Waiting for Kairos

Clock image is public domain from Wikimedia Commons
I've been thinking about time.

time (n.)  the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future, regarded as a whole (definition from OED).

When I looked up time in my Barnhart's, I read "originally, a drum, probably through Medieval greek *timbanon, from Greek tympanon kettledrum." That made perfect sense to me. Time marches on! Then I realized I was reading the etymological roots of 'timbre' not 'time.' The word 'time' is a long lost descendent of the Old English word for 'tide.'

I get that, too, but the drum seems a closer likeness these days.

The ancient Greeks, those philosophical fellows, had two words for time. One was kronos which referred to the kind of time we keep, quantifiable time, the seconds and minutes and hours, the 'indefinite continued progress,' the drumbeat, drumbeat, drumbeat. The other was kairos, which referred to a quality of time during which a particular thing was appointed or "right." So when we say something like, "It's time for a change," we are speaking of kairos. (Gak, now I'm going to have Little River Band going through my head all day. Nothing against the Little River Band, or anything).

At any rate, the reason I've been thinking about time is that my excellent friend, The Poet A.O.D., sent me the most interesting information about writing time and its relationship to productivity. The information comes from a study on academic writers, and found that "writers fare best when they begin before feeling fully ready." It also found that writers who wrote daily were far more productive than those who waited for large chunks of time to write (average of 64 pages/year vs. 17 pages/year). Those who wrote daily and had a buddy to check in with once a week were more productive yet (average of 157 pages/year).  Here's a link to more information on this study.

Those writers who waited for big chunks of time to write were writing in kairos time. Waiting for the appointed time. Waiting until the time was right. Those who wrote every day / wrote ever day and checked in with someone were writing in kronos time. They were not waiting for the right time; they just grabbed the seconds, minutes, hours that were floating by and put that kronos to use.

I am guilty! Guilty as charged! for waiting for kairos to write. My preference is to have several lovely, empty hours lying down in front of me, just waiting to be filled with words and poetry. I wait for kairos to write here on this blog, too. I've begun a hundred posts in my head, but I've been waiting for the right time to sit down and write them up. Meanwhile, me no bloggy.

In the spirit of making friends with kronos, I wrote a draft yesterday morning in about two minutes. No reading beforehand, no spinning through wordbanks or random number generation, no set constraints. It's a draft I'll keep and work on. I think it can grow up into a poem. I have no plans to abandon my usual process when I do have kairos time for writing. And the rack 'em and stack 'em approach to setting time aside for writing vs. family responsibilities helps me feel more relaxed about both parts of my life. But I'm also going to try to be freer inside of kronos time, to put the pen to paper each day if only for five minutes, to let whatever flows be something or nothing, to write.right.now a little more often.

And as often happens for me, the things I learn in my writing life bleed over into my everyday mom/wife/person/civilian life. There are many things I put off while waiting around for kairos. As if kairos will get off the 51 bus at 9:37 and announce himself. Meanwhile, his underachiever little brother kronos is right there waiting for me. This reminds me of something my uber-wise mother has said many times: "You have all the time there is."

Dear kronos, too often I've seen you as a nag, a bother, a drumbeat. I shall endeavor to see you more as an ally, a dance, a partner-in-crime. Let's hold hands and get some stuff done! If kairos wants to come along, so be it. But, meanwhile, what are we waiting for?


sarah said...

Ohhhh me too, on waiting for free time. Which I never have....so I never write. But I made a commitment to writing every day in Oct and and I'm doing it. Even if for 5 min. And even if it sucks. And I think for me, that's a huge barrier--fear of sucking. Hmmmmm....thank you for this post, it got me thinking for sure!!!

drew said...

"Those who wrote daily and had a buddy to check in with once a week were more productive yet (average of 157 pages/year)."

Yes! This is excellent news -- and rings true for me. Thanks Molly. I'm going to write right NOW.

Anonymous said...

In case anybody would like to hear from the devil's advocate: there's something about playing hard-to-get with a budding new poem that I thoroughly enjoy. Waiting until it simply can't be held back any longer brings amazing joy.

Marjorie Power

Ms. WK said...

Thanks for Jill wisdom. Love.

Maybe we really do have all the time... doesn't often feel like it, but maybe it's all in the perception.

Miss you. Need to find TIME to call. :-)

Molly said...

Sarah, I think that's what interested me so much about the study..... because writing every day means you have to be willing to write stuff that sucks some of the time, maybe even most of the time. That's my challenge -- to give myself permission to just write, & let go of a particular outcome.

Drew, it is good news, indeed! Three cheers for the buddy factor!

Marjorie, yes -- the devil's advocate is always welcome here! I, too, have experienced putting a poem off until it demanded to be written, and agree that it's a singular experience. So kairos definitely has its place in a writing life, too.

Thank you all for reading and writing.

Molly said...

Hey, Ms W-K, you're welcome. Maybe it's some perception, some reality. Time is doesn't seem to be in abundant supply for most people I know. Miss you too!