Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kairos Time for Writers and Other Artists

I've been thinking a lot about time in general.  On my theology blog this morning, I wrote this post that talked about the difference between Kairos time and Chronos time:  "The world moves rather rigidly on Chronos time. We march forward to the incessant beat of the clock.  Kairos time talks about the right or opportune time. It's often a more indeterminate time, an opening, a qualitative measure rather than the quantitative measure of Chronos time. In theological terms, we often use the idea of Kairos time when we talk about God's timetable rather than the timetable we create."

As you might expect, on my theology blog, I wrote about the theological implications of these two ways of viewing time.  But these ideas of time have some implications for writers and other types of writers.

In my writing goals, I try to keep both a long view of time and a close up view.  I try to write poems on a weekly basis, and I'm lucky to have writing assignments that come my way, and usually, those deadlines are within a month or two.  I also have a longer view of time:  what I hope to accomplish before I die.

In my professional life, I have some control over outcomes.  I have projects with deadlines and assessment measures, and I meet them, or I don't.  I'm lucky in that in my professional life I'm often working on projects that I can accomplish.  And if a project is doomed, I usually know that from the start, and it's usually not my fault, and we all agree to move on.  For example, I could create all sorts of fine programs to benefit students if money was in gushing supply.  However, our budgets are tight right now, so I don't continue to bash my head against the budget wall by creating programs that will never get funded.  I move along.

I have some control over my long-term writing projects, but not as much as I might like.  I can create a manuscript, and I can send it out.  If I want a publisher to accept it (as opposed to publishing something myself), that's where my control ends.  There are many fine manuscripts circulating out there; I don't kid myself that my manuscript is more deserving.  It's one amongst many deserving manuscripts, in a landscape of shrinking publishers.

But unlike in other professional areas of my life, I don't move on.  I keep submitting.  I want a book with a spine with my name on it.  I want it to an object of beauty before the reader even gets to the actual writing.  I want paper with enough heft and fiber to delight the fingers.

I've adopted a Kairos attitude when it comes to my publishing.  It may sound a bit New Agey, but I believe there's a larger current than the one I can see, than the shallows where I swim.  I send my work out, but it may not be the right time.

That doesn't excuse me from the work of writing or submitting.  But it means I'm not going to beat myself up when I don't get the publishing prizes I would like.  I'm going to wish the winners well.  If they're decades younger than I am, well, great for them.  My rewards will be sweeter if I must wait.

That last paragraph makes me sound so well-adjusted.  Don't get me wrong.  There are days when I gnash my teeth, days when I wonder if I'm deluding myself.  But I've gotten enough encouragement that I keep going.

I'm also always trying to stay open to serendipity.  Along the way, I've had this vision for what I wanted in terms of my writing:  a best-selling novel, a book of poems with a spine, a monthly column that would pay me enough to live on and provide health insurance.

So far, I haven't gotten those.  But I've gotten other things that I didn't even realize that I wanted enough to ask the universe to send them, like my blogging at the Living Lutheran website and my assignments writing prayers and bulletin inserts.

My hope is that all of these developments will work together and that as the years and decades go by, I'll look back and see patterns that I can't even discern now.  And a book with a spine would be nice!


Shefali Shah Choksi said...

If anyone can, I can relate to your yearning. But who knows? the idea of book spine might suddenly turn electronic and you'll discover (like so many quest heroes), that what you've yearned for, you already had it with you all along!
I love that clock. did you make it?

Kristin said...

I didn't make the clock. A woman who made it brought it to the creativity retreat (Create in Me) at Lutheridge that I go to every year. It's a cool creation! Seeing it made me want to take up metal working.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Yes, it will happen at the right time for you, Kristin. Good for you. I feel the same way about sending out a manuscript....keep sending, it will be the right place/time/home at some point.


All in Kairos time, Kristin. All my books "happened" when I needed to write them. As the universe unfolds. Buena suerte, K.

Kristin said...

Thanks, everyone, for your validations of believing in Kairos time, even in the tyranny of our Chronos world!