Too Busy Even to Lie About It

The next chapter in The Right to Write is “The Time Lie.” Basically, the time lie goes something like this: “Oh, if only I had more time, I would do that!” Or, “I keep meaning to do that, but I’m just too busy.” It’s not a question of time, really; we always manage to find or make the time for things that are really that important to us.


Julia Cameron recounts the story of a writing teacher and aspiring novelist who had been putting off writing his novel for years, telling himself it would come when he took a sabbatical. “What’s wrong with now?” she asked him.

“I don’t have time. I teach writing. I sit there and watch my students write.”

“So write while they’re writing. Stop making it such a major production. Just scribble a few things while they do.”

It is Cameron’s belief that these lies we tell ourselves – our “if onlys” – stem from envy, and from the belief that others have “simpler, better funded, more conducive to writing” lives than our own. “If only…” we were them, then “they” could stop wishing they were us. I think that it may stem as much from fear as from envy: fear that we won’t be any good at it. So long as we keep shoving writing onto the back burner, we can keep fantasizing about having written a book. Or, more to the point, about being an acclaimed best-selling author who has written and published a book. Reality is often something a bit less, but it is at least real.

If only we’d write the damned book, we might discover that for ourselves.

Stealing Moments

If I were told I had only twenty-four hours to live, I’d probably waste half of it standing there in shock, mouth gaping, wondering what to do next. When you have only 24 hours to live, everything suddenly seems critically important – or not nearly as important as you’d imagined it would seem, under the circumstances. But every moment spent trying to put all the “if onlys” in their proper order is a wasted moment that could have been spent knocking items off the bucket list.

I seem to have lost the knack for what Cameron refers to as “dropping down the well,” and that is key to making this work. The well, for me, materializes when I invoke it – with the right setting, usually in my recliner or my favorite desk, after somehow getting into the right frame of mind, and, of course, with a good cup of coffee in hand. But back in college, “the well” was a diner, a dimly-lit coffee shop, or a snow-covered picnic table outside the University’s Student Union the week I discovered the joy of woolen, fingerless gloves. “The well” could open up the minute the seat-back tray table dropped on a flight. “The well” could be anywhere.

I think years of cubicles and desks left grooves and ruts in my brain, and “the well” now flows into them in sluggish, orderly corridors.

Cameron says that it comes with practice, and I will keep a notebook and pen handy this week, to make a point of trying to steal a few minutes here and there for writing, to see if I can’t invoke “the well” at will.

Savoring the Moments

Cameron points out that when “we describe our environments, we begin to savor them.” I imagine that’s because writers have trained to explore, in words, using all of our senses. We pay attention to each in turn, and we don’t jumble it all up in a mental flash. We savor the moments.


Write with Me

The book’s “Initiation Tool” for this chapter is to buy five postcards and stamps. Gather up the addresses of five people you love but don’t take time to stay in touch with. Set the clock for fifteen minutes, and using two to three minutes per card, write out loving greetings to your friends and mail them.

Another suggestion: Keep a notebook and pen handy all week, and whenever you find yourself with a few minutes (literally – a few!) start scribbling a sentence or two, a paragraph, a poem – by week’s end, report back here what you’ve got in your notebook. Feel free to type it up and share it, or just describe it in the comments here.


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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11 thoughts on “Too Busy Even to Lie About It”

  1. “The Well” sounds interesting. If I am understanding the analogy, the last time I dropped into a well was as a kid. Sitting in front of my little typewriter with onionskin paper (I’d purchased the wrong type of paper!), I banged out poems, stories and essays. I was blogging before blogging was invented! LOL

    I still have some of those pages. The holes where the keys punched through the thin paper evoke a memory of a long-lost art — and a wistful image of a trashcan full of typos.

    What is the antithesis to The Well? I mean, I can write at the drop of a hat. Anytime, any place. Does it count, if it’s mostly drivel?



    p.s. CCC creates some powerful mojo that compels me to write. what is that all about?
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Nth DegreeMy Profile

    1. Yes!! Where is that kid we once were, and how is it that CCC can always tap into that? How? It’s just a list of words… although I did have a teacher who used to give that very exercise as an assignment. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that “assignments” and “deadlines” trigger something – like a challenge – and provide a framework that works to drop me into “the well.” Your phrase “the holes where the keys punched through” was very evocative, as well. I think I learned to type and to spell well as a defense against rework – white-out and erasure was never acceptable. Killing more onions, or trees, wasn’t, either.

      And yes, it counts if it’s drivel. Stop judging your own stuff. I sometimes have to remind myself of that. I can judge the quality of the wording, the honesty of the writing, but not whether it’s “any good or not.” THAT, I’ve decided, is none of my business. It’s yours, if you’re reading this.

      Hey, Mitch – go do a CCC thing and then help me kick the tires. (See link below this comment.)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Help Me Kick the Tires (the Not-a-Contest Contest)My Profile

      1. Holly, I read the Kick Tires post when it first came out. I thought you wanted journalism or, at the very least, op-ed. If you’re just concerned about the functionality of the platform, I could paste a prior CCC into it.

        Speaking of CCC, I’ve come to realize that the “Challenge” is a bit of a misnomer. Creative Copy Concoction is my take on it: here are ten crayons and some poster paper; have at it! 🙂

        The colorful words remind me of stuff and I get to thinking…next thing you know, I’m knee-deep in Wikipedia, Wordnik and Google, spelunking for serendipitous connections.

        My Word document is opened and, more often than not, I start writing something, get half way through and delete it all! I still have the other side of that poster paper. Let me try again…

        It’s a load of fun and, being that only two or three people show up each week, I’m doing it for the sheer joy of writing something.

        Let me know about kicking tires.


        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Nth DegreeMy Profile

      2. Please, KICK THE TIRES. Seriously, if any really good writing shows up, it’ll get some points – but helpful feedback and vigorous kicking are needed more than great writing. It’s the not-a-contest contest, remember. Enter anything. I mainly just didn’t want to read any “arglebargle uh uh asdfa;kjfas ;dfksa” crap. You know, so I don’t die of boredom and eye-rolling. But feel free to upload recycled material. 🙂 There will be judges – but again, they’re mainly kicking the tires and testing the platform. Not reading and judging entries. The real contest later in the year, over on

  2. Great idea for the assignment. I’ll see what I can come up with. I used to write poetry in spare moments. Maybe I can try that again.

    Love the image you created from your pic. How did you do that? Or more specifically, what did you use?

    PS I need to go back and look in the mirror.
    Rasheed Hooda recently posted…Three Life LessonsMy Profile

    1. I used my Nikon D3300 and Corel PaintShop Pro X7. (There are sites like Canva and PicMonkey but when I’m editing my own photos and making graphics, this is just way easier and more feature rich, for me!) Check it out – you can get the basic program for under $50 – or “Ultimate” for as little as $56 (and no, I don’t get a commission – I’ve just been using it since Jasc developed it and it was still free, and it’s awesome.)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Have You Looked at Yourself, Lately?My Profile

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