I'm sure you've experieneced this - you learn a new word one day and suddenly you hear that word everywhere. It's suddenly in every book you read, uttered in every conversation you overhear, on all the tv shows you watch. It's everywhere. Maybe you simply didn't pay attention to the word in the past. Maybe you glossed over it because you didn't recognize it. Maybe it's a new popular word. Or maybe the universe is just messing with you. Who knows.
It happened to me this week. But not with a word; with a phrase. Suddenly every voice, every show, every article, every workshop - they were all telling me to be "in the now". To be "in the present". To be honest, when I first heard it, it irritated me. I don't have time to look at the trees right now and ponder my existence, I have about a zillion things that need to get done today, let alone this week, this month, this year! And, really, if all I did was focus on the right here, right now, wouldn't it lead to chaos? Everything would be so...disorganized. Wouldn't it?
In a novel, the past, present and future play a critical role. You need to provide perspective about your character's past, and give some sense of intrigue about where they're headed in the future. I mean, really, that's what plot is all about. It feeds the climax - it's what keeps us readers reading.
But what about all of us, in real life? How does our perspective on our own past, present, and future play into our daily lives? How much time do we spend "in the now" versus re-living our past and stressing about our future?
It was then someone I really respect said something - something that made me stop and think: "we're all time traveling," he said, "either living (read: dwelling, re-living) the past, or thinking (read: panicking, rushing, stressing, planning) about the future. Occassionally we can be found here - now - in real time"
When you think about it, he's right. We're very rarely right here, right now. Taking in the moment that is here in front of us. We're all time traveling, most of the time.
And while, yes, it can be very helpful to reflect and learn from our past experiences...if we're really being honest with ourselves, how much reflecting and learning are we really doing when we re-visit the past? Versus complaining about it, or wishing we could change it somehow?
And, yes, making plans for our future retirement income, or career paths is a very worthwhile use of time travel. It helps us properly prepare. But, again, if we're really being honest with ourselves, how much valuable prep work are we really doing when we travel to the future? Versus worrying about things that may happen, that are completely out of our control?
So, I've decided to really pay attention to my time travel. To catch myself in the act and make sure that I am using the travel for good. For me, the future is where I spend most of my time - which means I'm often missing, overlooking, or not enjoying what is happening right now in front of me. After all, right now is the future I was planning for last week, last month, last year. In fact, I think I'm going to take a two week vacation in the present. Save the time travel for my novel.
So...where have you been time travelling most lately?