We're always talking about this. There isn't enough time. We wish we had more time. It takes a long time to write a novel. We barely have time to write blog posts. Time-turners are the coolest idea ever and I want one and I suspect Tyler-Rose wouldn't turn one down. (Especially at times like these when the semester is careening to an end and she's recovering from missing some class. She was sick last week, you see. That is why there was no blog post last week. She is better now, and that makes me glad, and I did not catch it, and that does too.)
But anyway: time. Not only is there not enough of it on a daily basis, but it's also something we confront as writers because, well, it does take a long time to write a novel. Or (I hear you, NaNo-ers!), at least, a lot of time. One of the few endeavors that takes even more time is another one we're invested in: learning to write a novel well.
All that said, I kind of thought I had spent enough time thinking about time that I had thought about it in most of the relevant ways. Then I stumbled across this quote of Ursula Le Guin from an interview in The Paris Review:
The whole process of getting old—it could have been better arranged. But
you do learn some things just by doing them over and over and by
getting old doing them. And one of them is, you really need less. And
I’m not talking minimalism, which is a highly self-conscious mannerist
style I can’t write and don’t want to. I’m perfectly ready to describe a
lot and be flowery and emotive, but you can do that briefly and it
works better. My model for this is late Beethoven. He moves so strangely
and quite suddenly sometimes from place to place in his music, in the
late quartets. He knows where he’s going and he just doesn’t want to
waste all that time getting there. But if you listen, if you’re with it,
he takes you with him. I think sometimes about old painters—they get so
simple in their means. Just so plain and simple. Because they know they
haven’t got time. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t
It seems normal at this juncture for the college-aged writer to say she hasn't given much thought to the way the process of aging and mortality itself will affect her writing career. But I'll be honest: that is something I've thought about. Le Guin can say things about it that I cannot, of course.
What she says is rather interesting and something I know I needed to hear. I think Le Guin is saying here not just that having less expected time left in this life makes you realize you can't waste time as an artist; she seems to be saying, along with this, that mature artists know well what they do and don't need, what does and does not belong, and so they are not only driven to not waste time, but are also able to not waste time within their art.
As a seriously not-mature artist, what I take away from this is the awareness that I probably insist on including a good many things--be they words, sentences, scenes, or whole characters--in my work that are not actually needed. I was already noticing this, to some extent, in part of my WiP, so it was good to hear.
On the other hand, affecting the mature streamlining of content that comes with age might do more harm than good to the work of someone as young as myself or Tyler-Rose. The best we can do is probably just this: to test every moment, every facet, and ask ourselves why it deserves to exist. To be good about not wasting time, if not by the godlike vision of one who is in complete control of the craft, rather then by the disciplined testing and trying of each piece we include, so that whatever is there is not, properly speaking, a waste of time, but rather a splash of youthful decadence from that fountain of what we actually have in plenty, at our age, however much it may seem that we never have enough.