Carpe Diem for Writers

On her blog today Carol Benedict includes a music video of “Seize the Day” sung by Carolyn Arends.  Only one of the verses makes reference to writing a novel but the theme is one that reminds me of how important carpe diem is if I’m serious about my goals.

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“Life slips away like hourglass sand,” begins each chorus, and life really does. This moment, this day, will never be ours to do over again. Each one wasted puts our goals one step farther into the distance until with enough procrastination they can end up beyond reach. Does this mean every moment of every day must be spent productively — writing, revising, marketing? Would doing something other than such things always be a waste of our time?

If I could sit on two different sides of the table I could argue about this with myself. But I don’t think I will. I’ll ask your opinion.

What constitutes productivity for you? How do you achieve it?

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21 thoughts on “Carpe Diem for Writers

  1. One of my dearest friends lives by the phrase “Carpe Diem,” and it’s a great one to keep in mind as we live our lives, follow our dreams.

  2. I think “living” is what gives us food for thought, ideas for characters, and experiences that we can grow from and turn into a story, article, or novel. Not that each day brings something we can use in our writing, but if we are observant we’ll find that the people and events going on around us are enriching our lives and our writing. So in my mind, few things are “unproductive.” Top of my list of time wasters, though, is worrying about things that MIGHT happen. Thinking is productive; worry is not.

    • Worrying immobilizes us so, for sure, it’s not productive. Good point, Carol. I also like your observation that even if we’re not doing something specific, just being observant is a worthwhile activity.

  3. Tricia says:

    Any day doing zero writing is a time waster. Time is so limited for me that if I waste any that window period of accomplishment flies right out.

    Because it happens often, I think any day I write, even if for ten minutes, is a huge accomplishment.

  4. Well, I love to nap. And I remember my father always shaking his head and saying, “you’re sleeping your life away.” I never saw it that way. I still don’t. I try to write every day, and most days, I succeed, but I also like to sprinkle naps in my week, and since napping makes me happy, I don’t consider it a waste of time, or unproductive time, either. Some of my best story ideas have come from dreams. Cool post. Very interesting.

    • Thanks for visiting here, Barbara. I appreciate your comment. Napping can be productive when it’s resting the brain, or allowing dreams to percolate ideas, so I agree it’s definitely not a waste of time. Then again, if napping turns out to be an excuse not to write, we might have to rethink that. 😉

  5. joylene says:

    That’s why being sick for 13 (?) days is so depressing. There are so many things I should be doing, yet all I can think of is lying down with my favourite blanky on the couch — all day long. I’m getting nothing done. But I feel so lousy that the thought of doing anything else is too overwhelming.

    • I’m sorry you’re still sick. It’s not a time to stress about writing or to feel guilty. You’re not wasting time, you’re focused on resting and getting better and that’s the most sensible priority right now. I’ll bet you’re reading or thinking a lot, and that’s making good use of your down time. Get well soon!!!

  6. Laura Best says:

    I don’t know why, but as lovely as the words sound, the thought of time slipping seems so sad to me. Maybe it’s because slipping away has negative connotations for me. I don’t particularly want to think in those terms. We really only have this moment we’re in right now. To say time is wasted is simply a judgment we make about what we consider to be productive. To some, simply breathing in each moment might be considered productive or, as Barbara mentioned, napping. I guess it all depends upon where we are.

    Wow! such deep questions, Carol.

    • Do you think there’s a sense of melancholy attached to the passage of time… one that resembles our nostalgic look at Christmases past? What constitutes wasted time is bound to differ depending on our perspective. We learn from the past, live in the present and hope for the future, but you’re right… now is what we have. I imagine that’s the reasoning behind “carpe diem”.

  7. Jody Hedlund says:

    Hi Carol

    I like that thought. I definitely want to make the most of each day and not squander the life God’s given me or the writing talents! For me it amounts to diligence with my time so that I can make the most of it!

    • I think God calls us to do many different things with the life and talents he has given us. If we’re responding to his call on a daily basis I firmly believe he will guide us in how to use them. From what I read on your blog I doubt you’re wasting a single moment!

  8. JaxPop says:

    I’m afraid I shoe-horn way too much into my days (& nights). Guess my theme song could be “Live Like You Were Dying” (Tim McGraw)

    Sometimes – it’s annoying as well as exhausting. I’ll probably “stop” rather than ever slow down, but I’ll get plenty done up to that point.

    • A family friend with a heart murmur once told us he’d rather wear out than rust out. We thought it was an admirable ambition… until he died rather younger than he should have. Being super busy isn’t always a bad thing as long as you can handle the pace without too much stress. If you like what you’re doing there’s less stress involved. If there’s an end in sight and your spirits are high there’s less stress involved. If you hate every minute of it then I think you could be in trouble. But then what do I know? This is just me talking… retired, with more time than I probably need, and still not getting everything done that I want to.

  9. I often need to remind myself of Stephen King’s advice: a writer needs to spend as much time reading as he/she does writing. When you’re sick, like Joylene (I hope you get well SOON!) it may be time to give your muse a break and “fill the well” with other people’s writing.

    The time I do think is wasted is time spent watching mindless TV. I won’t claim I don’t do it. But I regret it later.

    Carol, thanks for coming over from Nathan’s blog to visit mine.

    • It’s nice to see you here at my blog, too, Anne. I agree with you on the mindless TV bit — there are good programs available, too, but often the only reason I put the television on is to stare at because I’m too tired to do anything else. I’d be better to just go to bed early.

  10. Lindsay says:

    I get bored if I’m not working toward goals, so I guess I’m usually carpe dieming. 😉 Of course, I have many goals, and I bounce around between them, so it takes me a while to get things done. I feel like I should have polished off a novel and submitted it to agents looong ago.

    • If I bounce around between projects I never seem to stay focused on one long enough to do it justice. I’m more a one-task-at-a-time person. That’s not to say I can’t be easily distracted. Hmmm… I think it must be lunch time. The refrigerator is calling my name. 😀

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