Friday, September 19, 2008

Our Most Precious Commodity - TIME to Read, TIME to Write, by Time Manager, Robert W. Walker

I am going to make this short and sweet as time is of the essense; time is the most precious commodity we have. The stock market plunge has proven that much. This week on the wonderful chat group Dorothyl (named for Dorothy Sayers) wherein folks from all walks of life share one thing in common – a love of books and a passion for reading, a member asked quite seriously, “How can those on the list who appear to read four or more books a week—how do you find the time!”

The answers came fast and furiously as those responding have little time for anything BUT reading. The answers were fascinating. In almost all cases, their childhood reading habits played the major role. Even as children, they were never without a book. These children organized their days around the books they read. Now mind you, I saw Children of the Corn, and Children of the Damned, but these children most assuredly frightened some people as well since they were “different” or “special” in another bookish way—they read and read and read, and when finished they read. I have a writer friend who had me to his house one evening for a meal, Tim Broderick, and I walk in to find his two children—identical twins of age nine at the time—sitting at each end of the sofa, each with her face literally masked, buried, consumed by a book—not identical book but close enough. Now I am not saying that Tim’s twins are in any way, shape, or form like scary kids in a B-horror flick, so don’t get me wrong. I found it fascinating to see this! I was mesmerized from the stark image of seeing not one but two children reading a book that was of their choosing and not a homework assignment forced upon them. This has become a rare scene for a teacher, you see. A good ninety percent of my students pick up a Gameboy, Gamebox, or an Ipod, or rush to the computer screen to see what’s happening on Myspace or Facespace or whatever before a book even comes to mind if at all, whether assigned reading or for pleasure. Few of them equate pleasure and reading.

On the other hand, almost to a person, the respondents on DorothyL (free Dorothy!) grew up like Tim’s twins—with a passion for books, nurtured by parents, encouraged by parents, catalyst(ed) via parent or parents, and in my case even more so teachers. My dad was not a reader, maybe a newspaper on Sundays. Mom read far more. She had stacks of “trashy” novels like the ones I write today laying around the house and on shelves. I recall using them as building bocks when I was extremely small. Dad was a truck driver, mom a factory worker who married during Armageddon, otherwise known as WWII. Mom was in nursing school at a time when she became pregnant with my brother, Rick, and so had to drop out (no choices for a woman in that time), while my dad was overseas in the European theater of war where he survived only to come home filled with trauma and sporting the worst of bad habits. Life at home for the five children and my mother was often times a nightmare; we had to live with the psychologically damaged person we knew only as Daddy who coped with his trauma in the worst possible way at a time when a man didn’t get help for invisible scars. So reading was truly an escape for me, as was writing.

When I would go off to school it was an escape. School for me was a fantasyland. I loved school, the very building, the theater inside, the excitement of life there, and the library inside that place that held grownups who believed in me. One in particular, when asked if she had this small wooden, put-together little bookcase, why didn’t she ever use it, rather than hiding it away in a cabinet handed it to me and said, “Robert, fill this up with the books you read and it is yours.” Being from the family I was from, having little on Christmas and maybe getting a shirt for my birthday, this was an extraordinary offering. I replied, “Miss Page, I’ll do you one better. I’ll fill it up with the books I write.” She laughed and nodded. “That would be even better, and I believe you will.”

Miss Page was my home room high school teacher, but previous to her, I had always been lucky to have teachers who cared and encouraged me in reading and writing. I learned early on the value of using time and using it wisely. For us readers and writers, fifteen minutes is time enough to do a lot of reading, researching, and writing depending. Fifteen minutes as the laundry spins. Fifteen minutes in a traffic jam. Fifteen minutes between classes. Fifteen minutes while multi-tasking elsewhere. When I was at Northwestern University, I got much of my homework reading and my reading for pleasure, and my writing done between classes. There’s an old maxim about time being the most precious of commodities, but there is another that says you can let time run you, or you can run time. There are those among us, some quite close to me, who allow time and the elements control their lives, and then there are those among us who organize and control time. People are astounded over my output as an author, and one question I always get is “do you have a twin?” In other words, “Where do you find the time?” My reply is “Yes, my twin I keep shackled to the desk and he does all the writing. His name is Stephen King.” As to finding time, I make time.”

Find me at - new site, new giveaway! - often the inspiration for my blog here!\books -- interviewed by a mysterious lady!

Happy Writing and Use your Time Wisely –

Rob Walker


Morgan Mandel said...

You're right. Time is precious.

Morgan Mandel

Anonymous said...

As one who grew up with her "nose in a book," I can say, how lucky you were to have teachers like Miss Page.

My home atmosphere was quite different from yours. Both my parents were teachers, and we had reading material around from the time were were old enough to say, "A-B-C."

My mother never interrupted my reading with chores. Growing up, I spent whole afternoons reading. At night, I was the last one to bed, reading until I was too sleepy to see the words.

Reading is still my great joy.

Pat Browning