This is where the picture of the poet Robert Hass would be if I could get it to load correctly.  Good thing words are worth a thousand pictures. Robert Hass said, “Take the time to write. You can do your life’s work in half an hour a day.” (1)

Don’t quibble with the man just because he writes poetry and you write novels. I believe this is true in any case. It is certainly calming: you can do your life’s work in one short, defined block of time. I call that my lunch break. Any other half hours I manage to scrape together are gravy, at least at this point.

Maybe what it really means is not that you can be a successful author, a brand, a best-seller, in half an hour a day. But those things, I hope, are not your life’s work. That involves the slow accretion of words over years, whether you can put half an hour into it or twenty half-hours.

Can I quote Arnold Bennett again? “The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life!” (2)

So there you have it, from fellows who probably have much more than half an hour a day and for whom, I suspect, time runs a little slower than it does for the rest of us. Arnold Bennett, at least, certainly had someone else to do the washing up (3). But never mind. Inspiration does not only come at the altar of art, but often when one has a dish brush in one’s hand.

1. I don’t know where he said this originally, but I found it on The Writer’s Almanac.

2. From How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, copyright 1910 by George H. Doran Company but owned by me in a lovely yellowy paperback edition by the Cornerstone Library, 1962.

3. I don’t know if one can write 304, 000 words a year (that’s published words, not just scribbly words like the rest of us) and still have time to do the washing up, but this will be the subject of a future post.

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