Dead Time by Sandra Block
When people find out I wrote a book, the first question that pops up is: “Where did you find the time?”
Not “what kind of book?” Not “how long did it take you to write it?” Not “what is it about?” Yes, these questions come out eventually, but the first, almost irrepressible, question is about finding the time.
It’s a tough question. Because the truth is, for too long, I didn’t find the time. After medical school (nearly 20 years ago now), I wrote a book. I hounded my family to read it, bribed a writer-friend to edit it, and queried a hundred agents. And I got back…a hundred rejections.
In retrospect, the book wasn’t very good. But that’s in retrospect. At the time, my ego took a serious bruising. So much so that it was over 10 years until I was brave enough to try again. What happened in the meantime?
Life intervened. I got married, had two kids, and became a neurologist. In short, I didn’t have time to write. And who could blame me? I would see patients all day, often giving out difficult diagnoses, and then come home to be with my family. As any parent knows, young children are joyful but also exhausting. Days dripped into months and then years. The urge to write was always there, almost taunting, but I would shove it down, hard. Damnit, I’m exhausted. And I just don’t have the time.
Then something changed. Maybe it was the big 4-0 milestone looming ahead. But I had an idea. A quivering, tentacle of an idea.
What if I found the time?
It sounds simple enough, but it was a radical concept. Instead of beating myself up for being too tired to write at night, maybe I could write in the morning! As a night owl who can barely grunt before my morning coffee, I’d never even considered the idea.
But I did it. I pared down my dream into bite-sized chunks. Every morning, tired or not, I got out of bed and wrote for 45 minutes, aiming for 500 words per day. If I hit my mark, I rewarded myself with a smiley face on the calendar. What joy to see a month-ful of smiley faces! (Yes, I am a second grader at heart). Writing became a sort of obsession. I chased time; I stole time. Sitting at the doctor’s office turned into a perfect editing hour. Waiting for my daughter at swimming was a chance to start a new chapter. Dead time became writing time. I found time.
So when someone asks me that question, I try to explain. I understand the wistful, almost jealous, tone. I understand the battle between real life and the hopes and dreams held deep within the heart. I understand looking back at a decade and asking, “where did the time go?”
My answer is this: the time is there. But you have to grab it.
Sandra A. Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan, and lives at home with her husband, two children, and impetuous yellow lab Delilah. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. Little Black Lies is her first novel. Learn more and order your copy here.
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