Eight days ago, rather impulsively, I made a pledge that I would write a daily post. The idea was to mark the ancient tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and point out something intriguing or beautiful, or simply worth remembering. So on each of the last eight days I’ve been on the lookout. I’ve been noticing things.
This daily posting is a new routine for me, as far as writing goes. I have discovered that the regular practice of writing even one short piece requires discipline and determination. I’ve been discovering other things too: about the writing process; about myself; and about relationships. For example, I have had to recognise the need to prioritise. There are a thousand and one things crying for our attention, and we must choose how best to direct our focus.
The experience has also made me think more carefully about time. Time is one of our greatest treasures. It is a gracious gift. Yet in another sense, the clock seems to be against us. There is never enough time to get everything done. Perhaps the heart of the challenge is how best to use our time. It is a precious resource and we must decide how to invest it.
Like other creative activities, writing is time consuming. It can take time – sometimes an awful lot of it – to find inspiration. And it can take time to find the words, to sculpt and shape sentences, to order paragraphs. To my mind, there is little about art that is instant. Written expression is a process as well as a product. And it can be a solitary, even isolating one. Time spent writing must be balanced against time spent with others. In conversation for example. Is writing worth it?
A few days ago a good friend sent me an article that suggested that robots could write things for us – things like books and blogposts. Meanwhile we could get on with something else. This morning I read a piece by Alan Jacobs entitled ‘and then?’ It featured an arresting visual image by Austin Kleon emblazoned with the question ‘And then what?’ The point both were making is that we all seem to be in a hurry to reach the next thing. We want to save time doing one thing, so that we can move on to the next. And the next. And the next. As Jacobs points out, using a phrase coined by Paul Virilio, life can become ‘a frenetic standstill’.
Could it be that in order to save time, we are losing our moments? Perhaps that’s where poetry can come in. I’ve started to read Clive James’s Poetry Notebook 2006-2014. This sentence caught my attention and has stayed in my mind all day:
‘Whether in a formal poem or an informal one, everything depended, and still depends, on the quality of the moment’.
I haven’t written many poems, but the best ones, the most memorable ones I have written, originated in a moment that was memorable. Like a photograph, a poem is the impression that a moment has made.
Perhaps our experience of time would be richer if we appreciated each moment.
I’ve been looking for a song all evening about time and moments, to finish this post. My husband and I watched the 2019 film The Two Popes tonight. The story seems all the more poignant now, knowing that Pope Benedict has died. At one point in the film I heard this music. It kind of marked the moment, and it’s gorgeous, so here it is.