I work full time, and have a busy and active family of four, and we live in a tiny Annex apartment. Engineering a place and time that is “mine” for writing has been an absurd late-capitalist exercise of supply and demand.
By 7:30am, I’ll have wrenched myself from bed, roused the children, changed a diaper, stubbed my toe, mumbled some confused apology to my wife, searched for a breakfast I either did or didn’t prepare the night before, packed my bag for work with lunch, laptop, and a book of poetry from my TBR pile. I bike to campus—I’m the Creative Writing Program Administrator at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies—and work till noon. If a notion, word, or image trickles in that I’d like to revisit, I always have a notebook at the ready. The one I’m currently using is from a Quills gift subscription that was given to me by a dear friend.
At 12pm sharp, I stand up from my desk, grab my bag and coat, and dash down to the lunchroom to be the first at the microwaves. With my warmed meal and office-in-a-bag, I trundle to a neighbouring building on campus, find a sunny window, and arrange my workspace, which consists of my laptop, lunch, notebook, set of four felt-tipped drawing pens of varying thicknesses, book of TBR poetry, iPhone, and headphones. It is now 12:07pm. I spend the next 10 minutes eating and listening to a guided meditation, then 5-10 minutes of actual meditation. I’m not sure I’m doing it right, but I try not to think about it too much. I need caesura, not nirvana. I then have thirty solid minutes of writing or editing, which is done while listening to ambient music. My alarm sounds at 12:57, letting me know to pack up and get back to the office, which is really hard to do. Luckily, I love my day job.
I head back home on my bike at 4pm. The next three and a half hours are spent in a familial chase scene that closely resembles a greased pig contest replete with background banjo music. By 8pm, child the younger is in his bed, and child the elder is ensconced on the couch with a device or a book. If my brain is still operational (more likely on a Monday or Tuesday than later in the week) I may get a chance to read, but usually I’m tidying the domestic wreckage and making lists. Occasionally I’ll make it to a poetry reading or event (I also volunteer for the Brockton Writers’ Series). At 10pm, we crawl into bed, more likely than not having forgotten to prepare breakfast, but, as my talented wife does most of the cooking, I’m almost guaranteed a delicious nigh-gourmet lunch of the leftovers.
It’s not much time spent actually writing, but if I’m consistent, it’s time enough, and on the occasional rare perfect weekend morning, I’ll borrow my wife’s art studio space in Kensington Market for a three-hour spurt of writing/editing.
Factors that make lunchtime sprint-writing accessible to me:
- I’m currently writing poetry and flash fiction, which I’m able to draw out in short spurts.
- I’m well-nourished. I never have to waste time deciding where/what for lunch.
- There are several warm public and university spaces available to me close to my workplace.
- I was recently awarded a TAC grant, affording me a small lightweight laptop.
- I have no delusions that this will always work for me. I will certainly need larger chunks of time as I get closer to preparing a complete manuscript.
Emily Sanford was born in Nova Scotia and holds an MA in Literature and Performance from the University of Guelph. She is the winner of the 2016 Eden Mills Writers' Festival Literary Award for Poetry, shortlisted for the Janice Colbert Poetry Award, and won third place in the 2017 Blodwyn Prize for Fiction. One of her recent poems was listed amongst The 10 Best Poems of 2016, by Vancouver Poetry House. Her work appears in Canthius, Grain Magazine, Minola Review, newpoetry.ca, and Plenitude Magazine. Emily is the Creative Writing Program Administrator at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and volunteers for the Brockton Writers’ Series.