The Necessity of Quiet Time

When I was younger, I had so many ideas for novels and stories that I wrote them down and kept them in a folder. While more developed ideas post-date the early ones, the majority of story ideas in that folder still date from my sophomore year in high school. That was also the same time that I started writing poetry in earnest. And short stories. Then, after coming back from Japan, I launched this blog (originally on blogger).

Recently, two things have changed to curtail my output: increase of responsibilities and lack of quiet time. When I was a kid, I had lots of free time, but I never worried how to fill it. If I wanted to play video games, I played video games. If I felt like reading, I would read. If the weather was nice, I’d go outside. If friends were around, I’d play with them.

Even in Japan, where I had less free time (and where I took a year-long break from working on my novel), I made sure to record my experiences both with a camera and with a diary. Writing became a way of reflecting on and connecting my multiple experiences together. There, whenever I wasn’t working, I had quiet time, and I used it.

So what changed? Certainly increased responsibilities in Seattle hasn’t taken away that quiet time, since I had just as many responsibilities in Japan. There, however, I was limited in when I could use the Internet (either I had to pay to use a cyber cafe, or I had to share a computer with my housemates), and used it almost exclusively for email. Has social media and the rise of cell phones ruined my ability to create quiet spaces for my brain?  Or has technology ushered in too many distractions that can be witnessed from the comfort of my home?

Perhaps what has really changed is my perception of time. When younger, I didn’t worry about it running out, and so ironically used it more efficiently than I do now, living completely in the moment. Now, I realize how quickly time moves, and so I must plan if I want long-term projects to come to fruition, which means keeping an eye to the future as well as on the present.

This is why I’ve recently created a schedule for writing. It’s flexible, but not so flexible that I won’t write at all, and yet not so rigid that I can’t plan around it. I hope that, by creating a schedule for writing, it guarantees that, ten years from now, I won’t be concerned — as I am now — about how few poems/novels/ short stories I’ve written/published in the interim.

The Road Untraveled

Sometimes I feel like living in some small hideaway in some foreign land, away from the eyes of the world.  No Internet.  No phone.  Perhaps an address, so that I may still receive letters, and a typewriter, so that I may still write, but everything stripped to its elements, with little technology and little connectivity to the world at large.  A self-contained bubble, where I would live with my wife and we would raise our family and when I died, I would be put in the earth, and the townsfolk would mourn, and I would be forgotten.

I usually have these thoughts when I am in a place where nature dominates humanity, or when I am frustrated with my current situation.  Sometimes I am so caught up in the thrill of seeing nature and people, but the barest of man-made structures, that I can see myself living there, communing with nature, and never having to see a soul to be happy.

It’s this aspect of myself that loves to wander, to travel, to see the world.  Visiting places on my own, especially off-season, is a wonderful way not just to learn something of the earth and of myself, but to meet other people whom I would normally never meet.  Somehow, it’s easier to meet people when they travel in small bunches, rather than when they move in large herds.

And technology.  While I can keep in touch easier with friends than before, I don’t, because less effort is involved in writing an email than writing a letter, or connecting through Skype over paying for a long distance call.  But being connected is different from feeling connected, for of all the things my friends post on Facebook, few postings dig deep.  Emails still have the power to dig deep, but pouring one’s feelings out on a screen seems less personal than doing it on paper.

I like sun, yet I live in a city where the sun is seldom seen during the dying months of October through March.  I wake to rain and then sleep under skies cloudless and cold.   And so, often around this time, I think about moving to a little village somewhere, far from all I know.  Of course, I love my family too much to move too far away from them, as being away from them for too long in Japan was one of the reasons I returned.  For that reason, I wonder if my wanderings are over.  I am still not tied down to anything.  I have no wife, no fiancée, not even a girlfriend, which makes me wonder sometimes if I fit the temperament of this place, or if I should move to an unfamiliar place where the people are more familiar.  I can escape in books, and movies, and video games, and music, but one should not shut out the world that exists for ones that do not.  There needs to be a balance.  Woe is the person who lives without books, but woe, too, to the person who lives exclusively through them.

What I find in sleepy villages and small towns, in friendly people and gorgeous weather, in beautiful seascapes and welcoming forests, is “some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find” (The Last Samurai).  I hope someday that I can find and keep that peace.  Someday, I will settle down and not feel anxious, not feel the need to run away, to escape, to hide in some remote part of the world.  And that is when I will know that I am home.