a kind of fugue

Polly Thayer's portrait of May Sarton owned by the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University

“There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour–put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me.” May Sarton.

As the last days of summer float by, I’m thinking about reclaiming control of my days. I want to read more and write more, lose fewer hours to Twitter and Facebook, the internet in general.

Social networking does have a place. It helps me stay current with the latest articles on writing and books. It helps me feel connected to the writing community. And it’s a way to let others know what I’m doing. As Lori A. May pointed out in a recent post I discovered on Twitter, “For a writer, it’s not only about writing.”

“I am in a limbo that needs to be patterned from within….this problem of ordering a day that has no pattern imposed on it from without.” Again May Sarton.

Last week a friend and I were brainstorming about how to order our days. First we made a list of deadlines and everything we wanted and needed to do. Then we made daily, less-than-daily-and-more-than-weekly, and weekly lists. Finally we talked about what shape we wanted the mornings, afternoons, and evenings to take.

“That was what I was after–a daily rhythm, a kind of fugue of poetry, gardening, sleeping and waking in the house.” Yes, May Sarton.

Lori May eschews the word schedule as antithetical to writing. She refers, instead, to a plan of attack. I like that. I also like fugue for its sense of interweaving of parts, for its writerly rhythm. So yes, I am working on a plan of attack, in order to create my daily rhythm–a kind of fugue of reading, writing, blogging, connecting, and living.

Eleanor Marie Sarton was born in Belgium in 1912. All of her quotes in this post can be found in  Journal of a Solitude, published in 1973.

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18 thoughts on “a kind of fugue

  1. So hard to find that rhythm, though it seems I am constantly trying to merge into a “fugue of reading, writing, blogging, connecting, and living.” It’s the “living” that throws me off and pulls me off “schedule,” a word I’ve learned to “eschew” too. Even shudder at its mention (more so as I age). If you think about it, schedules are for the military and for prisons. But rhythm, yes, rhythm is a much better word.


  2. I can scarcely believe summer is on it’s last legs! Though I’m not sorry to see our July temps waning.

    I suppose I have a rhythm, just not one that’s serving me well. I need to listen for a different one. One that will drive me through the end of this novel, into final edit, and on to querying.


  3. Hmmm. Interesting post.
    I have been thinking along the same lines lately, knowing that the kiddies go back to school in 3 weeks, and I will suddenly have 4 and an a half hours a day all to myself. It is not much time, but if used wisely can be enough!
    I have always been fighting against schedules, not wanting to lock myself into anything, liking the sense of freedom that came without one. But becoming a mom is making me see that I working with a schedule can actually be freeing!
    (And thanks for touching on a writer’s need for connection!)


  4. Yes, exactly. I seem to move from one obsession to the next without ever finding moderation. The autumn seems to be the time I’m able to do that. I am indeed in a summer fugue.


  5. Thank you for the May Sarton quotes – another new name to me but her words have hit tender spots. I seem to have a different problem to most – I’ve cleared the decks and now I have too much time every day…you would think it the perfect scenario to write, write, write but having too much time is just as bad as having too little. In an effort to simplify I abandoned lists and schedules thinking this was a freeing action. But now I know that I NEED some structure, some framework and the lists are back…they do help calm my bubbling inner self, just as May says… Thank you for this post…


  6. Darrelyn, I have been until recently a “schedule” person. That’s what I crave, and yet, these days, it’s not coming. Almost as if what I’m doing now, the writing and reading and living won’t fit into one. They do seem to be creating a rhythm, though.


  7. Jennifer, in that Annie Dillard quote out of which I pulled the name for the blog, she writes, “A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”


  8. It’s always informative, and something of a relief, to hear about other people who are struggling w/ this issue. I like the notion of rhythm in this context. It might more accurately be characterized as a form of polyrhythm over the long haul. The optimum framework/schedule shifting in nature as the complex overlay of personal and professional demands evolve over time. What works now that my daughters are twenty-somethings and “launched”, wouldn’t have worked at all well when they were toddlers. Similarly, what works during one period of an artists creative and professional trajectory, might be really counterproductive at another time. I distinctly remember being desperate to make my own personal pilgrimage to NYC, and just as distinctly remember when , after a number of wonderful years, it was time to leave. I suppose I’m trying to draw an analogy to our current situation vis social-networking on the web. There is a time for getting out there and letting all the stimuli wash over you, and there is a time to retreat and digest and manifest in your own work. I have this half-formed idea of wanting the short term rhythm to be informed by and in synch w/ the longer term ebb and flow of creative and fallow periods. Figuring out when discipline and structure are critical, and when it’s more important to let serendipity and chance play a greater roll in my day.
    So easy to say ! So difficult to actually keep time w/ a good beat…


  9. Waggledance, one day I would love to know how you came up with that name. I get such a picture in my mind when I think of it. Wow, too much time–I never thought that that might be the same as too little, but actually I can see how there would be nothing to hang on to, no anchors to throw out, no hurry, no need to do anything now. I do think Journal of Solitude would mean something to you.


  10. Oh, Walt, I love what you have to say here. I hope everyone reads your comment.

    Now that I look up the definition of polyrhythm (the simultaneous occurrence of sharply contrasting rhythms within a composition), I think that’s a better description. There’s the rhythm of writing and the rhythm of social media coming up against the ever-changing family rhythms. It’s so true that the rhythms shift and vary as our different obligations and family responsibilities do.

    I appreciate in particular your point about there being a time to be on the web and then a time to retreat and digest. Also your point about looking at the larger ebb and flow, which I didn’t even mention.

    Thanks for adding and enlarging this conversation. So much to think about. And lovely to think of it all as creating rhythms within a life…


  11. I really like the “fugue” concept. Am looking forward to hearing more about whether that works out for you. It sounds like sort of a more zen-like approach to getting the right things to happen, as opposed to a militaristic timetable.


  12. Amazingly the “fugue” approach does seem to be working. I keep wanting to impose a schedule, but I just keep floating along and things seem to be getting done. I am relaxing into a new rhythm and I like it.


  13. Pingback: scheduling time | catching days

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