Aspiring writers will sometimes attribute their first novel’s lingering incompleteness to the time demands of their other life, the life that earns them money and may need diapering or cleaning. To which, customarily, an advice writer like myself would curtly instruct: make time.
Except that it is impossible to make time. We are all given exactly the same amount of time every day, and nothing we can do will increase it. I understand this advice takes certain poetic liberties in the name of pithiness, but I am a writer and I pay close attention to language, and so again, I say, you cannot make time. You can, however, perceive it any number of ways, and as with anything, perception is all.
For instance, most writers I have spoken with describe with a kind of dreamy delight those work sessions where the story came so quickly, where the writer saw and felt the story so vividly, he or she “lost all track of time.” Here is the writer’s real goal: not to make more time, but to ignore it.
In Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Quentin’s father gives him a watch and says, “I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and for a moment and not spend the rest of your life trying to conquer it.” Time is a necessary distraction. We only ever live in one place—RIGHT NOW—and yet a clock is a permanent reminder of the past and future, ticking off the moments Until, and sweeping past the moments that are no more.
How exhausting. The joy of the writer, of the artist, of anyone doing what they love, is in fact the absence of time. All creation occurs in the present moment, for that’s where everything is. And as we enter our imagined worlds, as we forget about time, we are in fact entering reality. The writer who complains about time is actually pleading with herself to release her grip on schedules and appointments, to forget the clock that orders her world where children must be picked up and chicken pulled from the oven cooked but not burnt—release this miserly perception of a world so she may enter the full expanse of her imagination. In the imagination, nothing is real until we say it is so, and no clock turns unless we turn it, and no chicken burns unless we burn it. That is the only way to write, and probably the best way to live.