I was reading this blog post by Bridport shortlisted writer Tracey Upchurch, who talks about the fact that her shortlisted story was the first she had written in two years. It got me thinking about the way time messes with us.
Two years? How does that happen? Sometimes life sweeps us up, and weeks and months and years just slip by without any discernible output. We have day jobs and families, people get sick or need support, or roofs leak or cars break down, or we are going through the process of editing and proofing a novel ready for publication, which eats up all those ‘spare’ hours we could be writing new things. Did it really take me four years to finish my second novel, and WHAT has happened to the 10 months since it sold? This is lubricious, unfathomable time that leaves us feeling a little baffled when we emerge, often years later, and can finally allow ourselves the time to put pen to paper again.*
But then there are the hours and days and weeks that seem to stretch on forever. The days when you’re waiting on news about competition results, or waiting to hear from an agent or a publisher. The dragging, torturous time that comes with an ache in your chest, and invisible filaments that tie you to the letterbox or the inbox or the phone.
And let’s not forget the kind of time that makes itself the focus of everything. The galloping, obtrusive time that happens when you’re on a deadline, or have a rush of words that you can’t get down fast enough. When you have a thousand things to do and they all need doing. When you are conscious of the need to make every every second count. Days when the clock is your master.
Strangest of all, perhaps, is the way these three states can co-exist, so that time can simultaneously drag and gallop, and yet still somehow slip away unnoticed.
*THE VIRTUAL COMMUTE – AN IDEA
I found that this kind of slippery time was affecting my reading too. Was it true I was only reading one book a month? Well yes, because when was my reading time supposed to happen exactly? An exhausted page or two before falling asleep at night. I’ve since instigated a virtual morning commute, where (when I’m at home) I sit for 30 minutes and read — once the kids are at school and the dog walked — as though I were travelling to my desk. Not only do I read more books again, but it also helps me get into the right frame of mind for writing after the rush and clamour of a school morning.
Image: Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5 photo by CityGypsy11 (Flickr.com/ Creative Commons)