Stephen Hawking, in his book A Brief History of Time, lays out three different ways that humanity perceives time. The first is psychological–we perceive that time moves from past to future, because we remember the past but have no knowledge of the future. The second is thermodynamic (or entropic)–our perceived state of the the physical world is that things move from order to chaos, so that as time moves forward, entropy increases. The third is cosmological–time moves in a direction we’d call “forward” as the universe expands and “backward” as the universe contracts. Physicists generally call this flow “the arrow of time.”
The process of writing a book has been, for me, a long sit-down with the arrow of time wedged firmly between my shoulder blades. Time trotted forward–I planned, and read, and made notes, and stared thoughtfully out the window like authors do–and yet when I sat down to actually write, I found that I had exactly zero thoughts about what to say, as if the future chapters were unknowable. As I wrote, my desk shifted from order to chaos–neat piles of notes and books and references began migrating across the desktop, onto the floor, into other rooms–and then each aspect of my adult life followed suit, from my eating habits to my sleep schedule to how often I went outside and had human contact apart from my (poor, sainted) family. As the book moved inexorably on, the possibilities of what I could write about expanded infinitely before me until I was dizzy with options; it was only as I neared the end, and the scope of the project contracted into something that seemed possible, that I suddenly found time racing towards me, as if my swing had reached the top of its arc and was coming back at me, headed right for my kisser.
Time waits for no slob: I handed in my book manuscript on deadline.
I actually handed it to my editor several weeks ago, and after a few days of wandering around open-mouthed and glass-eyed like a stunned mullet, I began catching up on all the things I had set aside since February in order to write a book. It’s taken me a few weeks to work my way down the list to “BLOG!!!!!“, but here we are.
The book’s not done–there’s editing and copyediting and proofreading und so weiter–but it’s done enough for me to sit down and write about language again. I’ve missed all y’all. Even Kevin.