Where does time go when you lose it? Does it fall behind the sofa cushions? Accumulate, unnoticed in your desk drawers until you clean up and then go “oh, that’s where all that time went?”
I love the way Pratchett explains this, through the monks of time and the procastinators, winding time, and patching time, and repeating bits of time. It matches observed reality, including the repeated history (ours and others,) the days that go by in a blink, the times when nothing gets done. NOTHING. And then the two hours or so when you write an amount that should be physically impossible. Or the three days in which I wrote Plain Jane.
I’ve always been fascinated with time, and I love stories of time travel. More importantly, I’ve always been fascinated with those crucial minutes: the minute before the car swerves. The minute before you fall and do yourself permanent damage. The minute before the bullet hits. It’s just a minute – it’s a tiny slip. It shouldn’t be permanent.
That’s probably the hardest thing to accept. Instinctively, at a gut level, we all feel time should be rewindable. We should be able to travel either way on it.
Possibly my favorite story of time travel and the consequences thereof is The Man Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester, which I – weirdly – first read in a French magazine, so I always remember it in French. Possibly part of the reason it’s my favorite story is that I’m married to a mathematician. (Though I’d never tempt him to go through a murder rampage through time.) The idea that a mathematician, given enough incentive can assemble a time machine on the fly is absolutely believable. (The thing is they’re theoretical people and most of the time they don’t care about reality, but if I came home and Dan said “I was bored, so I built a perpetual motion machine” I wouldn’t even be surprised, much less shocked. When Dan and the younger boy get to talking and playing with numbers they’re downright scary. The only thing saving us from a very odd future is that most mathematicians JUST don’t care enough to dabble in stuff like that.)
I’ve been thinking about this lately, because here we are in July and I’ve got just about nothing done this year – or (because it has more flavor) I got bupkis done all year.
First there were rewrites for Baen, which, of course, take precedence. Then there was health. Then there was the kid’s graduation and applications to college. He hates bureaucracy more than his mother does, so I paid for my sins of making my dad sign me up for things. We ended up getting him to complete ONE application properly. The other ones sort of went in limbo. Thank heavens his record was good enough to be accepted in that one college. (Might it have something with his not being ready to move, yet? Who knows? Devious is the mind of the kid.)
Then there was, since early May a series of illnesses. Now, all along we’re dealing with odd hormonal issues. After years of doctors assuring me I was menopausal (starting at 38) a doctor finally figured no, there is something hormonal wrong. What it is, though, G-d only knows, and so far no treatments have been really effective. (There is a suspicion I’m not human.) This might be genetic. I have a little cousin who has similar issues, including the infertility and the auxiliary side effects (you don’t want to know, but one of them is weight gain) and she’s been told it’s a defect in some chromosome. What I know is that as I get older it becomes even odder and harder to cope with it, and there might now be other issues (there is at least one resulting from the very bad caeserean that gave us Robert – am I complaining? No. Just a fact.) Anyway, not getting into TMI, this stuff might be at the back of the knocked out immune system and – annoying isn’t it – hormonal balance definitely affects the ability to write.
Then there was the death-flu. And then for the last week the fires.
I’m starting to wonder if there’s a conspiracy to prevent me from writing.
Of course, when I look back, it’s the writing that counts. How many books did I finish? What did I research? What did I publish?
Unless I look back ten years, and then other things count too: kids, house, moves, the friends we made, how happy the years were. (The nineties were VERY happy.)
Of course, me being me, I always feel guilty about time “lost” and “wasted” even though it is usually time in which OTHER things were getting done – things that weren’t writing.
Having read Heinlein’s bio, I realized I’m far from unusual. The man spent a lot of time being ill, or traveling, or politicking.
What did that mean? Who knows?
Perhaps his illnesses and struggles, the time he spent gardening and/or moving cost us another The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, three Puppet Masters and four If This Goes On. Or perhaps without those times engaging in physical labor or dealing with the non-writing world, he’d never have written anything worth reading.
Is time lost? Or does it just hide? It slides by and leaves us changed. Attempts to hoard it or channel it always fail. The best we can do is try to do the best we can at every moment. And let the rest slide.
Unrelated and personal update: Fire seems more or less stationary, at least the part in town. Our guest will probably go back home tonight, after we make sure he has a means of contacting us in case of need. Has to, his cat isn’t eating. Due to the vagaries of wind, not much smoke out there around me. I might take the opportunity to do some outdoor work. The car stays packed, of course, and the other stuff ready to go until the fire is out. I do bear in mind that fire is unpredictable. Postponed doctor’s appointment is now for the sixteenth of July. And today (maybe after a little light outdoor work) I get to write.