How Long is Too Long: The Illusion of Time in the Journey to Publication

I am always running out of time. It doesn’t seem to matter what I need to do, I never have enough time to do it. I’ve told my husband that we have so many things on our “to-do” list that if the length of the list determines the length of our lives, we can never die, because we can never possibly get everything done.

But time also affects my relationship to my writing. I wonder, why do I only have eight specified hours of time for writing per week, when the baby is being babysat? How long will it take me to finish revisions? How long will it take me to write a first draft of the next book? Can I do it faster, in less time? And of course, how long will it be before I’m published?

Source: Acobox.com, by Kyzer source Wikimedia license

Time seems endless and sometimes cruel. It continues to march on, whether we try to stop it, whether we try to focus and savor every minute, or wait impatiently for the designated hour to approach. And as months pass too quickly, and years begin to do the same, time seems to be shifting away like sand through fingertips. I run out of time as I frantically try to chase after it, wishing I could hold back the hands of the clock, slow down the ticking, just get a few more hours each day. I wish for shortcuts, for secret paths to cut through the necessity of waiting, watching as more time escapes.

But here’s the thing. Time doesn’t care. It doesn’t care that we don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything we want done. And it doesn’t care how many years, how many books, it takes us to be published. It just is. Or, as some may suggest, time isn’t anything at all, other than something humans have created to divvy up our days, months, and years.

So if we accept that time is only a tool, an artificial creation by man, than that means it’s foolish to let it control us: we use tools, not the other way around. So therefore, time is useful to writing in remembering deadlines, in measuring your productivity if that’s important to you, in establishing internal time within the plots of your books. But time is otherwise meaningless to our writing. And it could hurt it.

Why do you write? Do you write because you have nothing better to do? Do you write because you decided to write for three hours a day, seven days a week, and because you’ll be published in three and a half years from the day you first started writing? Of course not. You have no idea when “The Call” will come, other than working with perseverance and consistency, and a belief that it will come, but when isn’t up to you, and doesn’t particularly matter to your writing.

What matters is getting one word after another onto the page. What matters is writing, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. And you write not to pass the time, but because your writing is important, because each time you write, you’re a bit outside of time. You decide and determine the time within your plots, you determine how quickly or how slowly you write, and your writing will exist after you, too.

So, as you write, don’t let the clock mock you, don’t let the calendar pages or the changing number of the year depress you. Use the clock so you remember to eat, remember to pick up your child from school. You will be published. When is uncertain, but you can’t let it worry you. For some it will take longer than others, and worrying about which group you fall into will only stilt your writing. What is certain is that in your writing, you always have enough time, you can freeze and start the clock whenever you choose, and you always remember that you control time, not the other way around.

What is time to you? How does it frustrate or help you? Let me know. Otherwise, thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Advertisements