work at the time that he’s napping. (I also can’t rely on these naps, so I’m afraid to plan to work during them, because sometimes he doesn’t take them.) My mother-in-law also helps out by spending several hours with him every week, and my partner takes care of most of the things that those great artists’ wives, mothers, and housekeepers did, in spite of having a full-time job himself.

So, I’m blessed.

But I still feel wrong when, instead of churning out my own words or filling my head with the words of others, I take time to stare.

Even though that’s where my words come from, that space between reading and writing.

I need to reconceptualize this space as part of the writing process.

What about you? Have you successfully given yourself permission to view thinking time as productive time?

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