Personal Writing,  Writing Retreat Reflections

tempus fugit*

Three hundred and thirty six hours. That’s how many hours are in 2 weeks, 14 days. And that is how long I will be an artist in residence starting September 2.

Somehow, that doesn’t feel like very much time.

But what is time? It seems we are always trying to control, manipulate, trick time. We have too much or not enough; it’s running out or dragging on.

They say of parenting that the days are long but the years are short. That’s true of most things. That terrible class in college? Seventeen weeks felt like an eternity, and yet in the blink of an eye, it’s been 25 years since I graduated. Most Mondays feel like three days and Sunday late afternoons always arrive way too soon.

It seems we are never to be in accord with time.

But I want to use this gift of time as wisely as I possibly can. Because 336 hours is not an amount to throw away or waste or let slip through my fingers. Three hundred and thirty six hours is long enough to develop a new rhythm but not long enough to form a new habit. And that means I need to be intentional and present and aware of the clock ticking all while attempting to throw time out the window so I can sink deeply and swim freely into my creative “ouch zone,” as Quinn’s elementary gifted and talented teacher used to say.

So I made a list of goals: both to do and to not do. Because it is as important to set aside some of my less than stellar time wasters as it is to embrace what is good.

To do:

  • Start the day with visual meditation
  • Move on to a short yoga practice
  • Re-read (or at least have by me for inspiration) Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Read the courtship letters my grandparents wrote to each other
  • Develop an outline, a rough draft, a concept of what to do with the content of those letters. I’m hopeful this can be a nonfiction project, but I don’t know what that entails as of yet and am trying not to put constraints on it before I even begin
  • Catch up on the coursework from the Recognized Experts course I am taking from Dorie Clark
  • Keep going with our Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD livestreams because I believe fervently in creating consistent content
  • Write at least 4 blog posts
  • Teach EIT 461 both Tuesday evenings because the students deserve a present professor
  • Eat sparingly–not to starve myself or anything silly but to be very mindful of what I am putting in my body: I’m intending to eat primarily homemade granola, garbanzo beans, raw nuts, garden tomatoes and popcorn and of course my beloved black tea with milk
  • Play. This entire opportunity is a pure gift, so enjoy it—even the tough parts
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: in a new house, by myself, in the country, in the dark, for 336 hours, 14 days, 2 weeks

To not do:

  • Bother with makeup
  • Check my day job email—at all!
  • Drink wine (I want to be present and alert, and I want to sleep. Wine can and does disrupt all of that)
  • Scroll endlessly through social media
  • Watch the clock and put pressure on myself to be accomplishing __________________
  • Judge the work I am producing as I am producing it
  • Snack to avoid working/creating

Maybe to do:

  • Apply for a Bush Fellowship (again and again and again and again)??? This is a big question mark for me…for pretty obvious reasons.

I had a conversation last summer with a man whom I know a little. He was a finalist with me my first time and also didn’t get it, and that was his second go as a finalist. When we met up, he had succeeded in being awarded a fellowship on his third attempt. When I told him I wasn’t planning to ever apply again, he said, “You’re thinking of it as an emotional exchange. It’s just a transaction. Do you want the money to do the work? Then it’s not about how you feel emotionally. It’s about finding a way to give them what they want so you can go do what you want.” That sticks in my brain and makes it hard for me to not keep applying. Ugh!

Ultimately, I want to not put so much pressure on myself to “succeed” at this. First of all, there isn’t only one definition of success; getting through it, leaning in to my fears and anxieties is its own kind of success, so everything else is the equivalent to brown butter frosting (yum!) on an already really excellent cake.

What if, for example, I read my grandparents’ letters and determine there’s nothing there for me to write about? What if I am uninspired by them? That’s not a failure because I will have actually finally read them and determined that they are not part of my journey—at least not right now.

The what ifs are immense and could cripple me if I let my mind wander too far down the failure path.

So I’m going to do my best to just be. To be in the moment, in discomfort, in boredom, in fear, in exhaustion, in rapture, in creative flow, in creative quagmire. Whatever I am is what I am going to be for that moment, for that period of time.

Three hundred and thirty six hours. Here’s to breathing, staying present and taking them one second, one minute, one hour at a time.

*time flees

Read Day I: And so it begins

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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