Sunday, July 26, 2009

Differing Perceptions of Time

You know, I find it really hard to explain to my wife exactly why I not only need time to write, but that our separate understandings of what "time" means, are very different. To her forty five minutes means I've been writing for long enough. "Isn't that enough time?" To me, forty five minutes means I've just gotten started. "Enough? Are you crazy?"

It's an endless argument that circles about ad infinitum, always leaving me angry, yet hopelessly unable to articulate how I view things. If I say "I need a few hours, uninterrupted," it translates as "Go away, I don't want to be with you." The invariable result of these exchanges is hurt feelings on one side, guilt on the other, with anger, and frustration for both.

It is not that either side is right or wrong, but that the two sides are mutually incomprehensible to each other. What is needed, I think, is an advocate who can articulate the differences in a way that is easily understood, and reasonable.

Today, as luck would have it, I came across "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule," by Paul Graham.

The crux of his argument is that there are two types of people when it comes to time - Manager types and Maker types.

Manager types break down the day into discrete blocks or sets of activities, and are always used to both multi-tasking, and fitting additional stuff in. They are kind of like my wife, who, when faced with a moment of respite, will decide that a certain cupboard needs reorganizing, or the laundry that was going to be done tomorrow could just as well be done right now, while she is cooking dinner, and chatting with a friend on the phone.

Maker types don't break down the day into discrete blocks of time, because that often impedes their ability to get a workflow going, to go about the business of making. Interruptions break the concentration, stop a making in it's tracks, and every time this reoccurs, the maker is starting at the beginning again. Makers avoid interruptions, and try to suspend their awareness of time. This is kind of like me, who will sit down, start tapping out an idea, exploring it, organizing it, adding to it, revising it, and polishing it. Time will flow without my knowledge until the task is done.

The problem comes when the Manager and the Maker conflict. I'll be in a flow, getting something straight in my head, and all of a sudden a holler from out of the room will break my concentration. My wonderful, lovely wife will inform me that I have to come, now, this instant, and see to the children. Why? Because she can;t do everything, you see, and she is already cooking, doing the laundry and currently talking to her friend! At first I would point out that if perhaps she did one thing at a time, then she wouldn't need to me to run out and deal with something that swift motherly hand and a corrective word could take care of.

The response, after omitting the unprintable string of words that immediately follow, usually relates to a strongly worded question as to why can't I just "help out?"

And it's true. Why can't I just help out? Why can't I just pause my brain, and hop back into it without a hitch? By not helping out, I'd only be proving what a cad I am. But on the other hand...

And that's just the problem. For this, can there even be an "other hand?"

I'm thinking I'll have to delve more deeply into the "Writing and Parenthood" subject. Hopefully something helpful will pop up.

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