How Do You Know It’s Your Birthday?

After watching Tangled and working on Mara’s story, I’ve been thinking a lot about how a person knows their birthday.  It seems so natural to us that someone would know the date of their birth, but there are lots of factors that actually contribute to that knowledge.

Think about it.  There are three major things that need to happen for your birthdate to really stick as important information.

1. You have to use a calendar.  This sounds ridiculous, right?  Everybody uses a calendar.  Or do they?  What if the day of the week, or the number of the day, didn’t matter?  What if every day was the same in your culture, if only big things like full moons or the changes of seasons were really distinct enough to register?  If a group of people doesn’t divide time into an equivalent of months and years, then how would someone be able to pinpoint the exact anniversary of the day they were born?

2. Someone has to tell you.  You weren’t able to tell time when you were born, so someone (usually a family member) had to witness your birth, record the date, and then share that information with you when you were old enough to get it.  This is where my train of thought started, because Mara was sold to a slave trader when she was born.  Normally, that would put her in a situation that negates all of the above; no one is going to record the date and mark it later.  Fortunately, she’s born during a lunar eclipse, giving her a nickname that has to be explained, and so she does have knowledge of when she was born, if not the exact date at first.

3. You have to use it for something.  We celebrate birthdays, and write them down on licenses and applications, and generally use birthdate as part of our identification and identity.  This is the big reason why you can just spout off a date when someone asks, and why that little box on the calendar looms large.  You use it, so it’s important enough to remember.  This is the one that makes Tangled feel just a bit off every time I watch it.  Rapunzel’s captor blows off her birthday as no big deal, with a “Your birthday was last year” response.  If her “mom” doesn’t celebrate it or mark it, we get a bit of the previous issue and a lot of this one.  I don’t know how Rapunzel knows when her birthday is – we’ll have to assume she was told at some point – but we do know why the date is important to her: the floating lanterns that she sees every year.

This train of thought can also lead into the many different ways you can develop a fantasy culture, because how a group of people denotes age or marks time can be a fun way to give the reader a sense of difference from their own lives.  Perhaps I’ll chase this path tomorrow!

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The Weirdness of Time

Isn’t it funny how a change in your routine can impact your perception of time?

I’m used to getting off work everyday at 4pm, which means I am also used to having a certain amount of time between work and sleeping to get things done (like blogging, for example).  Tonight I got off work at 5 instead of 4. 

It threw off my whole night.

Somehow it is magically after 9pm already.  I’m just now writing my blog, I haven’t showered yet; I’m not certain where the last four hours went.  (Some of it was hijacked by butter-coated broken glass, but that doesn’t explain all of the missing time.)  I’ve written before about the benefits of a routine.  Tonight I get to experience the challenges that come from having the ways I am set in get changed.

The other unpleasant fallout from this tweaked time is that my creativity is somehow also impacted.  My brain simply does not want to work on writing (or anything else for that matter).  I have a couple of broad ideas for upcoming blogs; maybe I’ll jot some notes about those and consider my writing requirement complete for the evening.

Hopefully tomorrow’s repeat of the working time change won’t cause a repeat of the blogging block!

Making Time

I don’t particularly like the phrase “make time,” especially in the context of “if it’s important, you’ll make time for it.”   It’s not supposed to be meant literally, but you can’t actually manufacture time and sometimes there is none to be found. 

Occasionally you have a day where you don’t get to eat lunch until 2:30pm, because work got in the way.  Maybe that special project you want to work on isn’t started yet, because all the things you have to take care of take precedence.

For me it is easy to make time to blog.  (In fact, I’m doing it right now, sneaking it in between work and my plans for the evening.)  Writing takes more time in general; committing to a chapter means planning to spend at least half an hour or more in front of my computer.  The tricky part is not making time to write.  It’s actually finding the motivation in those moments when I do have time.

Making Time

I am starting to feel the pain of trying to write, maintain a social life, keep a clean apartment, and work a full-time job all at once.  I wish I could take a few days and just focus on the writing, but that is not to be (for now).

It wasn’t terribly hard before November.  I did have a few moments when I had to work on projects or work got a bit busy, but I think the two back-to-back trips last month really made it difficult.  This weekend (my days off from my job are Sunday/Monday) is the first stretch of two days that I’ve had at home since mid-November.  Add Christmas shopping and playing catch-up (still!) around the house to my to-do list, and suddenly my writing time is shrinking.

I was hoping to get the first couple of sections of With Honor polished and scheduled on Serial Central this weekend, as well as revising my query letter to start that adventure again.  Hopefully I can get at least a little bit done, in between errands and cleaning.

And here I was hoping for a relaxing weekend…

Clarifying a Concept

If you’ve been reading Bonded, my new story on Serial Central, then you may have noticed the discussion after part 2 about the time jump. 

I don’t mind the suggestion of adding the year before the sections; I’ve done this before, in Butterflies.  I understand the need, too.  This story is based on a pair of friends whose lives barely intersect.  They have a strong connection, although they only get to see each other for brief moments when they both have a rare chance to escape their responsibilities.  There isn’t enough action to carry the story through the times when they are not together.  All of this requires a time jump in between the snapshots we get of their lives, and while it is clear for me I know it can be difficult for others.

I couldn’t decide which character to follow, and I wanted to share both sides of their story, so the point of view alternates by section.  I also kept the action set in one location: the same little grove of trees where they met.  It seemed like a cohesive way to handle a tale which takes giant leaps through time.

I hope you are enjoying it!