Time in Writing

TimeIn the first part of my post, The Concept of Time in Writing, I talked about the malleability of time, and the way in which we, as writers, use it as a concept and a reference. In this second part I will focus more on the way it affects us physically, as sentient beings; sometimes it doesn’t seem fluid at all. In fact, sometimes it feels remorselessly constricting.

The skills you garner to become that iconic author – be that a university/college degree, or through the university of life and the college of hard knocks – regardless of which route you take, it requires time to master. It takes time to acquire the experiences that you write about or use as believable backdrops for your narrations, and there are the countless hours spent researching to assure the readers’ suspension of disbelief: time, time and more time.

Time is a commodity that has no substitute. You can be told something and take it on immediately as fact but, no matter what that something is, it takes experience (time invested) to really understand and, therefore, effectively convey it in your writing.

As authors we are well aware of the constraints of time. It takes time to get things done. I mean, even if you wake up one morning or (as in my case) through the night with the complete picture of a finished book in your head – story arc, plotlines, characters, format, book cover design and all – even a fully fleshed out book idea is going to take time to physically produce. And there is never enough time, or so it seems, as in the John Rowles song entitled, If I Only Had Time.

I attended the funeral of a friend just recently, and I was reminded of another time, when I was only twenty-three years of age. It was after leaving the army, my first marriage was at an end, most of my immediate family had moved to Australia and I was living with my grandmother. I was getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding, when my grandmother said, “I remember being your age, and feeling the same way you’re feeling now… like it was yesterday.”

She was sixty-three years old and I can remember thinking, Wow! Can the memory of a feeling really be so vivid after so many years? As if she could read my mind, she then said, “One day, when you’re attending more funerals than weddings, you’ll remember me saying this, and then you’ll know exactly how I feel today.”

At the time I understood, intellectually anyway, what she was saying; however, forty odd years later, as her words came back to me, as clear as though it was yesterday, I understood precisely how she felt the day she dropped that pearl in my ear. Just in case she was looking in on me, I smiled and nodded to my grandmother. There is no substitute for experience.

There is much more I could say here regarding time and how it impacts writers in particular. Time has so many aspects that I could have a regular spot on IU debating and discussing it until the end of time, pun intended; however, for the moment I’ll just say that I hope you all have a firm handle on your notion of time and a better grip on your time management than I have on mine.

Is time your friend or are you always fighting it? Or perhaps, if you are very fortunate, time is an amicable partner? Or, as my wife says ‘If ignored there’s always plenty of it.’

Author: T.D. McKinnon

Scottish author T.D.McKinnon ‘Survived the Battleground of Childhood’ in the coal mining communities of Scotland and England before joining the British Parachute Regiment at fifteen where he remained for five years. He has trained in the martial arts for most of his life and had five Karate schools in Scotland before immigrating to Australia. He writes across several genres and has completed five books that are all available as eBooks. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife. Learn more about T.D.McKinnon at his website and Amazon author page.

13 thoughts on “Time in Writing”

  1. TD, how well I know the feeling of having a book completely planned out in my head, so much so that it feels absolutely done, yet I still have to set it all down on paper–and that takes too much time! I wish I could plug a flash drive into my ear, download all my thoughts and then transfer it to the computer where it would write itself. (Can someone please work on that?) It’s amazing how time can be so elastic and yet so constraining at the same time. Very thoughtful post.

    1. It’s half past midnight, Melissa, and so, being a little weary, I somehow missed getting my answer to your comment in the right box, and missed a word out (although ‘he’ may well have imagined it).

  2. I hear you, Melissa; perhaps that will be the next, big technological breakthrough, for the generation of writers being born in the next fifty years. I’m sure H.G. Wells would have been amazed by the technology being used to produce the novel today; although may well have imagined it.

    Thank you so much dropping by today and commenting, Melissa.

  3. Yes, even when we dream a whole book or awaken bolt upright with a book fully formed in our minds, somehow the time it takes to put in down in black and white morphs it into something other than we imagined. Is that good or bad – who knows. It just is.

    1. I think that metaphorical, ‘It just is,’ of yours is about right, Yvonne. I’ve tried all sorts of methods for getting it (the dream story) down verbatim, but to no avail, and probably the only way would be Melissa’s flash drive in the ear, which unfortunately doesn’t, as yet, exist.

      Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting today, Yvonne.

  4. Remember when you were young time just dragged its feet? As we mature there definitely isn’t enough of it to go around. I wonder if we had nothing else to do in a day but write, would it fly by? Find that someone who can develop the flash drive for the ear, and watch us go. I love that idea, well it all starts with a dream awake or otherwise. Thanks T.D. Time is a reluctant friend at my age.

    1. When as a child I laughed and wept, Time crept.
      When as a youth I waxed more bold, Time strolled.
      When I became a full grown man, Time ran.
      When older still I daily grew, Time flew.
      Soon I shall find, in passing on, Time gone.

      By Henry Twell, first published in 1901

      Yes, Aron, time for me too is a reluctant friend, it seems; even more so when I have nothing but writing on my plate: Time flies.

      Thank you so much, Aron, for taking the Time to drop by and comment today.

  5. As I get older, the sense of urgency I feel about writing just becomes more acute. There is so much I want to write but time is flying, and real life keeps getting in the way. 🙁

    The one consolation I find is that there is no retirement age for writers. So long as we keep our marbles nicely polished, we can keep writing until we drop.

    Very thoughtful post indeed, TD. -hugs-

    1. I’ve noticed that those commented, so far, today, AC, are reasonably close in era, and seem to view Time in a similar way. And you are so right: ‘keep the marbles polished’ and we have all the Time in the world. Who ever heard of a retired writer!

      Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting today, AC; I’m so glad you took the Time.

  6. I love the ‘pearl of wisdom’ dropped by your grandmother. How true it is. The lines on our faces may show our age and our ability to do the things we once did as quickly and efficiently has long gone, but our memories are what make the difference. We do understand, we do remember and for me that means a lot. It is something I can transfer to my writing. That is also why I like to write about older characters, especially women, who have experienced pain and suffering. It’s what they do with that experience that matters.

    1. Yes indeed, Vicky, we do remember, and no matter how much we thought we understood at the time of the experience, any experience, hindsight gives us 20/20 retro vision, and as writers we capitalise on that deep pool of acquired knowledge, combine it with the intuitive insight available to an open mind no longer completely immersed in total physicality, and create entire worlds.

      Thank you so much for taking the Time to drop by and comment, Vicky.

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