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.
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.