Friday, August 12, 2011

The White Rabbit's Dilemma

"I'm late. I'm late for a very important date." The White Rabbit checked his pocket watch, twitched his long ears, and tugged down a corner of his waistcoat. "I'm late. Can't stop or off with my head." He ran off with Alice chasing after asking, "Why? What's so important?"

It's not verbatim from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, but the gist is about right. The White Rabbit raced to and fro across Wonderland while the Caterpillar puffed on its hookah and contemplated the fate of the Underverse, which is where down the rabbit hole leads. It all comes down to time. Time enough to do what needs doing and time enough to relax and do what you really want to do. It's all about time.

The same is true for people on the surface of this planet, people rushing to and fro, checking their watches, cell phones, and clocks wherever they happen to be, checking their look in mirrors and windows on businesses everywhere, to make sure they are looking good and on time. It doesn't pay -- or so the saying goes -- to be late or look less than perfect, unless you're homeless where hygiene and the best designer clothes just will not do. The right look, the right time, the right everything -- and no one thinks about the finer things in life or what all those gadgets and time-savers are actually saving time for.

People spend more time in the bathroom washing away every scent that doesn't come out of a bottle or from a jar, bar, or potion. Teeth must be whitened and hair washed, conditioned, gelled, moussed, fluffed, blown dry, and tousled to look just right. Clothes must be pressed, dry cleaned, washed, and hung on special hangers -- wire hangers just will not do. Drapes, curtains, furniture, cappuccino machines, milk frothers, food processors, blenders, microwaves, griddles, grills, juicers, pulpers, composters for trash and food, and all the spices, herbs, and flavorings to make breakfast, lunch, and supper memorable meals with plenty of sweets and cakes, pies, tarts, turnovers, and cookies. Everything must look and taste the best and no one must be bored.

So much time spent rushing around making sure everything looks perfect, smells sweet or spicy, making money to buy things that must be cleaned, polished, wiped, and looked at, time spent accumulating things at prices less than fifty years ago would have been considered insane, and all done with the television and stereo blasting and nothing is really getting done, especially if you're a writer.

I always wanted to be a writer, says the person who is certain that being a writer is a life of ease and personal appearances, book signings, readings, and cashing huge royalty checks, but I never had the time.

No, they didn't have the time because there were too many other things in the way ticking like bombs that must be defused or at least put on pause while they exercised, watched TV, ran the kids here and there, and generally wasted time fussing with complicated recipes or going to get dinner and bring it home because there was no time to cook. How much is lost because we think we don't have enough time.

It all comes down to time and time is mostly wasted. If you can write 500 words a day, that comes out to two typed pages, you can write a book in a year. Write 1000 words a day, four pages, and cut that time in half, finishing a book in six months, 180 days. That's two books a year, and if you're middle-aged, that would still be sixty books over the next thirty years, providing you have thirty years, and forty books over twenty years isn't too bad either. If you're in your twenties, do the math. Two books a year and a working life span of at least forty years and that's eighty books. It is possible when you break it down to basic math, but it's not the pages that will get you, it's the time.

Time lost. Time wasted. Time spent moaning and groaning. Time used watching television whilte talking on the cell phone or playing games on the computer or chatting on Facebook, LiveJournal, or Twitter. Any number of blogs or web sites beckon and begged to suck the teat of time and leave nothing for writing, for living the dream you've been harboring in some secret locked part of a mind cupboard.

Technology is supposed to save time, give time for other more important things, and I don't mean shopping, networking, socializing, or whatever it is you do with the time that is left over from not having to do things manually, the hard and slow way. Typewriters made writing books easier (for writer and publisher) by making the words legible and set in a specific format. Word processors took it to the next level and left behind Wite-Out and correction strips, carbon paper, and special erasers, and computers took the process one step further, saving the words and pages in the correct format on floppy disks and then on thumb drives, about the length of the thumb. The words don't take up much space in ones and zeroes, and a 16GB drive will save thousands of books -- if you write them -- but it all comes back to time. Making time, having time, spending time -- to write.

When there were fewer gadgets and time saving devices, people had fewer demands on their time and fewer sirens seducing them to waste time. Work got done. Meals were made and dishes washed and put away. And books were written, and what books they were -- and are. It's all about time.

We all have the same 24 hours each day, but how we spend them is up to us. We can spend the time working to acquire more things to make life easier that will suck up more time away from that dream of writing books, which is not necessarily a glamorous life, not down here in the trenches where the words are written, stories are plotted, characters are given life, and books are put together, but it is a life that offers some rewards, not the least of which is satisfaction in seeing dreams come to life. It's a life. It's a choice -- a choice in what to do and how to spend all those hours saved from other labor, a choice that means turning your back on the seduction of things and get down to the nitty gritty of writing a book. Two pages a day or four pages a day, or ten pages a day, it can be done. All it takes is time.

Do you have the time?

The battery in my watch is dead.

The above is 1137 words, a little over four pages, and it took me 20 minute to write. How about it? Have you the time?

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