Is this a blog post which I see before me?

Okay, well…good day, everyone.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving, at least those of you who live in America, and who celebrate the holiday.  As for everyone else, I hope you just had a happy day, and a happy week.

But you can stop all that now.  Being happy, I mean.  Too much happiness is probably not good for you.  Certainly, many religious people seem to think that way, as do those who are against even fundamentally safe, minor, occasional, recreational use of drugs or alcohol.  Self-abasement and penitence seem to be the preferred modes of thinking of many a human, but they don’t want to pursue those modes all by themselves; they want to take you along with them.  For your own good, supposedly.

Anyway, as anyone who’s been paying attention will have noticed, I took the week off from writing my blog last week, because Thursday—the day I usually write it—was Thanksgiving, and my only day off work that week.  I have, however, continued to write “Unanimity,” and I’ve been working on the re-editing and fine-tuning of “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” in preparation for its release as an e-book*.  Both endeavors are proceeding well, and I feel good about them.  It’s always nice when you’re re-editing a story that you come back to after a while, (e.g. IFOWONCO), and even though you find things that need improving, you like the story a lot.  I’m lucky that way; I almost always enjoy my stories when I reread them.  Thus, I know that, even if everyone else in the world hates my writing completely, it has at least one satisfied reader.

I haven’t written anything for Iterations of Zero in a while…or, rather, I haven’t posted anything there for a while.  I have written some things—three or four essays to post there eventually—but I just haven’t felt that they’re ready to put before the public.  I’m probably overthinking it a little.  When I write the posts for this blog, I just sit down and go for it, and whatever comes out comes out, and that’s that.  Not to say that I don’t have some general subject in mind before I start—I almost always do.  But I don’t overthink it.  I just let fly on the keyboard, and let the metaphors fall where they may.  I’m especially lucky in that I’m able to express myself better and more spontaneously in writing than I am in conversation with others.

Actually, that may not seem to be so lucky, depending on your point of view.  In fact, it can be quite unpleasant at times.  I’m often terribly uncomfortable when interacting with others in person, especially in purely social situations.  But I do find it easy and fast to write, and once I get started, I tend to keep going for a while.

There are probably those who lament this last fact, but I don’t care about them.  Indeed, I laugh at their agony.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

(See?)

On the days when I don’t feel like writing—especially on my fiction—I just play a little trick with myself (I might have written about this before):  I tell myself, “Okay, well, I’m tired.  So today, I’ll just write a page.  Just get to the end of the first paragraph that finishes on the page after the one on which I’m starting.  If I get there, then that’s fine, I can call it good.”  This is easy enough for me to talk myself into because, as I’ve said before, I tend to write very quickly.  Just to give you an idea of how quickly, I wrote everything up to this point on this post (first draft, obviously) in just over fifteen minutes.  So, I’m almost always prepared to accept the undertaking of writing a single page, even if I’m mildly ill.  And what almost always happens is that I end up writing far more than just that one page.  Yesterday, for instance, I wrote five pages after committing to write one, and I almost always write at least three, as long as I’m not interrupted.

As I say, I’m very lucky, but I would be quite surprised if this trick didn’t work for a lot of writers who have trouble getting themselves started.  If committing to a page is too daunting, how about just a paragraph?  Or even a sentence?  Don’t be too picky about that sentence or paragraph—you’re going to edit it later, anyway, so even if it feels like (as Stephen King put it) you’re just shoveling shit sitting down, that’s okay.  It’s a bit like vomiting:  Just get it out, and you’ll find that you feel better.

Speaking of writing versus speaking (remember when I did that a few paragraphs back?):  I’m still vacillating about the video, and even the audio, postings on this and my other blog, as well as on YouTube.  Maybe I should take a similar approach to them as I take to writing:  Just record myself saying something, anything, and get it down on tape (metaphorically).  I can give myself an out on video for the moment; that requires much more effort and preparation, and I sound better than I look, anyway.  But I can do an audio recording at almost any moment, using the voice recorder on my smartphone, and with excellent quality.

Or maybe I should just say screw it, and commit just to writing an article or post or whatever every week on Iterations of Zero, recognizing that writing is my strong suit.  I can approach it as I do my fiction writing, and my writing for this blog:  Sit down, write something, at least a paragraph, and see what comes out.  Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.

We’ll see what happens.  I don’t know much more about those specifics than you all do.  “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Meanwhile, “Unanimity,” as I said, is speeding along.  I’m presently creating some very sweet, positive, wonderful, and romantic moments in the lives of the main characters.  This will make things even more poignant when it all goes to shit.  Which it will.

I repeat:  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

In closing, I hereby withdraw my earlier recommendation that you curtail your happiness.  By all means, be as happy as you can, but remember:  Happiness is best judged not by the highest point on your life’s graph, but by the area under the curve.  Play the long game.

TTFN


*“Prometheus and Chiron” and “Hole for a Heart” will follow.

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Depression Can Be Powerful

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

-Kris Kristofferson

 

There’s a curious phenomenon I’ve sometimes noticed, wherein I find myself not exactly welcoming bouts of depression, but feeling as if they are normal for me—more truly me than other states of being.  There’s a dark familiarity that’s difficult to explain, along with a sense that my mind is in some ways clearer, saner, when depressed than it is at other times.  Certainly, my concentration often improves when I’m depressed.  I’m less easily distracted, whether by good things or bad things; it’s a curious phenomenon. Continue reading

After the Storm

Okay, well, here I am back again, after a hiatus last week, for which I apologize.  I suppose that I can’t be held entirely to blame for that break—after all, the cause was hurricane Irma, which did a fair amount of damage to south Florida, and kept the power out where I live for over a week.  My neighborhood is fairly old, and there are quite a few trees, and the power lines have seen better days.  This is not a great combination when a category 5 hurricane comes through, though thankfully we did not get hit by the main force of the beast, as we thought was going to happen.

I had intended to do my fiction writing even when the power was out—I had my clipboard and a stack of notebook paper all ready—but the sheer annoyance and mugginess of south Florida without either regular lights or air conditioning just made the whole thing too unpleasant.  Actually, it was fairly unpleasant to do most things, even to sleep.  Late summer in Florida is no joke.  I guess if I’d known that I was going to be stuck in those conditions on an ongoing basis, I would have just buckled down, bitten the bullet, and mixed my metaphors—goodness knows I’ve been through worse—but given that I knew it was quite temporary, I used the occurrence as an excuse to be mildly lazy.

However, as of Monday morning, I am back at the word processor, and have been writing steadily on “Unanimity.”  It’s moving along well.  I’ve been writing what I hope is one of the most intense and dark scenes in the book, and it’s becoming longer than I thought it would be.  I fear it will need some serious pruning before I’m done with it.  Oh, well, I’ve had a lot of practice lately with cutting up unnecessary and troublesome branches of one kind or another.

I’ve been working toward the making of my planned video log, which will be named the same as my other blog on WordPress (Iterations of Zero), though I don’t know if I’ll officially name the channel or anything.  I expect that, before I come out with my next post here, I’ll have created the inaugural video for Iterations of Zero, and that’s kind of exciting.  It may be uncharitable of me to inflict my face on the viewing world, but since no one is forced to watch, I say caveat viewor.  Hopefully I’ll be able to make it worth your pain.  It’ll be worth it to me, anyway.

In the meantime, things are returning to normal, or what passes for normal in south Florida (those of you who have read Dave Barry or Carl Hiaasen, or their ilk, will know that Florida is a bizarre place indeed…especially if you realize that they do not need to embellish most of what they write).  The trains are running again, the weather is muggy and hot, the drivers are almost uniformly terrible (apparently something about the local climate interferes particularly with the function of turn signals) and greenery takes root on anything that sits still for longer than five minutes.

I’m going to cut it a bit short this week (I’m sure you’re all devastated); we went back into work last Thursday, as soon as the power came back at the office, and have been working straight every day since, to try to make up for the days that we missed while the hurricane raged and ranted.  So, I’m a little tired from that, and just from trudging my way through the hurricane and its aftermath.

Hopefully my next posting here will also contain a link to my latest (and earliest) video on YouTube, and you can let me know what you think.  In the meantime…

TTFN!

The Other Side of the Chasm

Okay, so today’s post is going to be rather free-form, just going over a bit of housekeeping, as it were, and touching on several subjects.  I haven’t forgotten my stated intention to start running down the list of my favorite villains, and why they are my favorites, but I just haven’t gotten around to doing it because of the stress of recent events, both good and bad:  the death of my mother, the publication of “The Chasm and the Collision,” and a walloping middle ear infection in my right ear (with a perforated eardrum).  So, my personal energy has been slightly drained and diverted.  I’ve also gone back to my day job, after having gone up north for a week, so there’s been backed-up work there with which to deal.

Despite all that, I have managed to initiate my secondary blog, called “Iterations of Zero,” and which you can look at here.  If you want to know what the title of the blog means, I explain it in the blog’s initial post.  Subsequently, I’ve been moving my political, philosophical, and science-related posts from this blog to that one, to leave this main page as my author/personal blog, and the other one to be my “commentary” blog.  I’d love it if anyone here who liked my posts would follow that blog as well, but it’s by no means obligatory.

Iterations of Zero has a darker look to it that this blog has, but I’m thinking of doing something a little different with the look of this one as well.  I’m not going to change the overall layout (I think), but I am probably going to change the color scheme.  I also might change the header photo.  The one I have now is one of the stock photos offered by WordPress, and though it is very nice, it’s not personal.  So, I may work up something new for it in the relatively near future.  Keep your eyes peeled.

“The Chasm and the Collision” is well published now, if you will, and you can, of course, purchase the paperback version here, and the E-book version here.  If you do buy it and read it, please give an Amazon rating and review.  It’s very helpful for an author to get this kind of feedback, and also for potential purchasers to see what other people thought about the book.  You can, of course, also give me feedback in the comments section on this blog, and would be delighted to interact with you, but that’s more narrowly useful than feedback on Amazon.

In the meantime, I’m making pleasing progress on “Unanimity,” my current novel.  In the roughly ten writing days since I started working on it again, I’ve written over 19,000 words, which adds up to a nice daily count, especially considering that I do most of my writing on the train to work and then a bit of it in the office before the work day starts.  As I’ve said before, I’m very lucky in being able to write quickly.  In fact, I’ve written all that you’ve read above on this very post in just thirty seconds!

Kidding.

Anyway, as I say, “Unanimity” is coming along nicely, and is truly beginning its spiraling descent into the darker parts of the story (though that descent began early on, it’s going to get much worse before the other end of the tunnel is reached, and not everyone is going to get out alive).  I’m happy that it’s going quickly, because I have so many stories to write, and I tend to come up with many more as time goes by.  I’ve taken to using the “notebook” feature on my smart phone to write down little tidbits of story notions as they occur to me, and which may later turn into short stories or even full novels.  For instance, I was on the bus coming home from Ohio and saw what looked like a scarecrow underneath a big old pecan tree (or some similar tree), right near a convenience store by an exit on the freeway.  It occurred to me that this was a peculiar place for a scarecrow—certainly no crops were planted nearby—and it was quite a bit too early to be a Halloween decoration.  Well, what if such a thing were not really, physically there, at all, or if it were not simply a stuffed facsimile of a person, but something stranger, darker?  I have no idea where such a story might go; I’d want to be careful not to repeat too many of the motifs that are found in “Prometheus and Chiron,” for instance, and that could easily be done with such an image.  But it was an interesting thought, and good to write it down for later.  I’ve long been doing that for points I want to discuss in what is now Iterations of Zero—so many posts are waiting to be written there—and it’s working nicely, so it’s good to keep track of little story ideas and triggers.

The nice thing about writing these is, when I read notes that I’ve written, my brain tends to do a good job of bringing me right back into the state of mind I was in when I wrote them.  Perhaps this is true of most people, I don’t know, but it works nicely for me, so I intend to make the most of it.

Okay, well, this has been a meandering and unfocused post, which is what I intended to write, so that’s fine, but I think I’ve covered most of what I wanted to cover for this week.  I’ll leave any unaddressed items for future posts, and just once again invite you to get yourself a copy of “The Chasm and the Collision,” or one of my other books.  I can certainly recommend them without reservation, by which I mean I’m proud of them and enjoy rereading them myself.  If you like them, tell two friends.  And then they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on…

TTFN

A Message to the Makers of “Don’t Give Up” Memes

What follows is a brief message for the creators of Hallmark-knockoff style memes that say things like, “No matter how hard it gets, it’s okay for you to feel pain, to feel tired, to feel discouraged, to feel heartbroken…but don’t you give up!”  (These are often inscribed on a floral background, or some more abstract pattern that resembles a pseudo-Gothic wrought-iron fence.)

My message to those people is:  Fuck you.

I don’t know who these people think they are or what they think they’re accomplishing.  Do they really believe they’re helping people who suffer from depression, or who are going through other, similar disturbances or trials?  If so, then they really need to examine their own mental functions, because I fear they must suffer from a prolonged thyroid deficiency, or some other neuro-endocrine disorder.  Or perhaps they’re infected with the same inanity that makes so many think that by saying, “I’ll pray for you,” or “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” or worse, such idiocy as, “Pray for Manchester,” they are accomplishing anything in the world other than bolstering their own egos.  Continue reading

A Voice from the Chasm

Hello, everyone—or at least everyone who’s reading this.  I hope you’re all doing well and having a wonderful Spring.  It’s been hot and muggy here lately, even for south Florida, but then again, warm weather is the reason I moved here.  I have no right, nor deep desire, to complain.

All right, enough pointless chit-chat.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I’ve been very busy working on the rewriting and editing of “The Chasm and the Collision,” and that’s quite a task; it’s a long book.  Prior to editing, it weighed in at a quarter of a million words, so the tweaking process is a laborious one, albeit a labor of love.  I’m very excited about the novel, of course.  I think it’s a good story, full of mystery, friendship, adventure, discovery, wonder, and—most especially—danger.

I also, of course, have not yet been able to quit my proverbial day job, so I do a great deal of my writing and editing on the train during my commute, and sometimes at lunch time and at lag times at the office.  This places some inevitable limits on my output.

But I don’t like going for so long without having written on my blog.  For one thing, on a purely mercenary and commercial level, to keep people interested in what one has to say, one has to keep saying things.  That in itself is not an adequate reason to write, however.  A vastly more important consideration is the fact that I do, in fact, have a great deal to say.  My cell phone’s memo app contains a list of a few dozen article ideas that rage to be released, and one cannot forever keep an untamed idea in captivity, lest one kill its spirit.

So, I’ve decided to designate Thursdays as my day for writing non-fiction.  There are many topics—political philosophy, science, creativity, art, popular culture, and even spirituality, to name a few—on which I have thoughts that I’d like to explore.  Therefore, henceforth, on those days on which we all pay our respects to the god of thunder, I will take a break from writing fiction and devote myself to producing blog articles such as this one.

This doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to release these articles on Thursdays specifically, or every Thursday.  Though I tend to write quickly, I don’t know that I can do justice to all the topics I have in mind, and to whatever others continue to pop up, in one day of a week.  Nevertheless, I will do my best to keep my output asymptotically close to that idealized mean.  I suppose it’s just possible that, if the fit strikes me and I simply cannot control an article that forces itself to be written, I may even come out with more than one in the occasional seven-day period.

Those of you who anticipate my next book with bated breath need not fear, however!  The rest of my week will continue to be devoted to my first and greatest love:  writing fiction.  In fiction, we are given the chance to experience the world through the lives and minds of others, albeit imaginary others.  This is not only one of the most wonderful sources of joy humans have ever created, it also allows us to practice seeing the world from others’ points of view.  This skill, or habit, or whatever one might call it, is crucial for helping us get along with our fellow humans, with some of which we will inevitably have differences.  Especially in the fractured political climate of present day America, this seems to me to be an ability we could all stand to enhance, myself included.

Einstein is quoted as saying that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Despite the apparent implicit assumption behind many Facebook memes, just because some famous person—even some famously very smart person—said something doesn’t make it correct, or even sensible.  In this case, however, I think the words are true (though knowledge is certainly crucial as well).  The human imagination is not only our first and greatest virtual reality device; it is also a remarkable virtual laboratory, in which we can experiment with actions, as well as with ideas and points of view, some of them different from whatever might have occurred to us previously.  To read what another person has written is to have them thinking inside our heads.  It’s truly remarkable if you stop and ponder it, and something most of us take for granted, yet it’s something that, as far as we know, only humans can do.  It is a tremendous, perhaps the primary, source of our power…and it is also, I think, one of the most important tools to keep us from abusing that power.  And fiction is perhaps the most potent rough-hewer of that tool.

Perhaps more crucially, though, it is simply a wonderful and mostly harmless joy.  And a life without joy is, I think, worse than no life at all.

I look forward to writing more and to receiving any feedback you might wish to give me.  I’m on Facebook and on Twitter (the former more than the latter), but I would especially love to read your responses in the comment section below, after any article that strikes you as interesting, provokes thought (or outrage), or in which you disagree with me and want to point out why.

In the meantime, and as almost always, I wish you all well.

TTFN

Reflections Following a Sad Event

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Interesting morning so far…in tragic way.  I got up a bit later than usual, planning on taking a slightly later train, since I ordinarily arrive far earlier at the office than anyone else.  However, while the train was going north, there was an accident (another train hit someone), so they had to reroute the passengers by running shuttles and so forth…and of course there were delays.  Most people tend initially to react to such events as if this is something happening to them, but of course, it’s something that already happened to the poor person who died, and to the people who are stuck on the train involved in the accident until the authorities finish their investigation. Continue reading