There’s a lot going on, and only so many hours in the day.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, in these politically turbulent times. Though, I’m not sure any time isn’t politically turbulent. Certainly the more I read of political history, the more I’m persuaded that political turbulence is part of the human condition. The specifics might change, if possibly less than we think.
Like most writers, particularly those who’ve been writing for awhile but are new to being paid for it, I have a day job. It works out to a job and a half: forty hours at work, another twenty to twenty-five a week working on fiction. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for much else, though I fit in as much as I can. (Writers are stereotypically introverts. I am not.)
Our times are politically turbulent, but civic engagement in the United States has been declining for a long time. I tend to peg the beginning of its current decline to sometime in the late 1970s, though I’m depending on historians and political commentators to support that as I was in nursery school then. I’m hopeful that current conditions represent an ascendancy, though the options for said engagement beyond voting (and contributing money, if one’s in a position to do so) are fairly limited.
But another thing that civic engagement demands is time. Time to go to meetings, to call or write one’s representatives, to find or form the organizations necessary to get anything done in the civic sphere these days (particularly if one doesn’t have money).
It feels selfish, sometimes, to turn those hours before and after work and on weekends to writing, when there is so much in the world that needs doing.
On the other hand, thinking of art as self-indulgent or something solely to be pursued at leisure, as having no inherent worth, is so characteristic among the dominant powers in our society, that spending a few (or many) hours on something that might turn out silly or strange or not at all begins to feel like a form of resistance.