Groundhog Day: Escaping the Time Loop


I was recently watching the first season of a fantasy show* on Netflix, and towards the end of the season a character reveals that everything they had experienced up until now had been part of a time loop. They'd gotten that far something like 40+ times, and each time they had chosen one element to change at the outset to try to change the outcome. And in the most recent iteration, they made the biggest, most dramatic change yet. And it had changed everything. (Ripples in a pond, butterfly effect, whatever.) 

The thing that surprised me the most, though, was that in a subsequent episode, the main character was able to see his flaws for the first time and recognize that just because he wanted to be the hero, didn't mean he was meant to be the hero. He is able to see his own limitations and pride, and step aside in favor of someone who was more skilled. That moment of insight gave me my own moment of insight--that we are all able to break free of our own patterns at any time. It just takes a lot of work.


Basically, the idea of the "time loop" for me came to mean "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome." If you've seen the classic and awesome movie Groundhog Day, you know what a time loop is. The MC (main character) is stuck reliving the same day over and over and over until he is able to learn how to be selfless, and thus get his love interest to fall in love with him. (yeah. in a day. yeah, he had been a douche up to that day. yeah, that part is a little far fetched. it's a movie!)

So after ~34 years (according to this article), he is able to break out of his timeloop. WOW. Self realization takes a long time, apparently. In his case, it was a lot of little things that made the difference, but I would argue that his first major, massive change is the realization that he couldn't achieve his goal if he wasn't willing to change. That insight started the whole thing.

From a writer's perspective, this moment of insight is usually thought of as the midpoint / mirror moment (according to James Scott Bell). It is the first time the MC realizes who they could be if they get over the "wound" (aka the lie they believe about themself that is preventing them from becoming the best version of themself). They look in the mirror and ask if they can get there, and they usually start trying to take steps after that moment to change. They want to break out of the time loop they have built for themself by being unwilling to see that they need to change if they want to be successful.

Newsflash: this also can happen in real life! You can realize what bad patterns (or "time loops") you have written yourself into, and you can get yourself out of them. No, I am not transitioning from an author to a self-help guru. But I wanted to add some personal stakes to the post.



So what is/was my "time loop" you may ask? (personal question there, guys!) Basically, I realized that for me, many of my past romantic relationships had adhered to what authors Amir Levine and Rachel Heller call the "anxious-avoidant trap" in their amazing book Attached.  (If you only read one book this year, read this book. Seriously. Life changing stuff in there.) And that as long as I kept following the same pattern, I was doomed to repeat the same fate. As in, an unhappy Kat in a relationship that wasn't providing what I was looking for.  That was my time loop. And escaping it luckily did not involve 34 years of learning to be a professional ice sculptor or piano player.  It just involves recognizing avoidant attachers (read the book), and not pursuing relationships with them.

I think for anyone, and for your MC in your stories, change is always going to be a challenge. But self-awareness is an important first step in the process. Actively trying to change yourself (after becoming willing to change yourself) is one of the things we love to see in good MCs! We can all benefit from some self-examination of what our own personal "time loops" are, and some deep thinking about how to escape them.

Feel free to sound off in the comments: what's your time loop? How are you doing in the escape process? Did you like the movie Groundhog Day? Did you like the unnamed fantasy show that featured the time loop?



* I don't want to tell you the show, because it was such a neat reveal, it blew my mind...and I wouldn't want to take that away from you. If you desperately want to know, just message me and I will tell you. But I digress.

Spending my summer

One thing that has been true as long as I can remember: I love summer. It may be because I was born in late May, so the season imprinted on me even before I could properly form memories. It may be that I'm perennially cold, and the warmth of the sun makes me feel alive. It may be that I adore the sense of freedom and possibility that comes along with sunny escapes. I'm not sure. But summer has always been the season I adore.*

Summer Sunsets are my jam. Also my doggie's jam.

Summer Sunsets are my jam. Also my doggie's jam.

Summer ephemerality juxtaposes winter's lingering hold. Every day feels valuable, like a promise that something could happen, if only you let it. Summer gives me serious FOMO. Every day has to be all carpe carpe carpe, know what I mean?

So why have I spent so many summers inside, writing?

I started my first novel in May of 2003. I'd just finished my first year of university, and I'd come home without a real plan for my summer, aside from a part time job. For some reason, I spent those 3 months writing the beginning of a novel. (I did not finish a draft for years. I was slow.) I had no idea what I was doing, but I just started doing it. The internet being what it was in '03, I had no easy way to find other writers I could talk to. I was, at the time, an island. I spent day after day sitting in my childhood bedroom (thanks mom and dad for letting me stay at home rent free. seriously.) building a world, when I wasn't working. And it was gloriously awkward and stumbly and fun.

I was delirious on words.

I spent several summers since then similarly cooped up, just me and the page (be it paper or screen). Living with fictional"friends" who didn't exist. Exploring stories that weren't true, in a literal sense. But both felt real to me.

And all the while, summer sprinted past my window, year after year. I wonder why I didn't make the most progress over winter instead. Why did summer seem like the moment I wrote the most? I think because in the summer, I feel most like myself. And that lets the words flow.

Now I long for the summers when I had more free time, with only a part time job taking up some hours. With a full time job on top of writing, it's like working two jobs, except one doesn't pay you and you're your own boss (yay!). Last summer, in particular, I spent almost every day (including every weekend) working on editing my novel to get ready for Pitch Wars, as well as researching agents. It ended up being well worth the time when I got into Pitch Wars, and had an excellent experience honing my novel. This summer, I finally have an agent (YAY!) and I spent almost six weeks working nonstop on edits and new material, all squeezed into the hours after my FT job ends and on weekends. It's hard to keep up the pace, sometimes. But it is a cost that has to be paid. It's a lot to "spend."

The point is, it's never done. You're never done. If you really want to be a writer, you will never have "a summer" in that sense of freedom again. (Granted, as adults we don't get that in general, but I mean the general feeling). Summer is time, it's a feeling, and it's a season of life that I value higher than any other season. Time wise, it's "expensive" time, to me.

I know I am missing out on lots of things in a way. But I have to tell these stories. I have to write these words. I can't really see myself doing anything else, being anywhere else. And I am so lucky to now know hundreds of other authors who feel the same way about their time and their stories. I am no longer an island.

And I would still spend every one of my summers right here, just me and the page. It's worth the cost.


*not going to lie: I also love autumn in a very passionate way. But winter is my enemy.