BY ROSEMARY LORD
We’ve recently put the clocks forward, so we’ve lost another hour. Why did that seem so important? I mean, what could we have done with that extra hour?
They say that TIME is the most precious commodity we have… And how we’ve used it in the past, determines much about our todays and our tomorrows.
I seem to have been racing time a lot recently. Have you noticed how often time just seems to disappear? As writers we often get engrossed with research – that’s the fun bit, losing yourself in another world, following one link that leads to another intriguing story, then another. Then we glance at the clock. Another day is almost gone. “Where did the time go…” we ask ourselves time and again. It’s so easy just to fritter time away.
“Take time to stop and smell the roses,” goes the old saying. Make time your friend, they say. How? I ask myself, as I attempt to do ten things at once. It’s a knack!
Think of all those ‘time’ related phrases: from ‘once upon a time,’ ‘a whale of a good time,’ ‘living on borrowed time…’ or ‘My, how time flies when you’re having fun!’ ’Time and Tide wait for no man- or woman.’ You get the idea.
One of the most famous book openings is, ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Fashion icon Coco Chanel said of time, “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” Or businessman Harvey Mackay’s sage observation, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”
I remember, just prior to Covid, I was so busy and overwhelmed with day-job work that I would wish for ‘time to stop’…. just for 24-hours, so I could catch up. But then the Covid lockdown stopped Life for a lot longer than 24-hours. Careful what you wish for!
And when the dreaded alarm-clock shrills us awake, how often do we mumble, “Just five more minutes….” before we throw off the duvet and embrace a new day.
You can’t stop time. It just keeps going. It’s up to us how we use and value our time. How many of us would give anything for “Just five more minutes… with lost loved ones?”
How much time do we allow ourselves to read all those waiting books. How much time is allotted to research, preparation and how much time do we actually sit at our desk or table and write? Publishers work to a very tight schedule or timeline and so give us writers deadlines. Do these deadlines help the writer – or stifle the creativity?
I like a deadline, so I know how much time I have got. Otherwise, my industrious imagination runs wild, meandering endlessly in unruly streams of thoughts this way and that, without the satisfying clicks on the keyboard signifying The End.
And how does time affect what we’re creating?
Do we write about the Now? Or do we travel back and forth in time? Do we use time to show the origins of the story generations before, then switch to today’s update on that history? Several recent books have chapters alternating between yesterday and today.
Time Travel can transport the reader forward into science fiction. Space-age tales with characters speaking in indiscernible utterings, (translated into today’s speech) and visual images of beings unlike anything we know in our world. Writers can let their imaginations soar.
As a writer and a reader, I often prefer going back in time, perhaps, to life a hundred or so years ago. Recreating a world that seems simpler, more real. Where characters discover and react to things we take for granted today. An opportunity for richly drawn characters with colorful colloquialisms.
I’ve read a lot of books set during my parents’ and grandparents’ era of WWI and WWII and learned a greater understanding of what they went through and what they gave up. A time when ordinary people became heroes, took on enormous challenges, without seeking attention or glory. They just got on with it. The ordinary folk I knew and read about had overcome some amazing challenges.
Victoria Hislop writes superbly researched novels set during the Spanish Civil War in The Return. Sunrise is set in WWII in Greece and The Island, is about Spinalonga, Greece’s former leper colony. Fascinating journeys back in time, that make us appreciate our freedom and life today.
I’ve been reading about Bletchley Park, in WWII, where ordinary girls were called in to do long hours of top-secret work with the Enigma machines, racing against time to figure out Hitler’s secret enemy codes. The girls were not academic, but chosen because could work out puzzles, crosswords, anagrams. More ordinary, unsung heroes from a time gone by.
I’m working on a ‘timeless’ novel. A mystery. Where I don’t want to specify a time, an era. Not a hundred years ago, yet not now. I’m figuring how to write the story so that it’s timeless; no cell phones, but also no public phone-boxes, no horse-and-buggy, but no Amtrack. Timeless buses and trains – not steam engines, nor high-speed rail travel, nor Concorde, super-jets, no Southwest Air nor Pan American. Non-specific fashions. It’s a challenge, as it needs to have the right pace, conflict, intrigue, yet nothing that puts the story in a specific time.
The thing is – it’s up to us as to how we use our time. No-one else. We have choices. That’s a scary, yet empowering thought. Charles Darwin said: “A person who dares to waste one hour of time, of life, has not discovered the value of life.”