By Stephen Jay Schwartz

I am acutely aware that this moment is spectacular and fleeting. It’s the first time in over twenty-five years I’ve had one full year to focus solely on writing.

I cannot believe that almost two months have passed already. I now have only ten months to write a screenplay and two novels. Since leaving the day job I truly understand what my kids have been saying all along—“When you quit your job, daddy, you’ll be having fun, and the days will go by fast.”

I wake, the rising sun warm on my face. I blink. The setting sun cools my skin.

I’ve always enjoyed the fast lane, but now I can feel my foot searching for the brake pedal. Just a tap or two, I don’t want to start a skid. But I would like the chance to see the landscapes I’m passing.

I’ve tried reading Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I’ve looked to Stephen Hawking for help. I get lost when “one observer gets on the train and experiences a different sense of time than the observer who waits on the platform.” I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to be the guy at the station or the guy in the train car and I don’t understand why that nanosecond of difference should turn my life upside-down. But, apparently, it does.

They say the days go faster as you age. I can feel that. People who are older often say they feel like they’re still in their twenties. The face in the mirror doesn’t match what’s inside. I’m right there. Memory has compressed my life. Time has surely been bent, and the events that occurred early in my life have been folded to meet events I experienced last week. What was in the middle has been folded out. The 90s. I suppose they were forgettable enough.

The last time I had that full year to write was when I was nineteen years old. I had just moved to Santa Cruz, California from New Mexico, after having spent one year in the Jazz Music Department at North Texas State University. I had changed my career aspirations and decided to tackle screenwriting. My mom was paying my rent for a while and I had nothing to do but write. I wrote whenever I felt like it. If I woke up at 3:00 in the morning with an idea, I’d write it out over the next five hours, then fall asleep for the next six hours, then wake up and continue writing. It was a perfectly fluid schedule that worked with the creative impulses of my mind.

I guess I thought it would always be that way. Now, a quarter of a century later, I’m on that schedule again. In my mind, I’m the same kid. Like I stepped off the West Cliff bus in Santa Cruz on the way to my favorite cafe (the transfer is still in my hand) and, the moment my foot touched pavement, I landed in Los Angeles, twenty-five years later. My life has been folded.

Do we get to shake out the folds at some point?

Everything has changed, nothing has changed. I’ve gained much, I’ve lost much. The only thing that remains the same is the length of my hair.

I hope this life thing we’re experiencing is infinite. I hope we live forever and retain the special memories we’ve built here on Earth. Because I’ve learned a little something from my elders. Our time here is short. Relativity speaking, of course.


  1. Alafair Burke

    It's nice to hear you reflect about what your change in schedule has bought you, both in time and mind. We should all be so introspective about our lives and thoughtful about our choices.

  2. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Stephen

    Fascinating post. I don't feel any different now to the way I felt in my twenties. Less fearful, perhaps? I still build snowmen, ride the shopping trolley back to the stack, giggle at whoopie cushions.

    Growing old is mandatory, my friend. Growing up is entirely optional.

  3. Debbie

    If we die young, we lose opportunity, and if we live a long life, we experience opportunity cost. Either way perhaps potential is gone; the choice made either for us or by us, but it can't be undone.
    What age brings us is another layer of reflection, that I think, is the change we see, we experience, but it too is an opportunity to be embraced. Many young and old are running event to event, day to day, through life…and then it's over, without reflection. What is the connection between experience and understanding, between people, without reflection?

  4. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Alafair – thanks. Sometimes I think I need to spend less time introspecting and more time writing. It's amazing how much of our lives is spent on time-management.

    Zoe – I also ride the shopping trolley back to the stack, although I call it a "cart." I am definitely that "crazy guy in aisle 2" who looks like he should be playing a role on The Wiggles. However, I've never taken whoopie cushions seriously, and I never will.

    Debbie – thank you so much for your beautifully thoughtful words. I definitely appreciate my ability to reflect on my life. I've been called terribly nostalgic. I tend to romanticize every experience I've ever had. Overly sentimental. I tend to see that as a good thing.

    Pari – thanks.

  5. Murderati fan

    I'm eager to hear how your writing is going. Sometimes those thoughts that come so easily seem valueless because of their ease. Your prose can be beautiful your introspective thoughts astounding. But when it comes to producing, only two things matter focus and butt cement. Well, talent and mastery of the craft are important. But sometimes it's not that you've written well, but that you HAVE written that earns a slash mark on the bedpost of life.

  6. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Murderati fan – you are absolutely right, I couldn't agree with you more. I've been applying the butt-cement loosely, however, and I've found that it's too easy to squirm my ass free from the chair. I'm attempting to lay it on thicker in an effort to remain in my seat at least ten hours a day. While I'm making very slow progress on my novel, I am moving swiftly on my screenwriting assignment, and the resulting effort has produced another screenwriting opportunity. All that is great, so long as it doesn't derail my career as a novelist. My goal is to split each day – 50% writing the novel and 50% writing the screenplay. That doesn't leave me much time for reflection, however, which often requires 100% of my time.

  7. Allison Brennan

    When were you in Santa Cruz? I lived on Cayuga with a couple other college students. I was there from 87 to 89. Small world! Maybe we talked about this when we met . . . :/

  8. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Allison – I was in Santa Cruz from '83-'85. Pre-earthquake – the old Santa Cruz. Friggn' exciting times. I lived ON Pacific Avenue, in this shitty boarding house complex, directly above the Acapulco Lounge, across from Logos Bookstore. It had a community shower and bathroom. I had one room with a bed and sink in it. I cooked spaghetti with a hot-plate. But I had a window I could sit in that overlooked the craziness of Pacific Avenue, which was like Telegraph Street in Berkeley or the boardwalk in Venice Beach. The hole building came down in the earthquake, but by then I had left.

  9. Murderati fan

    Love your reply. Just remember reflection doesn't pay the bills. Lord I sound like a nagging wife. Trade in your cement for super glue – ha! You have such a marvelous talent. I enjoy watching it grow and throw out blossoms of brillance.

  10. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Telegraph AVE. (Sorry, but really… Berkeley. We had a Logos bookstore, too, and I practically lived there on bad days. Never occurred to me that it was a Christian store.)

    Time is the weirdest thing for a writer. You disappear into the work, and the only measurement is pages, and then books. It's disorienting, scary.

  11. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Alex…although we do measure the soreness in our backs. Unless, of course, we write from a position lying down. Which I cannot.
    Thanks for the correction on AVE.
    It does freak me out to disappear in the pages. That's another reason I write at cafes–to meet real live human beings along the way.

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