Travel Blog

19 Aug

Whistler Writers – A writer’s relationship with time…


by Nicole Fitzgerald

A wristwatch had been nothing more than a wristwatch. Something that dictated when to eat, sleep and go to school. And then I met Terence Young. He wasn’t an award-winning author and poet then. He was a hip, blonde-ponytailed English teacher at Claremont High who wound up my mind for the first time. “A wristwatch,” he said with all the vibrato of Hamlet as he held up the offending timepiece in lieu of a skull to his Grade 12 English class. “A wrist watch is nothing more than an instrument imposed on us by society. A shackle. An iron to bind us to its will.”

The new idea cracked open a door, spilling light into what had otherwise been a dark room. I saw a new face on the world. One that needed to be questioned and probed, and my new life of thinking with a tan-line-free wrist began. Freedom was found in the silence of a life without a ticking second hand. Travels, education, the arts. But now, two decades later, a writer, my relationship with time has changed. Freedom couldn’t be found without this machinery.

Three clock faces welcome me with a changing smile to my writing desk everyday. Each one serves a unique purpose, but all are my guides. My husband’s grandfather’s clock is the largest. The size of a shoebox turned on its side, the wood square houses a brushed silver face with ornate hands that twist and twirl in Celtic-like patterns. The clock doesn’t work, but it’s my starting point. I set the hands when my writing begins. Time is a gateway. A place to slip into with a sigh like between crisp white hotel sheets. Time is forgotten here, so precious minutes must be tallied. Because when I reach the pearly gates and look back on my life, I will then be able to say with absolute certainty that I spent more hours pursuing my passion than reality TV. My broken clock keeps me on course. Out there, minutes are lost to laundry, work and procrastination, but in here minutes are found and fully realized.

On top of the clock box, sits a purring pocket watch dangling inside a glass case. The brass sides are worn away by the fingers of my Great Grandfather Fitzgerald who slipped the watch in and out of his pocket vest multiple times a day. For what? I need to imagine. This watch I wind by hand. Time is in my own hands, the watch whispers as the cogs and wheels reel and hum under a gentle back-and-forth twist. What I do with my time is up to me. Time is a tangible action, a mindful decision to be picked up or ignored. I don’t need to set the time before I wind today.

And my own, the third watch, bought in Paris, is taken off of my wrist before I write, not because it’s a shackle, but because it has served its purpose. The letters of the alphabet stand in where numbers should be. A fountain pen and quill tick out the hours and minutes. The leather strap is the colour of our root chakra. Red. The colour of manifestation. Write, the hands tick throughout my day. Write. Time is right here. You don’t need to find it.

The watch is not set to local time, but to Paris time where Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway made time to compose. Only 11 months and six days before I return to the same streets where these writing greats wandered. As a writer, vacations are less about escape now and more about feeding the creative beast, not to mention a space where more time is available to be spent in letters.

Time is a beautiful, valuable thing when filled with words. I surround myself with my clocks. I don’t chase after them. I sit down to them. And take them up on their offer to write.

Nicole Fitzgerald is a print journalist who has turned to the dark side of the force, writing for television, documentary and short film. The aspiring novelist is currently knocked up with an October due date that may break her consecutive five-year festival attendance streak – a revised relationship with time is also forecasted in the near future for the new mom to be.

About the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival:

The Whistler Readers and Writers Festival started in 2001. Each year the three-day event brings world-renowned authors to Whistler for workshops, panel discussions and readings. The intimacy of this festival with its focus on events for both readers and writers makes it unique. For more information visit:

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