The time which we have at our disposal every day is elastic; the passions that we feel expand it, those that we inspire contract it; and habit fills up what remains. ~ Vol II, Within A Budding Grove, Marcel Proust
There are 168 hours in one week. The best way to determine how to use those hours is to recognize or establish your values and be clear about them. Then you can decide how to fill your time to balance writing with a job, family, etc., as well as how best to use your hours to write, how to enrich your life, and how to use the writing time within the parameters you set. There is also the balance of reading novels and writing. I prefer not to read fiction while I’m writing a novel – I do it between books as one way to refill the creative well.
A friend just noted that the kids in her neighborhood have no idea how to read an analog clock. We are in a kind of war with time itself when you look at analog and digital clocks. Consider a disconnected individual point in time. No longer the hands on a clock face flowing (much like traditional narrative), showing time as movement from one place to another, from someplace to somewhere. A digital readout displays isolated moments of time – 10:31 am, 11:18 am. Has this affected modern narrative, sometimes at the expense of character development? Perhaps. But can be a creative choice that offers its own aesthetic.
Snake by Kate Jennings is like that digital clock. She uses specific moments of time to portray the unraveling of a marriage. There are 76 chapters in 157 pages where time is revealed in snapshots of the characters’ lives. Although it is the antithesis of Snake, Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past also deals with what is permanent and what is transitory. Jennings creates a cohesive picture of tragedy; Proust recorded the wearing away of time, yet both books – so different in length, scope and approach – manage to reveal things about time in fascinating ways. One can be read in an afternoon, the other takes a far greater investment of time. Here’s an online journal on reading Proust.
Is an investment in analog time worthwhile to your reader? That’s a question only you as a writer can answer because it goes to the core of how you think about writing, time, your values and artistic sensibility. Slipping into the flow of the great writers has been profoundly rewarding to me. As an artist, you must evaluation your own relationship to time.