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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Family Matters (Reprise)

When I wrote “Family Matters” two weeks ago, it was not meant to be a standalone cri de cœur. The plan was to give it a few days soak time and then to jump into a series of very serious think-pieces on the general subject of how to balance the desire to be a writer with living life in the real world.

Then that plan went wildly off the rails, as has pretty much everything else in these past three months.

It’s a rare morning now when I manage to get into my office and get to work before noon. I have tried writing the next morning’s column very late the night before, but that doesn’t work for me. I am a different writer after dark, at the end of a long day. I am a much brighter, more imaginative, and more positive writer when I can do my writing first thing in the morning. The world doesn’t need to see who I am after midnight.

I also write better when I can have at least an uninterrupted hour or two to do so. I’ve known writers who could create while sitting in noisy, crowded coffee shops, cranking out paragraphs in 15-minute chunks of concentration. I’m not one of them. I need quiet time; focus time; development time: it’s probably why I always hated open office floor plans so much. They’re great for people with the attention span of a gnat but obstructive to doing any work that requires actual thinking. If the COVID pandemic ends up exterminating open office floor plans, it will have done humanity a great service.

Uninterrupted time has become very rare for me lately. In the past three months I’ve produced a lot of notes, fragments, and starts at things: “plans that either come to naught, or half a page of scribbled lines.” For example, today’s column was meant to segue from “Family Matters” into a serious discussion of the concept of Opportunity Cost as applied to writers.

However, time’s up. I instead need to click the Publish button right now and get on to my next urgent priority for this day.

To be continued...

—Bruce Bethke


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