Compressed Time

Sometimes, I think getting older is really all about remembering, or re-learning, things I’ve already known.

Years ago, I played tennis on my high-school team. The first year I did it, life became a bit crazy. I’d always been (and still am, in many ways) someone who prefers lots of open time in her days, time to relax in between tasks and even take the doing of those tasks at a leisurely pace. Suddenly, I had practice after school every day, THEN chores, homework, and the rest of life. I loved the tennis, but when I look back I see that year as a whirlwind of racing from one place to another, of doing things–even breathing–much more quickly than I was used to. And in much more concentrated blips of time. If I remember correctly, I was pretty darned effective in those blips. Okay, not in my math classes, sure, but you could have given me 20 more hours a week of math time, and it wouldn’t have helped.

There have been other times in my life when this happened again–when I became suddenly busier, or hit a stage in which my days felt scattered and crazy, when I hadn’t yet fallen into a more organized pattern. My first year of college, my first full-time job, when I first joined a critique group. Most of these times were also accompanied by an increase in productivity, or focus, even with the fewer available hours.

And here I am again.

When I knew I was going back to work, one of my concerns was how I’d keep my writing going. “If” was not an option. I had been volunteering at the museums for about a year, and I’d been doing that work from home. I had expected that they’d want me to keep doing that–the museum office space is not what you’d call “huge.” But, no, they wanted me on-site, and it’s turned out to make a lot of sense–for the organization and for me. I’m much more productive there, without the distractions I have here. And when I do work an occasional day at home, the change helps me focus and get everything done. I can be on-hand for meetings or for those let-me-just-grab-you-for-a-quick-question moments. There’s a lot of work, so I have to stay open to bringing some of it home, but…

I have days off. Typically without much, if any, museum work to do.

Which means…writing time.

Obviously, no, not all day. Life stuff that isn’t getting done on work days waits for me. Yoga must be fit in. So, yes, off-days are more relaxed than work days, but…they’re still relatively compressed when you compare them to the days I used to have. With hours I could have just filled with writing. Day after day. After day.

I so wasn’t.

Not recently. Part of this was that my YA historical was haunting me in the bad ways–it would pop out of corners just to remind me that it was actually pretty scary, that I had no clue how to make it happy. Part of it was feeling a bit divided about whether I should be working on the YA, or the picture book, or even looking back at another project for revision. (With, I remind you, probably enough free time that I could have been working on them all!) And a big part of it, I now realize–all over again–was that my time was not compressed.

Since I started work, I have taken a hotel day to plot out almost all of the YA historical. I have finished revising a picture book and started it on its rounds. I have started revisions on two other picture books, submitting drafts to my critique group. I am grabbing at chunks of time so small I would have scoffed at them before, as “not enough,” and I have opened up a file and thought, or played, or written a few more words. I have made more progress in the past month than I had in the three months before I started the job.

Once again, life is showing me that change is good, busy is good. As long as you’re willing to make it so.

And, because I couldn’t resist, and in honor of Jerry Nelson, who passed away last week:


  1. Dawn Simon says:

    This is inspiring, Becky, since this is a year of change for me as well. Thanks! 🙂


    • beckylevine says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Dawn. I have gone from a person who resisted–oh, yeah, hated change to someone who is at least willing to give it a chance! 🙂


  2. Glad to hear you are juggling better than ever!


  3. Yay! This is such good news, Becky. Sometimes a shake-up is what we need, and it’s inspiring to see how that’s working out for you.


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