Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Impossibly Busy: Pamela Ehrenberg

New workshop leader Pamela Ehrenberg is our guest today. She is the author of two novels for young people, Tillmon County Fire (2009) and Ethan, Suspended (2007). A former junior high teacher and AmeriCorps alumna, she is currently a higher education consultant and mom to a four-year-old and not-quite-one-year-old. For an introvert, she can be found on a surprising number of social networking sites, including twitter.com/pamelaehrenberg, Facebook, and MySpace, as well as on her own Web site (http://www.pamelaehrenberg.com/). She has three upcoming workshops at TWC, including one on how to make time to write in an "impossibly busy" life. View all her workshops here.
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"I have so much to do today!" my four-year-old said recently. "I have to make a picture, and do my sticker book, and take my dollies for a walk . . . ."

So much for thinking that life grew "impossibly busy" only when parenthood came along--or adulthood, or was it those pesky college applications when I was seventeen? I now know that impossible-busyness can begin by age four. (My one-year-old son is busy in a different way, exploring electrical cords, household products, etc. His life might not feel impossibly busy to him, but he sure lends a different definition of the term to the rest of us.)

Impossible busyness--the feeling that one can't possibly find enough hours in the day for everything that needs (or "needs"?) to be done--is both a luxury and a curse. In January, Washington Post Magazine reporter Brigid Schulte kept a diary of her time, in an effort to figure out why she had none. That article was the first time in years that I read the Post Magazine immediately on pulling it out of the plastic wrapper, rather than piling it on my nightstand or stuffing it in my laptop case for those "free" moments on the Metro. Clearly I wasn't too busy to read about how busy I was.

The article talks about busyness as a status symbol, but I think it offers yet another false benefit for writers: a surprisingly sturdy protective armor. Ah, the novel/memoir/poetry that would fly off my fingertips, if only I weren't so busy. Free time leads to freedom of discovery: discovering that I can write some pretty terrible poetry, discovering that writing a third book is as hard as writing a first. Discovering these truths is much scarier than fantasizing about a word-filled life of leisure.

But supportive others can help. This spring and this summer, I'll once again be offering an online workshop, "How to Make Time to Write in an Impossibly Busy Life." True confession: as a widowed mom of two young children, I originally devised the course because I felt I was too busy to lead a traditional-style workshop; I wanted something where I'd complete the exercises along with the participants, leading me back to the kind of disciplined writing where I've found success in the past. Previous participants indicated that the experience "really help[ed] me focus and prioritize" and that the supportive environment affirmed that "someone is listening (reading)." Individuals may log in at 6 a.m., 11 p.m., lunch hour, or their baby's nap time; while on a business trip or in pajamas. But together we form a community that recognizes there is something to gain from shedding the armor and making time for what matters.

Impossibly busy? Or just having trouble getting around to what's important to you? Either way, I hope to "see" you online in the workshop--or that another Writer's Center workshop or activity helps you carve out the writing time you need this spring and summer.

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