Does Time Really Fly?: A Guest Post by Judy Alter

At lunch one day recently a friend said, “The years fly by, but some days sure do drag.” The more I thought about her words, the more profound they seemed. My oldest grandchild is graduating from high school this spring. No, can’t be! She’s still that darling four-year-old with curls and dancing eyes. Wrong. She still has the curls and the dancing eyes, but she’s eighteen now. I have no idea where the time went, but it flew.

I think this saying may be especially true for authors on those days when the words won’t come. Some days, they simply leap on to the page, and I barely know where they came from. Such days pass by in a flurry. But other days, when I’m stuck in the soggy middle of a book, I struggle for a single sentence. I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I stare out the window, telling myself I’m thinking about it, but I’m really wondering how long it is until lunch time. Two hours yet? Can’t be true.

Occasionally there’s a day when I am caught up on enough that I indulge in pleasure reading—for me, almost always a mystery. Much as I love to get lost in a book, a day of reading, with no phone calls or contact with the outside world, also drags.

I think age comes into this. The past has flown by because we’re looking back at it, and our memories of twenty years are sharp and clear (if we’re lucky—it’s yesterday’s events many can’t remember). And the highlights stand out as our memories search backward—we don’t remember the days that crawled by.

I heard somewhere that the older we get, the less likely we are to have high points in our days. We have less going on in our lives. Not so true for those of us who retired to a busy career or a hobby that consumes waking moments. A day without a phone call or visit with a friend or some other peak moment counts to me as a day without a high point, and it can seem long.

What can you do on those days that seem to drag to vary the pace of the day? Stop whatever you’re doing, and do something completely different. If you’re at a desk, get up and move about—take a walk, work in the garden, cook something. Pick up the phone and call someone. Sometimes taking a shower is enough to break the pattern.

There’s an irony here though. The more you keep your days full of activities so that they don’t drag, the faster time will go by. And then you’ll say, as I do, “Where did the last year go?” Or perhaps you’ll say with the 17th-century poet Andrew Marvell, “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”

Seize the day! Carpe diem.



An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

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