One of the (many) reasons I don’t like working with my hands is because I don’t feel any sense of accomplishment with having done the work. If a fence needs to be built in my yard, I feel the exact same way if I do it or if I pay someone else to do it.
And that’s how I feel in all aspects of my life.
I value the destination over the journey.
That’s the major reason why I struggle with writing fiction.
I published one novel, but it was light on description. I don’t have the patience to spend three pages illustrating a curtain. Great novelists create an entire world that feels real and lived-in. You can almost feel it.
This is probably why the only real success I’ve had with fiction is a collection of short stories. I was able to get in, tell the story, and get out. Like a robbery.
What is this all about? I have ideas. I write almost every day. I don’t have a problem putting words down on the page. I’ve written nine books and thousands of articles. So why is this a problem?
The answer is simple: I always feel like I’m going to run out of time.
Time may be a man-made construct, but there is still a progression in nature — things live, things die, other things are born — that all of us feel deep inside us, even if we articulate it differently.
It’s a cliché that time speeds up as you age, but it really feels accurate. When you’re young, it feels like everything lasts forever. This is good when it’s the middle of summer but terrible when you’re eagerly anticipating the holidays.
In fact, our concept of time changes as we age because we have more experience to place around it. Children often confuse seconds and minutes so when you say, you’ll be ready in five minutes, they count to five and say, “Done!” To them, an hour is a year and a year is a lifetime.
But it’s not just children. I remember graduating and listening to 22-year-olds talk about how they’re going to have a spouse, two kids, and a house by the age of 25. Similarly, I knew people approaching the age of 30 terrified that they’d never get married despite the fact that, statistically, they had approximately five more decades until they would shuffle off the mortal coil.
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood…”
I wish I had traveled more in my twenties, but I made other choices in life that led me to buying a home and being engaged at the age of twenty-eight; I’m sure there is someone that spent much of that decade traveling but whom wishes they had saved for a home or retirement. So many of us look back and wish we had done something else, conveniently forgetting that, in all likelihood, we had the option to do that exact thing, but chose not to.
Life is about trade-offs and it’s difficult to have both adventure and stability, particularly at a young age.
In my mind’s eye, it’s like there is a giant invisible clock hovering over my shoulder, the second hand endlessly circling the dial, the thudding of the minute hand growing louder and louder, the deafening bells at the top of the hour reminding me of how much I haven’t accomplished — in all aspects of my life.
If I don’t do it today, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to do it tomorrow.
Only, for the great majority of us, that isn’t true.
There is time.
We can travel when our children are grown or when we’re retired. We can get married in our forties. We can change careers or go back to school. We can learn a new language or take a painting class. We can read all the books we’ve always wanted to — provided that our glasses don’t break.
Maybe not today, maybe not even tomorrow, but eventually there will be time.
I recently started writing a new novel and while I still I feel like I’m going to run out of time, I am emboldened by others that took years to complete their projects.
Making a Murderer was filmed over the course of a decade. Boyhood took twelve years to make. Combined they didn’t take as long as The Thief and the Cobbler, the production of which spanned twenty-nine years.
Amor Towles spent seven years on a novel before realizing it would never be good enough to publish. He didn’t pout. He put it away and started a different book that would become a bestseller.
Robert Caro’s first volume in his epic biography, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, was released in 1982. I was two years-old when that book was published. Yet, when asked about how much time he has left to complete his masterpiece, he’s trusting his process, saying, “I’m not going to change the way I do it just because I’m getting older,” adding, “I’m not rushing this last book. I’m trying to do it the same way as my other books.”
Caro is 82.
If he has time, then the rest of us do too.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.