It’s about Time

I just realized that I haven’t written anything in months. Well, okay, I knew I haven’t been writing. I just didn’t realize how long it’s been.

Oh, I have lots of great excuses. There was the den to re-paint, bookcases to straighten, old files to purge, furniture to recover, the kitchen to remodel, the garden to plant (only to be torn up as we were connected to the city sewer). Then, there were the school activities to attend and the constant nagging at my high school aged twins to study for finals. Oh—and then the twins had their wisdom teeth removed and I played nurse for a week or so, because naturally, the surgery rendered them incapable of getting up from the sofa.

But it’s time to face facts: I am a slacker. A procrastinator. All spring, I’ve told myself, I will get back to writing just as soon as all the spring home projects are completed. I even re-arranged my den to make a more comfortable and inspiring area to write. Of course, the projects dragged on until just last week (when the contractor tore up my garden and much of my front yard for the sewer connection). So that’s another project in my future.

Every writing course and every conference I attend preach that one must set aside time each day to write, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. That shouldn’t be too hard to do, right? But what happens when daily life intrudes, when the family needs you, when there are more items on the to-do list, when you just want to binge-watch the last six seasons of Mad Men? What is a nascent writer to do?

Why, read, of course! For two weeks, I have been on what can only be described as a literary bender. I’ve consumed at least six books, careening from pot-boilers to mysteries to steam punk to fantasy. I’m back to time travel again, thanks to a story on NPR. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but a reviewer was recommending some novels about time travel and I started to listen. When she mentioned my favorite book of the genre, Time and Again by Jack Finney, she had my complete attention. So when the reviewer recommended To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, I quickly scribbled the title in my notebook of daily reminders. Well, one Kindle purchase and four days later, I was hooked. I’d never heard of Connie Willis before last week, and I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I think she is my new favorite writer.

To Say Nothing of the Dog is Ms. Willis’s second novel in her series about time-travelling Oxford history scholars. It is funny, lyrical and a pleasure to read. As with all good writing, the novel has led me on a merry and serendipitous journey. I tore through the story, anxious to learn the fate of the two scholars, Ned Henry and Verity, as they bounced between Victorian England and World War II Coventry, with stops in 2018 and 2057 along the way, as they attempt to repair history. I was so intent to finish the story, I spent hours each day reading, even though I was with my family at a four day music festival. I carried my Kindle to read during most of the daytime performances. Now that’s a good book! Having finished the novel, I ran to the library to retrieve more of her work. Today, I managed to pick up a recent collection of her best short stories, and I have fallen down the rabbit hole. I’ve been in the hammock for hours, devouring her stories. With any luck, the copy of Doomsday (the first of the Oxford novels) will arrive on the library reserve shelf before too long.

After all this reading, I feel the brain cells starting to regenerate. Thank you, Connie Willis, for your marvelous stories, and for providing some desperately needed motivation. Now, if I can just stay out of the garden.

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