Saturday, September 29, 2007

Taming the Time Beast

Apprentice Writer has spent the last few days musing rather than writing. An involuntary choice, dictated by junior apprentice writer #3 deciding to thrust an adorable little finger adorned with adorable little razor sharp fingernail into the maternal eye, gouging out a chunk of cornea and creating an instant three-day spell of blindness (since it turns out that muscle movements of the healthy eye create spasming agony in the injured one, forcing both closed). Emergency room staff and referred ophtamologist weren't impressed, responding with something like 'If I had a dime for every time a baby....oh, wait. I do.'

The results of this enforced period of non-keyboarding include a humbling respect for the competence of seeing-impaired people, many extreme promises to make better use of computer time in future, and reflection on how some people are gifted with the skill to see time as a friend, rather than an enemy. The Gentle Reader surely knows many such people; the mom who has an hour to spare before the kids need to be picked up and bakes a cake rather than frittering it away; the dad who has half an hour between arrival at home and dinner and who waters the garden rather than channelsurfing; the teens featured in newspaper reports every June as top high school mark scorers who all manage to squeeze in regular sports/music/volunteer activities between homework.

Apprentice Writer suspects this type of productivity will never be linked to her name. For her, time is a snarling beast that ferociously resists being tamed, with the taming efforts leading to such exhaustion she needs a relaxing break before getting down to the work of manuscript writing. This, despite writing goddessess such as Nora Roberts stating flat out that everyone can find an hour a day to write (equating to a book a year), or Suzanne Brockmann stating flat out that one year she wrote ten books, by taking the manuscripts with her everywhere and writing in five-minute chunks, or Maya Angelou stating flat out that when an idea or phrase struck her, she would stop to write it down no matter what else was going on so as not to 'lose' it, leading to a memorable situation in which her toddler spilled juice on the paper she was using and she wrote around the spill rather than interrupt her train of thought.

Apprentice Writer cannot argue with the obvious success of these authors' strategies. Yet somehow, she can always find a valid reason why it wouldn't work for her. One uninterrupted hour per day? With a four-month-old who catnaps 20 minutes at a stretch max, impossible. Writing in five-minute chunks? Can't do it, need a long mental warm-up period to get into the writing zone. Ignore small children and household chaos? Whenever Apprentice Writer tried it turned around and bit her, resulting in such joys as a kitchen fire, 911 accidentally called, gobs of vaseline rubbed onto furniture and walls, granola bars stuffed into VCR slots, an entire box of goldfish crackers dumped from balcony onto driveway to 'feed the birds', etc.,etc.,etc.

Because of these (admittedly self-imposed) restrictions, Apprentice Writer is in awe of writers who let nothing stop them. Mega-author Robert Jordan is one astonishing example. His fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, spans thousands of pages, follows multiple main characters in intricately interwoven plotlines, and features many dozens of secondary charaters. It would be impossible to expect such a huge story to be flawless in every writing dimension; but even the fiercest of critics cannot deny the sheer scope of Jordan's imagination. Or, in terms of the topic at hand, his extraordinary ability to put time to good use.

But even this has its dangers; Jordan spoke of additional prequels for the Wheel of Time series once the final volume was done, as well as detailed plans for a whole new series. Readers will never enter that world; Jordan ascended his personal Dragonmount two weeks ago, succumbing to illness at age 58. Amid the relief that he is spared further pain, and profound sympathy for his family, there is sharp disbelief: can it really be after all these years, all those books, all those epic battles, heros, heroines, cultures, and villains - will readers never get to find out how all the loose ends get tied or live out the 'End of the World' showdown building since page 1?

It is to break a fan's heart.

Gentle Reader: fear not. Given her history, Apprentice Writer feels on safe ground solemnly swearing that she is up to no, sorry, that's Harry Potter....that she will never leave her fans dangling without an ending to a 12-part novel series. Having thus neatly turned her lack of writing productivity into a virtue, she will now go bake that cake, water that garden, and supervise homework. And give a final salute to Jordan: may he continue bringing joy by weaving his tales, wherever he may now be.


Wylie Kinson said...

TOTALLY hear you on never having the organizational skills (or gumption) to cake-bake, lawn-water, or write in 5 min intervals. I, too, enjoy a good game of warm-up solitaire :)

And my youngest stopped napping about 6 months ago and IT'S KILLING ME!!!

M. said...

warm-up solitaire - yes, i am familiar with that form of sport, which stretches into an hour before you know it...

when my kids were too old for naps i got them used to the concept of 'quiet time' - for me, not them! they knew they didn't want to deal with me if i had a headache, which i threatened to do if they didn't go carefully for an hour or so in the afternoon. great for jotting down a couple of paragraphs...