Welcome back to Time Travel Wordcraft. A few things have changed since my last column in December 2019. If you’re reading this right now, my time travel experiment has succeeded.
Let’s begin at the beginning….
December marked the conclusion of my regular monthly column and the closure of my Time Travel Writing Lab.
I closed and locked up the lab, then traveled to London of 1816 with my dear friend and technical engineer, Ada Lovelace. I accompanied Ada while she attended to some important family business prior to her death. As I outlined in my November 2019 column, an elaborate plan was to be set in motion. If all goes as planned, I’ll travel in time to 1850 and attempt to bring Ada back to the year 2020.
I can report that the first part of Ada’s plan worked as she anticipated. Ada rented a house for the two of us near the villa where her father, Lord Byron, was staying. She went to her father in the year 1816 and she introduced herself, just as she had planned. She said, “Lord Byron, I am Ada Byron. I am your daughter. I have broken the laws of science and God to decipher the codex of time. Right now, another fatherless Ada Byron exists, only six months old. After I leave you, know that I will go to London in the year 1852 to die. But, before I do, I have traveled through time to see you and to ask for my father’s embrace.”
I was worried that Lord Byron would turn Ada away. But he didn’t. Instead, he looked into her eyes, held her tight, then whispered in her ear, “Yes, daughter. I see it in your eyes. It’s you…and this is no revelation to me. I knew if anyone could elucidate this linear prison we inhabit to rule and govern time, it would be my daughter.”
This encounter brought Ada great comfort as we continued on to London in 1852. I was there as Ada’s body eventually succumbed to the fate we all knew was on the horizon. Her soul slipped away. We know not where. But her mind was strong in the knowledge that she had deciphered the codex of time, and that she would be back in my Time Travel Writing Lab by December of 2020.
Despite Ada’s assurance that we will see each other again very soon, I will confess to you that I’m not as sure. Currently, I’m feeling the pain of her loss. But I’m staying focused on the task at hand dismantling Ada’s time travel closet, removing the core time travel mechanism, and then loading the core into another time travel bracelet to communicate with the time travel closet in my lab. As I mentioned previously, the fact that you’re reading this right now is proof that I’ve been successful in this task.
In another week, according to the detailed time schedule Ada herself designed, I will begin sending out a ping from one of the time travel bracelets. I’ll then launch a computer script from my lab in Seattle that will ping Ada. How will it ping a dead woman? That’s a reasonable question, but one I’ll need to answer later on this year when I have more data.
I’ve jumped ahead of myself. I’m like that now since Ada has been gone. Scattered. My husband tells me I seem a bit fragmented. He says it’s going to take some time for me to find my center again. And that leads into our lesson for today….
Finding Your Focus
No matter what you’re writing or wanting to write, if you’re writing on a regular basis and not getting to the place you want to be in your writing craft, your issue might be focus. In an effort to find your focus, I have some questions you may want to ask yourself that might help you clear your creative path.
Do you want to write for money, or do you want your work to be driven by whatever interests you at any given point in time?
Writing about something you love that also benefits you monetarily would of course be wonderful, but for those of us in the arts, the two paths often don’t intersect. The question of writing for love or money can often be answered by an honest accounting of how much time you have to invest in your writing. Do you have the time to split your focus between the projects you love and the projects that pay the bills? Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have the time or writing energy to devote to more than one project, then focus on only one project.
Is the writing project you’ve chosen a good fit for you at this time?
Does the time you have available to write fit with the project? Should you be working on a short story or flash fiction, and save the novel for when you have more time? Do you have the emotional space in your life to be taking on the project you’re considering? If you’re going through a very stressful or painful time in your life, this might not be the time to get into the head space of a character who’s dealing with a lot of pain. That doesn’t mean you can’t work on a writing project—maybe pick something less emotionally demanding.
Do you need to talk it out?
I’ve talked about becoming part of a writing community in a previous column [Time Travel Wordcraft: Cultivating Your Creative Spark – February 2018]. Becoming part of a writing community is very important. But beyond connecting with other writers, I think it’s equally important to have someone—at least one person—with whom you can share your ideas. Someone who encourages your creativity. Someone whose eyes brighten when you tell them you have a new story idea to share. If you don’t have anyone in your life who can offer some unconditional acceptance of your storytelling, you might consider writing forums on Facebook, or writing workshops. If you’re not finding anything that feels like it will work for you, then start a journal about your writing projects. If you have the resources, consider going to a coach or therapist, with the focus being keeping you focused and excited about your writing practice.
Are you allowing your audience to read between the lines?
The ideas for stories can come in any number of ways. Let’s say a story inspiration comes to you in a flash. You immediately envision a dejected character, abandoned by society, who stumbles upon a mysterious power that allows them to manipulate time. From that creative spark, a story outline grows, and humanity itself is on the brink of nonexistence. For fiction to have real depth it needs something more. It needs meaning. You need to ask yourself, what do I want to layer into this story? Answering that question comes back to what you believe, what you care about, or what you think is important at this point in time. Time travel is a great place to put your crazy fever dream ideas, predictions, or opinions about our culture. I think when readers engage challenging ideas or opinions in the context of the future, it sort of defuses those ideas. Makes them easier to consider when the experience isn’t something the reader has to deal with in their current life.
How do you define success?
I think writers often get discouraged and consequently lose their focus because they have—maybe subconsciously—an unrealistic idea of what success looks like when they sit down to write. Check your expectations. Writing is hard work. Making a living as a writer is very difficult and often has more to do with the connections you make, or random luck, than it does about talent. What if success was writing 500 words two or three days a week? Or taking an hour a couple of times a week and making notes on a story idea? Those might seem like small steps, but that’s often how art happens, one small step at a time. The important thing is that you keep on your path. Keep writing. Take the time, manage your struggles, find your balance as an artist and know that the greatest lesson I can give you is…never give up.
As I shared earlier in this post, I have a good deal of doubt that I will ever see Ada again. I have my well-documented tasks ahead of me, and while I can bring to mind Ada’s confidence in the science that she was convinced would assure her return, that confidence only blurs and dissipates for me, swirling into my feelings of loss. For now, the tasks at hand must be my focus. I have a lot of work ahead of me. Ada left me with very clear detailed documentation for each of the intricate steps I’m required to execute. While I definitely feel quite alone here in 1852, I am comforted by Ada’s notes and instructions. They’re clear, concise and brimming with the confidence of the mathematical equations that added up to decipher the codex of time. But my focus becomes blurred and scattered when I allow myself to consider…did Ada discover a codex to circumvent death?
You can anticipate my next dispatch to you in 3 to 4 months—if all goes to plan.