Tuesday, September 4, 2012


A timeline is a schedule for the performance of events.  In Reality, we are often faced with the awareness that we are not in control; events take place at their own pace.  They even run amok or awry or away with little or no regard for those of us who believe we are arranging them.

After spending time in the world of created reality, which is to say composition of drama, music, photography, or art forms, we begin to sense how much more pleasing it is to be doing our work and not having to pay attention to the order of things in Reality.

In a manner similar to landlords making restrictions on cats or dogs or smoking or loud parties to potential tenants, we can, within the world of created reality, let our preferences be known.  We can stop time or mess with its orderly flow.

You make a point when addressing writing classes to absolve students of anything resembling chronology.  True enough, the reader does have to know where and when she is being asked to travel, but as a drawer or painter can suggest a plausible horizon without the need for signs or special effects, the accomplished writer should have little difficulty letting the reader know time and place.

The more you think about it, stories that follow a strict chronology are often stories without any slight degree of nuance or ambiguity, and what it a story without ambiguity?  Even As I Lay Dying, which is a series of first-person vignettes or observations, wrapped about the conveyance of a coffin from the Bundren farm to a nearby city, allows the participants to move between time zones.

One day, when your Reality time frame was being messed with while you sat waiting for a traffic signal to change, you saw the analogy between where you were and time, thanks to the windshield, the rear-view mirror, and the side-view mirrors.  While in traffic, the great thrust of your vision is directly in front of you, there are times when you ought and indeed must look behind you, or to the past.  Side-view mirrors represent distractions and shifts in focus as well.

If you begin with some significant event about to get underway or perhaps already underway, you’re pretty well committed to moving straight ahead for a while, but you can throw in hints or references until it is time to let the reader know how we’ve come to be where we are.

In early drafts, we do not always know where we are.  You do have writer friends who are sticklers for outline.  They take pride in knowing where they are.  You take no such pride, perhaps because one of your motives in writing in the first place is to determine where you are about a particular matter or moral construct.  Writing helps you cope with time in ways that offer you some sense of perspective when dealing with Reality.  Writing has in particular helped you daydream your way out of boring situations until you are able physically to detach yourself from them.

A favorite character in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Darl Bundren, is thought to be touched, which is to say some of his family members consider sending him to the state asylum for the insane because a) his language is different, and b) because he sees or understands things not readily accessible to others. He knows, for instance, that one of his siblings is illegitimate and that another is pregnant.  There is no rational basis for his knowing these things.  You feel a kinship with him because he has shown you ways not to fragment, ways to persist in having visions.

Time has yet to put the pressures on you that it put on Darl, who, at the end, does go quite bonkers.  Darl has said and thought and felt some remarkable things, which have already helped you beyond their ability to help him.  This is how it is with timelines.

At the moment, your rear view mirror is well-adjusted, your windshield relatively clean of dust or the leaves from the huge pepper and eucalyptus trees on Sola Street and the seagulls have been uncharacteristically short sighted.

For the moment, your time frame is flexible.  You do not appear to be subject to tailgating, and although objects in mirrors are not as close as they appear to be, per the warming on the side-view mirrors, you and time are not at odds.  Books are asking to be written, and classes do not begin for at least another week.

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