It’s Time for a Title

Okay, well, it’s Friday now, and to those of you who have the weekend off—as I do—I hope you’re looking forward to a good one.

It’s November 4th, 2022, and it would have been my mother’s 81st birthday, were she still alive.  I guess, technically, we can still call it her 81st birthday, since we can certainly celebrate the day of her birth readily enough, even if she can’t appreciate the celebration.  The time since her birth is what it is, no matter what, since no one we know is traveling near the speed of light.  Also, probably more people are happy to celebrate the fact that she was born than celebrated my birthday, which was only a few weeks ago, and I’m still alive…in a manner of speaking, anyway.

I have yet to edit and prepare to upload/share my recording of my thoughts about time, and for that, I apologize to those of you who feel that it’s taking too long.  My head has not been as clear as it might usually be this week.  Sleep has been particularly bad, as I think I’ve mentioned before.

This morning, I woke up waaaay before time to get up, and I’m now waiting for the first train of the day.  I didn’t go through the whole prime number evaluation of the time as I did the other day—see my post here—since I had already sorted that problem, but I did get on Amazon and flip through their Kindle book recommendations to see if anything looked interesting.  I put a few on my “list” but didn’t buy any.

I did get a couple of Kindle Unlimited books yesterday about things like signal processing and circuits and some other areas I wish I had learned more about earlier in life, but it remains to be seen whether I’ll get very far in any of them.  Perhaps I will.

I won’t hold my breath, though.  That would be silly.  If I tried to hold my breath until I had read any given book, I would not get far.  Even if it were possible for me to hold my breath indefinitely, I would be dead long before I got into any book; but of course, it’s simply not possible for a person to hold its breath long enough to kill itself.  The breath is controlled by the brainstem, etc., and it can only be briefly squelched by the conscious mind, not deactivated.  It’s not quite as fully outside conscious control as the heartbeat, or the peristalsis of the GI tract, but it’s not up for veto, either, not without pharmaceutical interventions that would certainly interfere with one’s ability to read…and would kill one.

Heck, even the fact of being awake is not something over which a person has conscious control, believe me on that.  You might say that this goes without saying, since to have conscious control of something, one must be conscious, and to be conscious is to be awake.  But it would be nice to be able simply to choose to go to sleep and to stay asleep until some pre-chosen amount of time had passed.  If it could be done, and I could thereby sleep until well-rested, I would do so.

Alas, most of the things we have to try to make our minds do are not as much in our control as we like to imagine they are.  Even our very thoughts are not really ours to choose, for how could we choose what to think without first thinking about what the thing to think would be, and thinking about thinking about what to think, and so on, ad infinitum?  Our thoughts happen to us.  We can try to encourage certain kinds of thoughts and habits of thoughts, of course, by exposing ourselves to certain ideas, putting ourselves in certain situations, rewarding ourselves in some sense when we think about things we like to think about.  But even that is quite tricky and fiddly.

I like Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the mind as being a person riding an elephant, with the tiny little person being the conscious mind, but all the real workings of the brain—the motive power, the strength, and ultimately, the decision power—being the elephant.  The conscious mind cannot pick up and move the elephant wherever it wants, nor, apparently, can the mind simply climb off the elephant*.  It is the role of the conscious mind to try to train, to steer, to reward the elephant when it does what the rider wants, to try to discourage it from doing what the rider doesn’t want, and to try to keep it from going on rampages that can be harmful to it and its rider.

My elephant has a very hard time staying still for very long, and it’s always getting me up and wandering around (figuratively and sometimes literally) when I’d rather be resting.  It is a powerful elephant; I’ll give it that.  But it’s a very grumpy, gloomy elephant, and it and the rider have frequent trouble sticking to pleasant pathways.  Somehow, we seem to be inclined toward darkness and coldness, with occasional flames and smoke.

Anyway, I’m pushing that metaphor beyond all bounds of tolerability.  My apologies.

I will try to remember to work on that audio file for thoughts about time, and perhaps to post it on YouTube this weekend if I remember to do so.  I got a decent response to my more recent one on the fact that perception is not reality, and I even got a comment on YouTube, which is a pleasant surprise.  The sound quality on this recording should be better than at least the first part of the sound quality on the last one, though I obviously haven’t really listened through it yet.

I hope again that you all have a good weekend, and that things go well for you in every way they can—which they will, since anything that happens is the only thing that could have happened, once it happens.  Even if we had a rewind button, it wouldn’t necessarily let us change anything, since by rewinding, we would make ourselves the same person, in the same state, as we were the first time things happened to us.  Unless what happened was literally random, it seems unlikely that things would be different on a replay without prior knowledge.

Until next time.

time or not cropped png

*In this, I guess, the metaphor makes the mind almost like a centaur with an elephant body instead of a horse.  But it is just a metaphor, it’s not meant to be a literal, precise model of exactly how things work.  And it’s a good metaphor.

There was a star blogged, and under that was I born.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again—October 20, 2022—and thus it’s time for my weekly blog post, though I’ve been writing my near-daily blog post all along this week and for many preceding weeks.

I posted yesterday about the two videos I’d uploaded to YouTube with my readings of two of my favorite poems, and I hope those of you who are interested in such things enjoyed them.  The only comments I’ve received were on Facebook, and those were actually on the sharings of the videos themselves, not on my blog post, or on YouTube proper.  I guess it’s something.

I did a first draft, so to speak, of a recitation of The Raven yesterday, and I started to work on editing the audio for it.  I realized that I cannot use that video, since I made a few errors—a wrong word in at least two places that doesn’t even make sense.  I honestly cannot understand how that happened, since it’s an error I’ve never made before, as far as I can recall, when reciting the poem.  Anyway, I’ll have to re-record the video.

At least working on the audio led me to decide what I was going to do for the background music for this, and I’ve prepared that (it’s remarkable what I can get done since I no longer write fiction or play guitar in the morning).  It didn’t involve me actually playing and recording any new versions of music, but I did work with my own recorded music to produce it, and it’s suitably eerie, I think.  I’ll let you all be the judges of such things.

On a less cheery note, I had a terrible night’s sleep last night, waking up at around one thirty, struggling to try to get back to sleep, but only succeeding for a total of about fifteen minutes by my clock.  I did at least have a dream during that fifteen minutes, but it was one of those typical, semi-mundane but still bizarre dreams, and it involved some annoying scheme that took over computers and cell phones, but in a fashion such that I can’t see what the point would have been, other than pranking.

I don’t understand computer pranking and hacking, or why someone would think it was funny.  I guess there’s no accounting for one’s sense of humor.  I, for instance, think it would be funny to castrate all saboteur-type hackers* without anesthesia or antibiotics and to use fire to stop the bleeding.  I think it would be hilarious.  But that’s just me.  I’ve always had an odd sense of humor.

That’s pretty much all I have for you today.  I’ll work on redoing the video for The Raven, possibly even this morning.  If I get a take that I like, I could be finished and post the video by this evening, but the takes are about ten and a half minutes in length—that’s the time it takes me to recite the poem with a bit of voice-acting thrown in—so if I screw it up, I probably won’t do another take.

Still, if I do post it to YouTube today or tonight, I’ll probably share about it here on my blog tomorrow, assuming I’m still alive and sharing, which is not necessarily my preference.  Honestly, I don’t know what most people see in staying alive; I imagine most of it truly has to do with innate biological drives, a fundamental, “terminal” goal, in AI-speak (though it’s ironic to use it here), and people just make excuses for it, confabulating justifications and motivations for staying alive when it’s really just animal programming due to natural selection that impels them to continue.

Oh, well.  That’s life.  I hope yours is enjoyable, at least for today, and hopefully from now on, for as long as it can be for you.



*Other than, perhaps, those who are legitimately and honestly taking part in some form of political protest, but that should be a very strict set of criteria and very limited in application.  Hackers can potentially cost a society millions and even billions of dollars with minimal effort or risk on their parts, and when society loses such amounts of money, there are people, somewhere, who because of that, go without enough good food, without medicine or mental health care; there are people who suffer in general and who die prematurely.  It’s not obvious to see, not as straightforward in proximate cause as most homicides, but its effectively a mathematical certainty.  These are petty and cowardly murders committed anonymously and at a distance, for no good reason but to assuage weak egos.  If that’s the sort of thing you’re into, you should go into politics; at least then you might accidentally do some good.

Reblog of “He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.”

[I am home sick today, October 4, 2022, but it is (or would be) my father’s birthday, so I’m re-sharing the blog post I wrote to commemorate his birthday 4 years ago.]

Hamlet:  My father—methinks I see my father.

Horatio:  Where, my lord?

Hamlet:  In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

-Hamlet, Act I, Scene 2

It’s Thursday, October 4th, the day of my father’s birthday.  He would have turned seventy-nine today if he were still alive, but he died just under two years ago.  I don’t remember the exact date of his death, and I see no reason to memorialize it.

My father and I didn’t always get along; in many ways we were too alike to avoid butting heads, especially since one of the ways we were alike is a deep stubbornness.  But my father was an admirable man in many ways; he always took care of his family to the best of his ability, which was usually very good indeed.  He and my mother were married right up until the day he died, which is more than I can say about myself, and I admire them both for it.  That they were best friends and constant companions is an unarguable fact, and they got along as well as any long-married couple I’ve ever known.

It was from my parents—both of them—that I got my love of reading, and more indirectly, my love of writing, of making stories.  It was my father who received as a gift, and who proudly wore, a tee-short quoting Erasmus in saying, “When I get a little money, I buy books.  If any is left, I buy food and clothes.”  This wasn’t quite my parents’ literal attitude, but it was damn close.

I didn’t quite realize how proud and supportive my parents were of my love of reading and writing until in college I came to a point of crisis.

I had always intended—for as long as I thought about it—to become a scientist, though I’ve also always written stories, books, plays, and even screenplays (the latter too laughable to discuss).  By the time I was ready for university, I had decided that I wanted to be a physicist.  I went to Cornell as a Physics Major, and in my first year did quite well in all my physics and mathematics coursework (while also thoroughly enjoying my freshman seminars, first Fantasy and then Writing About Film).  But then, during the summer after freshman year, I underwent open-heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect (quite a large one) that had only been discovered that year.

In later times, in medical school, I learned more about some of the central nervous system effects of open-heart surgery, and I even wrote a review paper on the nature of the (usually temporary) cognitive decline that heart-lung bypass in heart surgery frequently causes.  Its effects in triggering mood disorders such as depression (something for which I already have a familial and personal predisposition) are probably more widely known than the temporarily diminished mental capacity that comes to most people who have undergone such surgery.  The state of the art may have improved since 1988, but I doubt the problem has been eliminated.

Anyway, I returned to college at the beginning of sophomore year (only two weeks after my surgery!), and over the course of that semester and year, with the combination of a low-grade-sometimes-veering-into-high-grade depression and a dip in my mental acuity, I had a hard time keeping up with the higher level math courses (and the physics was getting into the intro to serious quantum mechanics and other areas, with matters requiring vector calculus, tensors, partial differential equations, and all that fun stuff).  I think if I’d just had the temporary cognitive impairment and not the depression as well, I might have muscled my way through, and brushed up on things once my mental clarity improved.  Alas, not only was I not so lucky, I also had no idea why I was having such difficulty; I felt merely that I was an intellectual and moral failure as a Physics Major.

I didn’t fail any classes or anything like that—I don’t think I got anything below a low B—but I could see myself having more and more trouble as I went forward, if things remained as they were.  At the time, I was already close friends with the woman I would eventually marry, and she had read some of my writing (and really liked it).  She talked to me long and hard about my options, and with her help, I came to the decision to switch majors to English.

I was mortified about this.  I felt that I was failing myself in some important way, and worse, that I was letting my parents down, but I didn’t see any alternative.  So I called them, and I very nervously told them the decision I had made…

They were practically ecstatic.  My father in particular said that he just thought that English suited me better, because I loved reading and writing so much, and was good at it.  They’d always been supportive of my love of science, too, of course, and had been behind me all the way in my goal to become a scientist, but they’d apparently thought that such a career wouldn’t fulfill me…though they were wise enough not to try to change my oh-so-stubborn mind.  I think my parents—and particularly my father—would have been prouder of having a son who was an author than of having a son who won the Nobel Prize in Physics.  I hadn’t ever thought of that before.  But the fact that they were so supportive of, and even excited by, my choice was an incredible, tremendous relief and encouragement.

I’ve occasionally wistfully looked back and wished I’d gone farther in my formal studies of physics and math, but…well, those are things I can study on my own, and I do so when the mood strikes me.  But as an English Major, I realized my deep and abiding love of Shakespeare (at one point I took two Shakespeare courses at the same time; that was fun!), and I learned of the works of Spenser and Mallory and Milton.  I read Paradise Lost (my personal nomination for the greatest English language work of all time), and innumerable other great works beside, ancient and modern.  I’ve never regretted those exposures.  Who would?  I also learned how quickly I can write at need, when I discovered that I’d mis-marked the due date for my honors thesis, and I had to write the whole thing in one weekend.  That was pretty stupid, but maybe I can blame it on the residua of my cognitive impairment, which thankfully seems to have faded completely in the intervening years.

Anyway, it was thanks to my parents’ support, and my father’s words—and the example he set—that I was able to feel good about my choice.  We had some pretty serious interpersonal problems in subsequent years, but eventually we put them behind us, and though I didn’t become an “official” writer directly after college (I went to medical school instead…go figure) I am finally now finally fulfilling my destiny, as the Jedi and the Sith are prone to say.*

I’m tremendously happy that my father lived long enough to see me publish my first few books, though I wish he’d been alive to read The Chasm and the Collision, since his advice had real, beneficial impact on its style.

And now I have my own version of his tee-shirt that reads, “When I get a little money, I buy books.  If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” It was a gift from my sister, and I come as close to embodying the words as my parents did, if not closer.  I’m more like my father, probably, than I am like any other person I’ve ever known.  I’m a little more playful than he ever was—he was quite a serious man most of the time, and he was exceeded in stubbornness only by his youngest son—but he’s still the only other person I’ve known who had the patience and desire to spend as much time in zoos and museums as I do.  He always loved to learn new things, and I consider that shared love (which also came from my mother) perhaps the greatest gift that I could ever have been given.

I miss him terribly, and my mother as well.  But as Arthur Bach said in the original movie, Arthur, “I was lucky to know him at all.”

*If there is such a thing as destiny, then surely it’s impossible to do anything but fulfill one’s destiny.

A soothsayer blogs you beware the Ides of…

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday, the Ides of September.  Actually, I’m not sure it’s technically correct to call it the Ides of September just because it’s the 15th, but it seems a shame for only March to have an Ides, so I’ll give it a go.  I think I’ll look up the formal definition of an “Ides” sometime soon, but right now I’m sitting at the train station with no Wi-Fi access, so it’ll have to wait.

Of course, since this Thursday is the 15th of September, that means next Thursday will be the 22nd of September, which is not only the beginning of Autumn, but is—much more importantly—Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’s birthday.  In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo made his final departure from the Shire on his birthday, and of course, Frodo began his great journey on the “same” day, years later, after selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses.  It’s an auspicious day.  I ought to do something grand and epic next Thursday, really.  I’m at least tentatively hoping to do so.  I’m not going to let you know what it is, but if I do it, it will become obvious here, I should think.  It will at least be obvious that I’ve done something, though I’m not sure if it will be obvious just what I have done.

In the meantime, I’m still sick with the virus I’ve been fighting, and my chronic pain continues, and I’ve had less than four hours’ sleep, all as per usual.  Fun!

I arrived at the train station this morning to a mildly unnerving sight:  there was no one waiting for the trains on either side of the tracks.  For a moment, I wondered if there had been some national emergency or holiday declared, or if the trains just weren’t running, but all the stairways and elevator ports and payment kiosks were open, and the announcement boards were displaying their repetitive notice that, on Thanksgiving, the Tri-rail system will be operating on a Sunday schedule.  Also, there was a security guy near where I had entered, so I knew it wasn’t as though all life in this area had disappeared*.

What happened, of course, is that I arrived very shortly after the most recent northbound and southbound trains had come and gone, so that anyone waiting for those trains had boarded, and no other people apart from me had yet arrived for the next ones.  This is because I woke up too early again, but didn’t leave the house quite in time to catch the first train of the morning.  Ah, well.  I prefer to ride the same train, and wait on the same bench before doing so, and sit in the same seat on the train, if I can help it, every day.

Speaking of living things (I was, just two paragraphs ago, you can check for yourself), it has been raining steadily and drearily for the last several days and looks to be doing so quite a bit over the next several more days.  Because of this, the access alleyway behind the place where I work is largely flooded—but that has produced at least one good outcome.  Specifically, yesterday morning, when I got to work, I could hear an astonishingly loud bunch of creaking and croaking noises from behind the office (while I was inside!) and I peeked out to confirm that, yes, it was the sound of lots of frogs.  I only actually saw one—it was quite dark—but I heard oodles, and even tried to take a “video” of the noise (I actually hoped but failed, to catch sight of one of the frogs while my video was going).

It’s nice to know that there are frogs about, because it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any serious number of frogs or toads here in Florida.  When I was a kid, visiting my grandparents, almost every time it rained, loads of the critters would appear, but not in recent years.  I read that there was some international blight that had affected frogs for a while, but maybe it’s run its course.  Probably not.


I’ve gotten on the train now, and someone is sitting in my usual seat, someone who doesn’t normally ride this train, or at least doesn’t usually sit in this general seating area.  That’s irritating.  Also, the train stopped at a different spot in the station than usual, which is doubly irritating, since I stand at the platform roughly where the front-most available door lines up starting about five minutes before the train arrives, so I can swiftly hop on the train (well, “hop” is an exaggeration) and get to my seat.  Because it was out of alignment, though, I got caught behind several other people, some of whom were slow-moving.  That was also irritating, but only a bit.  At last they’re people who wait for the train every day, and are familiar sights to me.

Incidentally, another issue with having someone sit in the seat I usually use is that I now have to sit somewhere else, and may be taking a seat that some other regular passenger uses nearly every day.  I don’t like the thought of doing that to someone.  I have a hard enough time justifying my existence at all to myself, and when I inconvenience other people in ways that I don’t like to be inconvenienced, it is rather mortifying.

I’m a weirdo, I know, but I guess I’ve always been a weirdo, and I guess I’ve always been aware of the fact that I’ve always been a weirdo.  I’m not too bothered by being weird; much of the time, “normal” people seem absolutely idiotic.  Why would anyone want to be like most people in the world, even the successful ones?  The things they think are precious, and the things that pass for knowledge to them, and the things they think are useless, I can’t understand, as Steely Dan said.  And I don’t want to understand them.  I don’t think they understand themselves, or each other, most of the time, nor do they stop even to think about trying to do so.  That’s the way it seems, anyway.  It may be that I’m just prejudiced against humans.  Perhaps this is all just sour grapes.

Anyway, that’s about it for today.  No fiction, no music, none of that good stuff going on.  Just drudging through the day-to-day, smelly, moronic, loud, ugly, and in a million other ways unpleasant human world.  I can’t wait to get off this planet.


sees her smaller

*There is also the presence of these annoying termites or winged ants that live in this area, and which episodically land on one’s hands or arms or neck or computer, so clearly there are living things here.

Have you not love enough to blog with me, when that rash humor which my mother gave me makes me forgetful?

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, November 4th*, the first Thursday of the new month, and—of course—it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

Halloween has passed, alas, and now we enter the weird time wherein Thanksgiving symbols—at least in the US—struggle to hold onto at least a brief period of prominence before they are overtaken, no later than November 25th this year, by Christmas decorations**.

I’m slightly sorry to have to admit that yesterday I flipped back to writing Outlaw’s Mind on computer.  I’ve been getting quite a bit of minor but irritating arthrotic*** pain at the base of my thumb, and where the metacarpal meets the wrist.  I’d forgotten this.  It probably feels worse than it really is, since it’s been a while; also, the last time I experienced much of it, I was in wretched circumstances.  But I’ve felt it plenty of times before, even going back to my teenage years.  I think I tend just to get really focused when I’m writing and use those joints to a greater than ideal degree, causing wear and tear.  That damage no doubt accumulates, since healing is rarely complete in any region of the body, unless you’re a spiny mouse, so the discomfort starts earlier each time.  But it’s not primarily inflammatory, because there’s never even a hint of heat, redness, or noticeable swelling, and it only flares up with use, so arthrosis it is.

Because of that, and the minor inconvenience of storing my writing when not in use, and of flipping back to reread what I’d written yesterday instead of merely scrolling up, and, of course, because computer writing is easier to read, even for me, I’ve switched back.  I’m occasionally troubled by the spirit of the great Harlan Ellison, who (so I’ve read) thought that one can’t write decently or effectively on a word processor/computer because it’s too easy.  He supposedly disdained anything beyond the typewriter.  Ellison-sensei could be an opinionated curmudgeon by all accounts, but such an argument clearly doesn’t stand up on its face****, or Ellison should have committed to writing every one of his first drafts on stone with a chisel.

I can’t say I would completely have put it past him.

But I don’t think writing with a modern computer is necessarily worse, or that it changes anything all that much in any given writer’s style.  I wrote a good deal of the first draft of Son of Man on a very small smartphone using its note-taking app.  That wasn’t easy on my thumbs, but at the time I didn’t have a portable computer, and I was riding busses about three hours a day, so I was able to do a lot of writing that way.  I don’t think it was any easier than writing by hand at a desk would have been, and I don’t think my writing suffered or improved noticeably for it.

If you’d like to check, you can read Son of Man and compare it with Mark Red or The Chasm and the Collision or the short stories Paradox City and Solitaire, the first and often second drafts of all of which were written with pen on paper, and you can compare it also with Unanimity or any of my short stories starting with “I for one welcome our new computer overlords”, which are straight computer-written.  You can also compare it with The Vagabond, which was originally written partly as pen on paper but mostly on a Mac SE using WriteNow.  Or you can read all the tales in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which begins with a story part of the first draft of which was typed, if memory serves, and ends with a story that was written partly by hand and partly (first draft and all) in Microsoft Word™.  Unfortunately, now that I’ve told you the difference, your experiment will be hopelessly confounded by bias.

Oh, well.  Read them all anyway, what the heck.  You can buy extra copies for friends and ask them what they think without revealing the above information.  If you want to make things double blind, you can ask a third party to ask your friends what they think.  Or you can just read the stories.  I know that a lot of them are horror of one sort or another, but remember, just as a puppy isn’t only for Christmas*****, a horror story isn’t just for Halloween.  The darkness of night continues to grow, at least here in the northern hemisphere.  The time of daylight is in full retreat, and it will be weeks and weeks before it even begins to take back ground, let alone before it comes to dominate again, revealing all the stark unpleasantness of the world in its cold, bitter glare.  In the dark, it is easier to pretend.  And sometimes, if you’re lucky, your imagination can run away with you.

Which brings me back to Outlaw’s Mind, for which I’m gradually regaining my momentum, which was no small task since it’s been interrupted more than once.  Maybe the handwriting thing was just a way to trick myself around my resistance to getting going on the story again.  If so, it seems to have worked reasonably well, and Outlaw’s Mind will perhaps be all the better for its disjointed history.  I’ll do my best to make it so.

In the meantime, Happy November to you all.  It’s generally a month I like, even though it exists in the lee of my favorite holiday.  It evokes memories of still-falling autumn leaves blowing about in briskly cold (but not yet bitter) winds, and the anticipation of two big family holidays, each associated with feasts and TV specials and games and long weekends and so on and on.  And though many of those things are no longer mine to enjoy, alone here in south Florida, I can at least say that it’s a time of year where one can enjoy walks outside without obscene layers of sunscreen and emergency water rations to replace all the bodily fluids that have soaked one’s clothes.

I don’t know what it’s all like in the southern hemisphere but considering that summer’s on its way for them, it’s probably great.


Happy Birthday

*It’s my mother’s birthday.  She would be turning eighty, if my memory is correct.  Happy Birthday, Mom, wherever you are!  Knowing her, if she’s anywhere, it’s someplace good.  She certainly would deserve it.  As would my father, of course, who would have turned eighty-two precisely a month ago.  He was a bit of a curmudgeon—I take after him in many ways—but a good person.  So, belated Happy Birthday, Dad.

**And to a far lesser extent, Hanukkah and other solstice-related holiday decorations.  You rarely see any Saturnalia symbols, though.  I’m not even sure what those would look like.  Oh, well.  We get plenty of the Norse decorations.

***The auto-correct thingy tried to change this word to “arthritic”, without even asking me, but that was an incorrect correction.  The suffix “-itis” indicates inflammation, usually as a primary component of a given disorder.  Though there may well be secondary inflammation in the root structures of my thumb, this is clearly a wear-and-tear phenomenon, and so is an “-osis”, not an “-itis”…the latter suffix which the program keeps changing to “it is”, which is again wrong, and again, it’s not asking me.  I wouldn’t mind a little red wavy underline to bring it to my attention—asking me if I was sure about writing that—but especially if I enclose something in quotes, the program should not presume to correct what I write.

****Which sounds both difficult and painful.

*****It’s also delicious in a sandwich on Boxing Day.

But then there was a star blogged, and under that was I born

Hello, good morning, and all that jazz.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Today is the first full day of my fifty-third time around the sun, so to speak—meaning that yesterday was my birthday, on which I’d completed fifty-two orbits of our local star.  I’m not sure if that’s an accomplishment.  It sort of happens without my help, for the most part.  It was a pleasant day at the office—we had pizza and a cake, as we always do for people’s birthdays*—and everyone was very nice, but I do always tend to feel that neither I nor the world itself is worth the effort, mine or anyone else’s, and that’s particularly prominent on days of celebration.  Still, I do appreciate how kind everyone was and is, there’s no denying that.

An interesting thing happened this week with respect to writing.  I had come to the end of what I’ve written so far on Outlaw’s Mind, and thus it was getting to the point where I was going to need to continue the story.  Unfortunately, I felt deeply unexcited and unmotivated about doing it.

It’s not that I had writer’s block or anything—I knew I could write what came next, and what came after that, and so on, if I chose.  I certainly no longer give myself the excuse of writing only when “inspired”.  I just felt that maybe I didn’t want to go on with that story, since it had been interrupted so often, and though it’s far from my darkest tale, as I’d said before, it was—in original plan—a bit too sad for a novel…at least in my opinion.

I’m sure my dysthymia/depression and my approaching birthday had their effects on my drive as well.

I stared at the computer screen for a bit, trying to think of whether I should just push on, or perhaps switch to another story, such as Changeling in a Shadow World, or Dark Fairy and the Desperado, or even HELIOS.  But I didn’t like the idea of quitting a story in progress; I’ve done that too often in the past, which was why I’d never completed and published a book prior to the last six years or so, despite having started oodles of them.

I must admit that it didn’t seem an entirely unattractive thought that perhaps my writing career would end with Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, leaving Outlaw’s Mind uncompleted due to some personal or general catastrophe.  Perhaps someday someone would publish the uncompleted story, and people would wonder how it would have ended had I finished it, or perhaps someone would try to complete it themselves as they think I might have done, as a gesture of admiration and respect.

Probably not.

As I sat there, thinking such things, which are common thoughts for me, I recalled—I might even have seen—a short stack of very narrow-ruled writing pads I’d ordered, intending to use them when I finished Outlaw’s Mind, to write the first draft of whatever I write next, unless I changed my mind and just went on using the word processor.  I had written the final portion of In the Shade on notebook paper, as I had written the beginning of it.  Also, of course, the first drafts of Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City were written on notebook paper because I had no other choice.  And I think they turned out well.

So, I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “why do I need to wait?  Why do I need to finish the first draft of Outlaw’s Mind on the computer just because I started it that way?  Maybe it wouldn’t have grown quite so much quite so quickly if I had written the first draft by hand.  And maybe the final story will be tighter if I write the remainder by hand.”

Actually, I probably didn’t think any of those specific thoughts, but there’s no sense messing up a good story with facts.  The general thrust of my reasoning met that description, and it was a good way of getting around my ambivalence.  So, I grabbed the nearest pad** and started writing, picking up where I had left off, lo those many months ago.  And, since then, I’ve handwritten about ten (very narrow-ruled) pages, over three mornings, needing to get my hand back in shape for the writing endurance.

I took yesterday off and watched YouTube videos of David Mitchell’s Soapbox in the morning as a treat for myself.  But now I shall be going back to writing Outlaw’s Mind, and barring catastrophe, will finish the first draft in longhand.  Rewriting such drafts into the computer is always an excellent part of the editing process.  I mean to keep writing this way for the foreseeable future.  It just feels purer or perhaps more enforcing of discipline.  Though I must say, once I’ve used up my current very-narrow-ruled tablets, I will probably revert to more ordinarily narrow ruled tablets.  I like the really narrow ruled sheets; they remind me of the paper on which I wrote Ends of the Maelstrom way back in high school.  But it is harder for me to write legibly on them.

So, that bit of my personal story has a happy ending, or a happy middle, or whatever it might be called…not a happy median, I wouldn’t think, nor a happy medium.  Whatever you call it, I’ll be writing first drafts long hand for now, and the huge advantage of that is, I can do it pretty much anywhere, even if the power goes out.

I hope all of you out there had a good year finishing yesterday.  Try to have another good year finishing today if you can.  And in each thing, act as if, by acting so, your action becomes a universal law—or however it was that Kant put it.  Anyway, be nice to each other, even to people you think are idiots.  They are idiots, of course—but then again, so are you.  So am I.  So are we all.  I’m as convinced of this as I am of just about anything.  That’s okay.  Idiots who know they are idiots are less likely to do horrible things than idiots who believe that they know what’s absolutely right.



*Though last year I was just so horribly depressed, even for me, that I didn’t really participate.  I tried hard to be nicer this year, or at least more pleasant, and I think I succeeded.  I still am depressed, and I still miss my kids horribly and incessantly, but it seems I’m going to need either simply to get used to that or just stop having birthdays.  Neither choice is inspiring, but the latter appeals quite a bit as at the very least a reversion to the mean state of the universe as it was before my literal birthday.

**This was last Saturday morning, I think, by the way.