Dividing life up into packages, into sections of time, is natural: Days. Work weeks. Months. Years. Degree programs. Jobs. Decades. Marriages. Childhood. Retirement. Presidential terms. Old age. But what kind of sections? What metaphor works best for time?
Packages remind me of Christmas and birthdays. You open the packages in order, and you can’t open two at once, but then you enjoy them in a complex, interwoven way over a long period of time. You can give them away, discard them, or consume them as well. They don’t happen one at a time once you’ve opened them.
Fine. Let’s assume instead that life is made of compartments, like a train. That doesn’t work either. Why are you parading through the compartments like that? The train is going to the destination just fine. You can pick a train car and sit down for a while, watching the scenery.*
Maybe the train is time and the scenery is the life events. You certainly witness a lot of backs of buildings on a train, and old refrigerators dumped in ditches, and cryptic billboards. Puddles. Rivers I didn’t know were there.**
But packages, train cars, beads on a string, braided webs, and whatever other image you like to use for time (including mountains, voyages, and inter-dimensional snakes), while useful, are no substitute for what actually happens. What happens, happens now, and what just happened (and what happens next) is a fiction my brain constructs.
The only real time is now.
And now it is apparently October 31 again. I haven’t been writing fiction for a little while. I keep getting distracted by other undertakings that matter to me just as much.
One of the nice things about October 31 is that it is followed by November, which is NaNoWriMo month.***
It is definitely a compartment of time, November. It has 30 days in it, a beginning and an end, an entrance and an exit, and it is both short enough and long enough, if you want, to write 50,000 words. I’ve done it twice before and the incoherent drafts I wrote eventually turned into book-length manuscripts.
I can write approximately 1700 words a day. At the very least, I can decide today to start writing that much tomorrow, if we’re talking beads on a string.
*Not on a train! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Sam! Let me be!
I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I will not eat them with a mouse
I will not eat them in a house.
I will not eat them here or there.
I will not eat them anywhere.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham
**I spend a lot of time when I’m on trains contemplating the rear end of the human world. When I travel by car, the view is more boring but I’m usually listening to podcasts.
***If you’re doing it, feel free to buddy me.