Imaginary Time & Poets

My husband has been watching a science program featuring Stephen Hawking on DVD. Funny how, as long as the scientists are speaking, the theories they’re explaining make perfect sense to me, but the second the tv goes silent my understanding evaporates. However, that doesn’t keep me from making free use, and profligate misuse, of them. Imaginary time, for example:

…imaginary time is not imaginary in the sense that it is unreal or made-up — it simply runs in a direction different from the type of time we experience. In essence, imaginary time is a way of looking at the time dimension as if it were a dimension of space: you can move forward and backward along imaginary time, just like you can move right and left in space.


Scientifically speaking, I don’t really get it, but something rouses when I read that in conjunction with A.E. Stallings’ post over at Harriet:

I am somewhat mystified by correspondences with poets, perhaps fresh out of an MFA program, who have no job or children, and claim they need to come to Greece for a year, preferably on an island, to have “time to write.” Don’t they have the same twenty-four hour days where they live?

Because really, I have no patience for the very nice but entirely mistaken writers who claim they have no time to write. It’s all a question of priorities, isn’t it? Making more creative use of your time in all its dimensions. Stallings talks about having a space, a room of your own etc, but I think space in a more metaphysical sense is paramount. Making the space in your own mind to be a writer, whatever it is you’re physically doing in the moment.

No one can do that for you — are you serious about your writing or not? — but there are other, more pedestrian, ways to fit writing into your day, which I completely endorse. Stallings mentions some of the ways we waste time (Facebook, twitter, etc.), but what I’m talking about is even more basic:

Showers: If you take a shower every single day, not only are you not a mother, but you’re losing time. As long as you brush your teeth and wash your face twice a day, you’re fine. I mean, really. And models will tell you, freshly washed hair is murder to style. Try every other day (which would still count as a ginormous luxury in my eyes) and watch how your time expands.

Chores: Who are you, Martha Stewart? She’s got hired help. Me, my bank balance is in the realm of imaginary numbers. Decide: exactly what is  your chaos threshold? My bugbear is a neat kitchen. Neat, not clean. Because actual cleanliness would take real time. Dishes clean, clutter pseudo-organized, table crumb-free. Done. Some people can’t abide dirt on their floors, tumbleweeds of dust and cat hair. Get over it. (Unless, of course, you’ve been diagnosed with OCD by an actual doctor not yourself.) I’m not saying you have to live in filth. And, as Stallings says in her piece, chores can be good times to mull. (Before I had kids, I would play music & sing while washing dishes. Not anymore. Not only because this apparently disturbs the household  to ego-crushing lengths, but because I tend to use the chores I do do as time to think.) But know this: if you’re constantly putting the laundry/gardening/vacuuming/dusting (dusting? Really? I. don’t. dust.) ahead of your writing, you’re making a choice.

Sleep: If you sleep more than 5 hours a night, you probably don’t have kids. If you are indeed a parent, then you’re probably a dad. Yes, I said it. Anyway, if you truly can’t find another minute in your day to squeeze writer-time in (and I qualify “writer-time” as time spent not only writing, but reading, because you can’t be a writer without also being a reader), then you need to lengthen your day. Some of us are too foggy-brained in the early morning (that would be me), while others find their brains too full & fatigued in the evening. Discover which one you are, and then stay up a little later or get up a little earlier to fit your writer-time in. You’ll be tired at first, because clearly you’ve been flagrantly self-indulgent with your sleep all these years, but if you keep at it, you’ll find your internal clock’s reset and your mind’s alert and even eager for that space you’ve at last given it.

Because time is what you make of it.

6 responses to “Imaginary Time & Poets”

  1. Fantastic. And I haven’t even read the Stallings post yet…

  2. Love this. Think it makes a great companion to Stallings’ piece. I have no kids, so I feel a bit guilty about all the years I wasted my time moaning about a lack of time to write.
    Also… I. do. not. dust. either. (Seriously, is it really hurting anything???)

  3. If rhyming time’s imaginary
    then why’s my room unsanitary?

  4. Thanks, Cindy. I really like the Stallings post, but it feels like a preamble. Thus my repeated mullings over dishes, and this post.

    Sandy — it hurts nothing. I’m sure of it.

    Mr. Houseman:

    Though your room may not be photogenic–
    books & clothes in piles,
    dust bunnies for miles–
    does a mess truly mean it’s unhygienic?

    (Personally, I believe visitors to your room transmit more germs. Glad to see you — it always makes my day when you stop by.)

  5. Hey Nicelle, thanks, and thanks for coming by!

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