Monday, January 20, 2014

Writer measurements of time

"I'll fix breakfast after two more emails."

"I'm going to sleep once I finish this chapter."

"I want to write another 300 words in the novel, then we can go for a walk."

In our house, with two writers in residence, we tend to tell time in words, not numbers.

That's not to say Donna-Lane's sense of time is the same measurement as mine. She's a speed-reader for one, so it may take me twice as much time to read a paragraph as she does. If we're reading the same computer screen, I can't let her control the mouse because my brain cannot keep up with the speed of her scrolling.

On the other hand, at the end of a long day, D-L may take an hour to read a page or two in a book - "resting her eyes" in between reading sessions. Or, as her daughter phrases it, "pretending to read."

I tend to get into a zone when writing, oblivious to all else. So, for me, time essentially stands still -- until I'm jarred out of my writing reverie by a scheduled phone call I'd forgotten or the realization that the house got very dark and quiet when I wasn't looking ... and it's 3 am!

Instinctively, we understand each other when we reference writing-based time. I have a sense how long it takes D-L to write one of 30 or 40 news stories for the weekly newsletter ( she produces with Alistair Scott. She knows if I'm working on a highly technical, 2000-word magazine feature, I'm looking at several focused hours of referring to notes, fact-checking on the web, drafting, re-writing, proofreading, and re-proofreading.

Blog time is somewhere in between. She's way faster than me at that, but then I crop the photos I use and spell-check, whereas she goes with the free flow of the medium, inadvertently humourous or perplexing typos and all.

We're both time-challenged when it comes to clocks and calendars. We'll show up late for a dinner engagement because we hadn't written the appointment down. The other day, the one time I set the alarm this month, I got up an hour earlier than necessary to catch the train. D-L wasn't sure which day of the week she had booked her travel up to Geneva. I could cite many more examples, but you get the idea.

We won't even mention how many times I've burned things on the stove because "I'm just going to check Facebook for a minute."  

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