The Writer’s Desk: Time Is On Our Side

In 1964 The Rolling Stones had a hit with the song “Time is on my Side.” You know the tune. In the lyrics, the speaker talks about a girl who’s playing the field. He says, “You’re searching for good times, but just wait and see. You’ll come running back to me.” The stance of the speaker is patience, confidence. Okay, maybe some male arrogance, too. The lyrics make me think about the relationship of the writer to the muse. The writer is a lover who can choose to desperately chase the muse … or wait for her. Patience is the best approach. Kenneth Atchity says as much in his book A Writer’s Time. Too many writers wait for the muse to begin to write. But Atchity says “she is the last person you want to depend on”: “If you write only when she beckons, your writing is not yours at all. If you write according to your own schedule, she’ll shun you at first, but eventually she won’t be able to stay away from your workshop.”

Of course, people still make excuses: “I’d write that novel … I’d be a poet … I’d do my art—but church and family takes all my time.” Church and family become a defense for not producing. Others give up church and blame their art. I think it’s a cop-out on both sides. Adults do pretty much what they want. Whatever we’re doing, it’s because we want what we’re getting from it. Yeah, it’s tougher for moms. There’s research that bears that out. But even then, some moms walk away for the sake of their art. It’s a choice all the way around.

I can relate to the frustration. I reached a point where life got too full of good things—good family, good job, good friends, good activities for the children, good community and church service. Work all day, and activities every night. Home improvement and family time on Saturday. And Sundays full of meetings. But it was just too much—too many good things! I was unhappy. I had to make some choices, draw some lines. I had to strike a balance, learn to say “no.”

It’s tough to be a faithful Mormon, care for a family, and have a creative life. But let’s add a little perspective here. As Mormons, we believe in eternity. We’ve always existed, and we always will—in one degree of glory or another.

I needed this perspective a few years ago, facing frustrations with a second novel. I was more puzzled than I’d ever been with a writing project. I thought of scrapping the whole thing. But then I realized, What if it took me the rest of my life to get it right? Would my world end? Would the novel be any less if it took thirty years? Would my life be impoverished if I spent all that time on a decent novel? No on all counts!

Patience—that’s the thing the writer needs.

By the way, are you young—under fifty? Then you have years ahead of you. Olympic gymnasts might be finished at twenty-five, but writers are just getting started.

And one of these days we’ll see a Millennium—a thousand years of peace and productivity. I believe the Millennium will be the greatest renaissance of art, music, and literature the world has ever known. And what about the eternities? God is a creator. Our destiny is to become like Him. Time is on my side—and it’s on your side, too.

Time is on our side in building a Mormon literature, as well. It takes a lot of work and seasoning for a culture to build works of literary quality. Mormon culture is relatively young—just 180 years old. Culturally, we still have a lot of silly notions to cast off. We have yet to see the fruits of the integration between our Wasatch Front culture and the influx into the church of artists, writers, and thinkers from around the world, people who’ve embraced the gospel and kept every bit of goodness from their former lives.

We have plenty of time. We can be patient. We have this life, a thousand years of peace to come, and an eternity after that. Believe me—if you’re a Mormon and you want to make art, time is on your side!

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3 Responses to The Writer’s Desk: Time Is On Our Side

  1. jendoop says:

    Thanks for this. I’m one of those moms, serious writing has been put off. Although you may lull me into complete inactivity ;)

    A side to this is what is considered valuable writing. It seems that you have to publish to call yourself a writer. I don’t have the time in my life now to write and seek out publishing opportunities. That doesn’t mean I’m not a writer, I write but it isn’t always polished, it isn’t a novel, and it may never be published. But every word I write (or edit out) is important in developing my writing skills. If you haven’t acquired writing skills the inspiration of the Muse won’t do you much good.

    I agree that a few years under my belt have done wonders for understanding how life works and accumulating fodder for writing. It stands to reason that a few more will be even better.

  2. Melinda W. says:

    I’m a mom without time to write. I actually splurged and hired a babysitter twice a week to go write. I’m so glad I spent that money. My babysitter got busy, so now my writing is crammed into the few hours between my children’s bedtime and my bedtime, but it’s so rejuvenating to feel creative that I wouldn’t give it up.

  3. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I appreciate this reminder. I remember being frustrated as a younger person (though I still qualify as young under your definition) because I wasn’t producing enough or because what I produced wasn’t of a high enough quality to merit publication. But I found that as my kids aged, my brain and insights and understanding of lit didn’t deteriorate the way my body did. Take heart, especially you young moms. There will be time…later and that time will nicely coincide with the discovery that years lived have given you something to say.

    But I still wish I had more time . . . and more of a publishing history. ;-)

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