Tuesday, March 25, 2014


When my older son was two, in order to find time to write, I drove him to a babysitter two mornings a week-- Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 - 11. I lived half an hour from the sitter's house, and the first morning I brought him there I realized that to drive back and forth would chop off half my writing time.

The second morning, I dropped him off, and then drove down the street -- a few houses away -- and parked. I leaned my notebook against the steering wheel and wrote till 10:57, when I started the car, put it in reverse, returned to the babysitter's house, and picked him up promptly at 11:00.
I did this for about 6 months.

It was maddening! It took at least 10 - 15 minutes to warm up, and by the time I got into a groove, it was time to stop. The writing I did during those days was too frantic and rushed to be good, but it screamed with urgency and need. And it was a workout that kept my writing hand limber and my mind fluid.

Through the years I found various means of keeping myself from rusting as a writer, but recently I realized two things:

1) Years of carving hours and minutes of writing time into my life made me resourceful and taught me intense discipline. Whenever, wherever I found a space a time, I plunged in. If I couldn't find it, I created it.

2) Like Hamlet, "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." 

An hour of writing time was an eternity. Heart pounding, fingers trembling, I wrote like someone in a trance. 

Today, I have more time to write, but at least three mornings a week, I need to teach or go to a meeting, and no matter how early I wake up, I feel pressure the instant I set pen to paper. My eye is on the clock, watching the minutes fleet past, knowing I have to stop soon.

But here's what I discovered: on those harried mornings, I nearly always come up with something raw and wild that leads me into new, unexplored territory -- and I often have to stop abruptly in the middle of a thought. The tension of these mornings recreates the urgency of those crazed hours in a parked car when my pen flew across the page in a desperate race to beat time. 

Maybe you already have a ticking clock marking the end of your writing time, but if you don't, it might be worthwhile to set a time limit and force yourself to stop when it hurts --

and not let yourself continue till the next day. Just let it brood inside you and see what happens.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Once Upon A Time, Ruth Knafo Setton's blog: I WANNA BE HOUDINI!

Once Upon A Time, Ruth Knafo Setton's blog: I WANNA BE HOUDINI!: March 18th is my birthday, and this year, more than ever-- after a seemingly endless winter-- I wanna be Houdini! He defied the limits ...


March 18th is my birthday, and this year, more than ever-- after a seemingly endless winter-- I wanna be Houdini!

He defied the limits of mortality and human weakness.

They locked him into chests and threw him into the East River. They imprisoned him in maximum security cells, chained and handcuffed him. They attached him to ropes slung from skyscrapers and bound him inside straitjackets.

And he escaped. Over and over, he freed himself.

He defied the limits of his own personal identity-- a Hungarian Jew born Erik Weisz in in 1874, only 5'6" tall-- he transformed himself into the greatest magician the world had ever seen. He made us believe humans can free themselves from any prison, any terrible circumstance, any lock that imprisons our minds.

I don't make resolutions on New Year's Day-- I make them on my birthday. So this year I want to become a true magician.

I want to:

BREAK FREE from straitjackets, prison cells, handcuffs and blinders that lock me inside limitations.

RIP off every "mind-forg'd manacle" (William Blake's term) that holds me back from writing, living, creating and loving the way I can if I'm free.

BITE into freedom, press the sun against my heart, find joy in my work, and connect connect connect.

Will you join me?