Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Time Distortion

Every Wednesday, I post an essay or two that relates to anything from reading/writing to gaming to anime to life in general.

God might have created the world in 7 days (6 if you don't count the Sabbath or the Lord's Day) but the actual craft of creation takes longer. For example, a short story might take me days to write but a reader will finish reading it in the span of a few minutes. A novel might take a year (or a month if you're the NaNoWriMo type) but it's a product that's consumed in the span of a few days at the most. And this isn't something that merely applies to the craft of writing. Working on a movie easily takes up half a year (if not more) and consumers watch it in the span of what, two, three hours? How many hours are spent editing a one-hour podcast? Even game design is affected by this as days and weeks and months of playtesting are put into a product which might only be an hour's worth of casual play. Suffice to say, there is simply a disproportion of time when it comes to manufacturing something and consuming something.

That's not to say creators should give up at the futility of it all. For the most part, life follows that pattern. People work five days a week so that they might enjoy the weekends. Musicians practice and repeat their performance until they get it right for their recording. The cliche for writing is that it's 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Everyone devotes time when it comes to their passions. But time isn't always working against you. There are, I think, two ways in which creators "distort" time.

First is immortality, or rather the next best thing. A piece of work can easily outlive it's creator's lifetime. To this day, we still talk about Citizen Kane, Lord of the Rings, or Gandhi's teachings. People might have spent years producing those works yet it's lasted decades (and perhaps even stretch to centuries). Of course not all work endures. A lot of novels are published every day and not all of them sell profitably or catch the eye of the critical reader. But that's the risk every creator makes and why it's important to give it everything you've got.

The other way to distort time isn't necessarily to make your work enduring but to facilitate its distribution. Arguably a band might be able to perform live to thousands of people. But in terms of circulation, nothing beats musical distribution through CDs, mp3s, records, etc. The same performance might reach the ears of millions and played over and over at their whim--surpassing the human limitations of a five-man act. The same goes with this blog entry. Had I not published it on the Internet, I might show to five people a print-out of what I've written and it takes them 5 minutes each to read its entirety, even if it took me half an hour to write this. But circulating it on the Internet takes me what, 5 minutes, and hopefully more than 5 people read this. It's not about making my work enduring (I doubt if people will be reading this particular blog entry ten years from now) but rather distributing my work so that a lot of people might read it. It might just take them 5 minutes to read this but if 100 people read it, that's already 500 minutes of consumption into something I wrote. Of course like immortality, if I write crap, no one will read my crap in the future. Quality is still important but the bar perhaps isn't as high as making something a classic.

At the end of the day, we're all human and limited by temporal physics. But through the act of creation, we somehow work around that fact.

1 comment:

oui said...

This reminds me of a "classic" Stephen King quote from "On Writing": Writing is telepathy. :D That which crosses space and time.