A Writer’s Thoughts – Part 4: So Much Time and So Little To Do

Strike that. Reverse it.

Okay, I admit it. One of the main reasons for writing this blog entry is so that I could use my favourite Willy Wonka quote. If that’s not a good enough reason, then tough. It’s good enough for me.

Recently, I’ve been juggling a hefty workload, and dedicating a great deal of effort to resisting the temptation of play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild all the time. Both have only been partially successful. A combination of engineering work, large volumes of writing for Seven: The Days Long Gone, and gliding around Hyrule, has kept me from working on writing samples and short stories. I have to prioritise, and I don’t like it. This got me thinking about one of my favourite topics: time.

Then I had an existential crisis, so I stopped.

But seriously, don’t you agree time is a concept that is simultaneously fascinating, amazing, and a little scary?

The fascinating part is that time plods along at the same rate for every one of us, yet passes completely differently. How we perceive time is completely subjective. In my old job I would’ve sworn the days were about 64 hours long, but a day of playing Zelda, reading, and writing passes in a few hours. What’s more, we may be exposed to some of the same world events, but how we interpret them, how we react to them, is unique to each of us.

Time can also be amazing, particularly when thought of in terms of the innings we’ve been given thanks to the birds and the bees. At risk of coming across as uncharacteristically saccharine, the very fact we’re here at all is pretty incredible. Yes, we will all experience hardships in our lives. Some have it much tougher than others, which in itself is worth remembering in the darker moments. But time also gives us many opportunities, if we only seek them out and seize them. Take the cherished times spent with loved ones, for example. Or the exhilarating moments of risk-taking that crystallise into life-long memories.

Lastly, as tempting as it is to ignore it sometimes, there’s the fact that time is a little scary. It cannot be stopped. It cannot even be slowed down (unless you manage to cosy up to a black hole, apparently, but such a thing might even top the list of “holes” you don’t want to get too close to). Scariest of all, though, is that not one of us can say with any degree of certainty how much time we’ve got on this rock. So my question is simple: why spend any more time doing things you don’t like than is absolutely necessary?

Now hang on, there, before you throw your hands in the air, yell “You’re right, Tom!” and charge outside starkers. (I mean, you’re more than welcome to do that. I’m just not responsible for the consequences.) I’m not saying we should chuck ourselves face-first into the river of time and see where it takes us. There’s a fine line between taking calculated risks to do the things we really want to do, and just being reckless.

What I do advocate, however, is not being content with the everyday grind. If it feels like you’re getting nowhere in life, and your job doesn’t give you an ounce of satisfaction, you’re probably right. There’s only one person who can do anything about that. Time is precious not because we have little of it, per se. No, time is precious because we don’t know how much we have mapped out before us. It’s so easy to stand still and just let life march past us.

Making the best use of time isn’t about packing as much in as possible. It’s far too easy to worry about wasting time. Every so often, we all need those TV series binges to detach ourselves from reality. In my opinion, making the best use of time involves doing those things you’ve always thought about trying, but just never made the time for.

For example, if you’ve always wanted to write a song but never tried, then just give it a go. If you’ve always wanted to do that one wacky activity but let apathy hold you back, then just book it. If you’ve had a story idea burning away in your head but never acted on it, then free up some time and share it with the world.

Alright, all of these things are easier said than done, but what do you have to lose? If they work out, you may have just discovered a life-long hobby. It may even turn into a job. If they don’t work out, then at least you tried, and you’ve put to bed the nagging feeling that only repressed ambitions breeds.

And what if the thing you want to try is a little off-the-wall? Well, in that case, I’d refer you to my second favourite Willy Wonka quote: ‘A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.’ Roald Dahl knew his shit.

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