There comes a point in a new position where everything begins to feel routine. Where the schedule is pretty locked in, the tasks rote, and the days start to blend together. I always worry when this happens, because as the weeks whirl into months, I feel my life passes before my eyes at an almost numbing speed. I become complacent.
Writing is the only thing that seems to help keep the flying of time in check, because it is a measurable use of time. Most of my tasks disappear, as it were, by the next week. As a therapist, I see the same people over and over again, marking their progress with notes written weekly and treatment plans written every three months. But the progress in therapy is sometimes is small, and hard to see from week to week, like tracking the growth of a child. You know they are growing, but it takes a while to actually see it.
At the breakneck speed of a mental health clinic where I see clients one right after another, with one short break midway through a stretch of 9 clients in a row, it's hard to spend a lot of time processing each session to look for those moments of growth or change. Each week picks up on the topics of the previous, so it feels sometimes like I am binging other people's lives.
However, I struggle to make time for writing. It often comes after -- after work, after chores, after general life maintenance. It's been hard to put writing first. When I look back over a stretch of time and see how few pages I have to show for that period of time, I know my priorities have drifted away from me, and that my routine has taken over.
You'd think that the natural thing to do is to make writing part of that routine, and that has always been my goal. But with so little time, and so many other things going on, it continues to be very hard to make the kind of dedicated writing time I want. I end up getting snatches of time here and there, which never seem to let me get to the place I want to get to, where the words just flow and the story takes over. That is what I miss, more than anything, when I say I miss writing. I miss being a conduit instead of a work horse. I miss feeling inspired instead of feeling obligated. I miss getting quality time with my own imaginary adventures.
So, now that I see that my time management has gotten away from me, it's time to make adjustments and put writing back up on the priority list. I know doing that though means that some other things may start to slide. There simply just isn't enough time for everything. I have to use the time I have better.
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.