The Speed of Time

Time speeds up and time sloooooooows down—or it appears to because waiting for the jury to come back with a verdict takes “forever” and the glee at the first sight of that big, piece of chocolate cake may pass before the second bite. It’s the perception of time that counts, more than its reality.

I’m on vacation right now and, as I write this, I’m sitting on a terrace watching—yes actually watching—the summer breeze turn a mobile. It slows down, it speeds up and I’m all-but-hypnotized by the circular motion. At home, I stare out the window of my favorite coffee bar, watching the street scene, but staring at the mobile in the wind is a meditative experience. I bet my heart rate and blood pressure are low and slow, too.

Is this the eerie calm before the storm or sedentary yoga?

In fiction, slowing things down to heighten tension or racing through a series of events in order to create action in a passive passage of text are classic ploys. In life, we experience time in unique and eccentric fashions. A knitter friend “makes something” while relaxing and watching TV. Being productive balances any qualms she might feel about whiling away an afternoon.

When I see someone knitting, I often think of Agatha Christies’ Miss Marple. The older lady sleuth solved complicated crimes while making sweaters for babies. I think Miss Marple’s flashing fingers and lightning fast brain were working at warp speed, while she sat nearly still.

There’s an ant racing across my keyboard. Where is he running to and why is he in a hurry?




  1. I’ve been fascinated by time since I was a child. Why did the school term last forever while the holidays flashed past? And now that I’m in my 60s, time is galloping from one year to the next. But how do you create time in a story? Just saying that weeks or months have passed doesn’t really cut it. As you say, to create the perception of time, you have to actually slow the pace. But then, how slow is slow enough without becoming boring?

    It’s a delicate balancing act isn’t it?

    • Candy Korman

      A difficult balancing act. How do you show that only a minute has gone by while the protagonist ponders how to solve the mystery? Can you measure time for the reader, marking it with downing the last sip of coffee? Maybe ten minutes have gone by and the coffee has grown cold? It’s tricky…