Relativity and the Writer: Managing the Space-Time Continuum

No. This is not a science post, although I do f…g love science (and the posters generated by that site – the ones to hang on the wall as well as the readers who comment about the ones hanging on the wall :)). Over the years I’ve devoted a fair amount of meditation time to Einstein’s formulations. Very scary when you’re a small child – the concept of infinity, the existence of worm holes, I’ve whiled away many an afternoon trying to wrap my head around warp speed and the science of a black hole. I even have that book – The Physics of Star Trek, by Lawrence M. Kraus. Introduced by Stephen Hawking, the slender volume evaluates which of Gene Roddenberry’s proposals would truly work in Einstein’s universe. I’m still edging my way through it, struggling to grasp each concept before it slips away. Sometimes I almost succeed. Well, let’s say I understand it in the moment, but as soon as I move my head from the page, the theory skitters down that darn worm hole. Hmmm…maybe that’s the point.

Anyway, this essay is about writers and writing and the peculiar need to find a space-time continuum in which to travel with words. This is not a one-size-fits-all recipe. I’ve considered most of the suggestions about ordering the day…when to write, how much to write, how long to write. I applaud each one, file it away with last year’s Christmas cards and seek the dimension that best reflects my reality.

I’m not a flat Stanley. I move in circles – of family, of friendship, of work, of play. I’m incapable of spending twelve hours a day at my desk. Honestly, it’s not going to happen. But I need that space, that dedicated star ship bridge from which to fly when I do have  time. And I fill that space with all the manuals to help me as I enter unknown territory. I consult opening paragraphs of favorite novels and study style books and examine the philosophies of successful writers. I read the classics and the noir, listen to the hearts of saints and sinners. To ‘make it so,’ my space is a bibliophile’s paradise, walls of shelves filled with books.

My patient, non-writer husband has now built libraries for me in three different homes. This task is no small undertaking. I have more than seven hundred books in my collection. While construction is underway, the tomes complain, the language texts babble, the writing advice manuals hum with indignation. They are, of course, unable to inspire when piled around my feet or stored in boxes. Once construction is complete, each one finds her spot in the collection and my world rights itself. The shelves sparkle with greatness. Not mine, but that of the masters whose books have found a home with me. Then we travel together into the dimension of time.

When I sit down to write, I move at a speed unbound by the clock. Often I worked for what I thought was only an hour to find the morning has passed me by. I will admit to carrying plots and characters around with me as I move in those other, outer circles. I scribble complications on bar napkins and conflicts on bank envelopes. In my head, I’m writing all the time, so my movement in the relativity of my writing space is constant. I carry it with me, this vast expanse of story, curving around my universe and bringing my discoveries back to that loft, that desk, that computer that serves as the vessel for my work.

Writing space. Daunting. Unsettling. Interstellar in nature. Vast and complex and, perhaps, ultimately, unconquerable. How, then, to encourage others to venture into this continuum? It begins with jettisoning guilt. A fitness instructor once told me not to worry if I couldn’t work out every day. “Work when you can, but make it count.” Good advice for writers too, no?

So, how do we conquer this space-time conundrum?

Rule #1: Find your own space. Basement, bedroom, garage, closet. Even a Starbucks. I couldn’t write in a busy coffee shop for anything. I’d be too busy people watching. But many successful writers have done just that. Whatever space you choose, make it your own. Put up post-it notes, hang a cork board, shove all those little pieces of paper in a manila envelope and keep them close. Okay, maybe that’s just me. Once you claim your spot, your soul will breathe easier.

Rule #2: Chart your own time. I work best in the early morning, when dawn is just knocking and my one- to three- thousand words are eager to be set free. I don’t eat until I’ve reach the required word count. I also make sure to stop when I know what’s going to happen next. This is not an original thought. I’m borrowing it from a famous writer whose identity has evaporated in the vacuum of my personal black hole. Mea culpa and mil gracias, famous writer! This advice really works. No moments of writer’s block when you know what’s going to happen to your characters in the next paragraph.

Here, now, in the infinite moment, I close my eyes and chart my course, accompanied by the image of my fellow writers setting forth in their small ships, motoring across the writing cosmos and typing, typing, typing as time rolls by. Wave as you pass my vessel. Send a message. Can’t wait to read what you all create!

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