Hello and good morning. Welcome to another Thursday, and—as I always point out, rather unnecessarily—to another edition of my weekly blog.
For those of you living in countries that celebrate some equivalent or descendant of Armistice Day (in the US, it’s Veteran’s Day), I hope you had a pleasant yesterday, enjoying a holiday that was originally intended to commemorate the final resolution of World War I and a return to relative peace. Though I have great respect for all those who have fought to protect freedom, as is sometimes ruefully necessary, and I certainly think they deserve to be treated far better than they are—at least in the US—it’s good that we celebrate the fact that these brave ones, at least, the living veterans, were able to come out of the other end of their wars alive and somewhat intact.
The weather in south Florida has continued to be abysmal, what with the recent, slow-moving tropical storm. Unfortunately, even without such cyclonic phenomena, south Florida can be so damp and rainy that it’s almost unbearable. I’m also suffering from the clock change that happened just a bit more than a week ago, which brings aggressively forward the months of seemingly endless night, with the sun setting yet another hour earlier in the already nocturnally dominated Fall and Winter. I don’t look forward to the latter part of December, as I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Of course, those who know me might well wonder in what way my seasonally affected affect effect is in any way different from my usual personality. It’s a valid question, and I can only reply that it makes my underlying dysthymic and depressive tendencies more difficult to ignore and resist. I try. But often I fail.
Anyway, enough of that for the moment. Work on The Vagabond continues and is productive. I think it’s already a better book than it was before, stylistically. I haven’t changed the story at all, and I don’t intend to alter it in any noticeable way. This is not to say that it’s a perfect story; I’m not even sure what would constitute such a thing. Still, I think it’s a good supernatural horror novel. It has action, suspense, danger, a good number of scary parts, a bit of romance, and some fun characters, including a truly malevolent villain. This is all, of course, my own judgment, and I am inescapably biased, but I still think I’m correct. I hope you’ll all take a chance and decide for yourselves, when the time comes. I think it is something to which you can honestly look forward, if horror novels are your cup of tea.
I’m still running up against internal and external metaphorical walls with respect to making content for Iterations of Zero. I’m not giving up on it, but it’s frustrating, because I don’t want to take time away from fiction to do it. Writing fiction is something I do by simply starting every day with the work—though currently that’s editing, not primary writing—as soon as I get to the office. Coming up with a story idea is fairly easy. I accomplish the rest by committing to write at least a page every day, when I’m not editing, and then go from there. Almost inevitably, once I get started, I end up writing quite a lot more, and usually it’s time itself that calls a halt to the work.
“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish,” as Sam Gamgee’s old Gaffer always said; the converse is that, once you begin a job, it can sometimes be hard to stop. There appears to be a kind of metaphorical inertia, which is why it’s such a good thing simply to set the schedule and commit to writing whether one happens to “feel like it” or not. When I think of what I could have accomplished if I had taken that approach when I wrote The Vagabond, I sometimes want to weep. That novel is only about 160,000 words long, but it took me more than ten years to finish it*. In comparison, I completed two longer novels and a short story that was almost a novella** over the course of just under three years by working every day during the hour or so after the lights came on at FSP West. While I don’t recommend that location and environment to anyone, it still just goes to show what you can do by saying to yourself, “To hell with inspiration, just work.” Trust me, FSP was (and still is, I presume) not a place of inspiration, though tragically, it is sometimes a place of forced expiration. (It could also, during “lockdowns”, sometimes be a place of barely contained urination, when we were forced to stay on our cots face-down for hours on end at times.)
On that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it good for today. As usual, I wrote more than I thought I would—again, all it took was forcing myself to get started, and just to do it, and then matters moved forward almost on their own.
I hope you all have a good week, and month, and year, and so on. Please stay safe and healthy.
*To be fair to myself, I was doing other things—college, post-bacc courses, teaching, medical school, residency, etc.—during that time. Nevertheless, I could have written so much more had I just committed to doing it. A big part of my problem was procrastination born of neurotic perfectionism, in which the perfect becomes the arch-enemy of the good, or even of the “good enough”, in a way that is far more horrible than any fictional villain ever could be. I’m sure many of you can relate.
By way of advice, with respect to this, all I can say is that the best thing you can do is to give up completely on the idea of “perfection”, or even “greatness”. The terms aren’t even well defined; you’ll always be able to poke holes in yourself and your work, no matter how much effort you put into it. I feel confident that no work of fiction or nonfiction has ever been perfect. Some have been and are considered “great”, but that judgment is reserved for their posterity, and as far as I know, it is never universally agreed upon. Just do it, as Nike and Palpatine counsel, trying to keep improving incrementally as you go along. Practice will tend to make you better—that’s just how nervous systems seem to work—though it will never make you “perfect”. If you just keep growing a tiny bit all the time, and keep doing what you’re doing, before you even realize it, you can become and accomplish amazing things.
You will never be “perfect”, but in many ways that’s a blessing. After all, if there is no highest point to reach, there’s nothing to stop you from continuing to climb higher and higher without limit. Surely that’s preferable to perfection. It’s certainly more interesting.