Time seems to be my theme lately.
Every now and then, time makes itself apparent – in surprising ways, such as seeing a kid you once knew, suddenly grown up and with kids of their own – in happy ways, such as realizing the vacation you planned a while ago is getting closer – in annoying ways, such as … well, maybe almost anything, depending upon how your day is going.
These days, of course, we’ve traded in watched pots for loading websites, but it’s still remarkable how true it can be that certain moments somehow feel like “never” on a completely different scale. This is not merely a matter of patience, Grasshopper, but one of philosophy and expectation, personality, stress – almost anything you like.
My week last week was spent on tech issues. One afternoon, I came home after lunch, hoping to work and make a few calls to pay bills without bugging my cube mates – and ended up instead in a morass of stubbornness and desperation, when my VPN (the virtual private network) would not work so I could network in online. I sunk myself into troubleshooting, and hardly realized I had not done a lick of work until I bobbed my head up out of the rabbit hole and realized hours were gone with no net result.
It took several days, but that issue was resolved – even as, inevitably, others arose (some of my own, some I worked to shepherd along for my coworkers).
It can be the same with research (of any kind, of course; but indeed I mean “for a novel”). I had to learn to discipline myself long ago – sticking to looking at what I might need or use, without plumbing any given subject to its depths nor following interesting tangents beyond my limited needs.
At the same time, though, reading beyond the requirements is still a good habit to cultivate. The old advice to writers, to READ, includes not just the exposure to style, but also the lifetime exercise of knowledge and breadth. And so, even leisure reading (I like that better than the phrase writers and agents sometimes use, “reading for pleasure”) has taken on a kind of discipline; I find myself applying knowledge or asking questions, and then sharing them here, or finding places they fit perfectly within my work. Sharing here is especially gratifying when I see people are actually interested, and for me – even if the themes most repeated; costume, archaeology, innovation; don’t seem obviously connected to my writing – it’s all of a piece, and all feeds the same ends.
Time has been bending and distenting of late. I think summer makes our mental clocks more limber; the longer hours of light fool and confuse us.
And, it will hardly seem but days from now ... the days will turn around again and constrict on us.
Summer has been a time of power and autonomy for me, and the creative work has been energizing. How's it treating you so far?