And ere a man hath power to say ‘Behold!’ the blogs of darkness do devour it up

Hello, good morning, yadda yadda yadda weekly blog post.

People apparently don’t like it much when I write speculative things about speculative science.  At least they didn’t like it last week.  Or, rather, they didn’t “like” it as much, or as often, however you want to put it.  Or, at least, I didn’t notice as many “likes”, though I suppose I could be mistaken; obviously I’m not interested enough to go and check at the bottom of the post and its predecessors to see if there is a difference.  Maybe it’s all in my head.  People seem not to mind much when I express the difficulties I have with things that are definitely in may head, which I would have thought would be more boring than speculations about science.

I often wonder what proportion of the people who “like” a given blog post actually read it.  I, of course, don’t write particularly short posts—they are almost never as short as I intend them to be—and so I guess it’s hard to hold it against people if they don’t quite make it to the end, or even past the initial paragraph, or past the initial sentence.  Or past the title.  I almost never get any feedback, so it’s quite difficult to tell if this whole thing isn’t an exercise in futility.

The nominal idea behind this blog was to promote my writing in general, but I’m not sure it’s done any good at that (or that anyone other than immediate family reads my books and stories).  This blog and its schedule have certainly led me to write a lot that I might not have written otherwise.  But there are things that I’ve written here, especially recently, that I probably should have just put up on Iterations of Zero.  Last week’s science stuff is a good example, but so are my mental health concerns.

But this blog is one I write every week, by personal schedule, by commitment, by whatever you want to call it, and I have yet to get myself into a good schedule for IoZ.  So sometimes I’ve just gone and written here some things that I would otherwise have relegated to my “secondary blog”.

Such subjects may drive away those who might be interested in reading about my writing and the writing process and so on, though I’m not sure such people exist.  Actually, I’m barely sure that there are any other people out there.  That’s not literally true, of course, I’m well aware that there are over seven billion people in the world.  I’m not a solipsist—by definition, there could never be more than one solipsist if that person were correct.  The notion of solipsism has been handily demolished by more interested minds than I.  I’m certainly convinced that I don’t have it in me to imagine the whole universe, even if it’s only limited to the things with which I’ve interacted personally.

Nevertheless, I do still feel almost completely, profoundly alone.  And though this is a terribly unpleasant and almost intolerable state, the prospect of meeting other people, interacting with other people, connecting with other people, is more daunting than the prospect of dying alone, at least if the latter happens sooner rather than later.  I have it on good authority that I’m an unpleasant person—a good number of people whose opinions I value dearly have either explicitly or implicitly made this clear.  I even feel it about myself.  So why should I be so cruel as to inflict myself on other people?

I’m toying with the idea of quitting this blog, or at least putting it on hiatus.  I don’t get any feedback or interaction from it—or nearly none—and it’s frustrating to share one’s thoughts every Thursday morning without knowing if anyone encounters them or gives a flying fuck at a tiny little rat’s ass about them.  If it’s just a matter of talking to myself, I can do that without a word processor—and I do, quite a lot of the time.  I already hardly use Facebook or Twitter, except to share these blog posts and some YouTube videos I find interesting.  I’m not egotistical enough to imagine that the world will suffer from not having my thoughts out there, or indeed from not having my existence.

Since I always title these weekly blog posts with slightly altered quotes from Shakespeare—or I have done so for quite a while, anyway—I figure that, once I decide for certain that a given blog post will definitely be my last, for any reason, I’ll simply title it, “The rest is silence” …Hamlet’s last words.  Similarly, if I knew that I was sharing my last item to Facebook and/or Twitter, it would be the final song of the first album of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  But of course, it may well come to pass that I’ll write a final blog post and share a final share on those other “social” “media” without knowing that it is the last one.  This could be the last one for all I know.  I’m not sure I would mind that.

Anyway, I’m still editing In the Shade, and the process is going well enough.  I hope to be done with it reasonably soon, and possibly then to release my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I have all sorts of possible book ideas to write after that, but right now I have no interest in writing any of them.  I’m very tired, on all levels.  To quote from the fourth-from-last song on album one of The Wall, “nothing is very much fun anymore.”  And, obviously, I’m not much fun, myself.

TTFN

no outlet

As imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the blogger’s pen turns them to shape

Hello and good morning.  As usual, it’s Thursday—well, that’s only usual on one day of the week, but since this is that day of the week, it’s usual on this day—and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I’m feeling pretty exhausted today, partly because of a temporary change in work schedule that’s throwing my mental functions into a minor tailspin, and partly because of frustration associated with trying to get feedback and do useful research about my neurophysiology through the advice or input of people with expertise in the matter.  Some of the fault is mine—I have a hard time forcing myself to initiate or undertake most interactions, including contacting and setting up some form of new relationship with a new therapist…or doing therapy at all.

I also get distracted—and I suspect that some of the people I’ve tried to contact have done so as well—by the ongoing issue of my dysthymia/depression, which is certainly troubling, but which is an old companions of mine and unlikely to improve.  But there’s only so much one can get from YouTube videos and reading, whether it’s technical literature or works aimed at laypeople.  And I have a terribly difficult time even contemplating joining online support or discussion groups (or “in person” ones, which seem even more intimidating and disruptive).  I may be stuck.  I feel stuck.  I could really use some help—of various kinds—but the very prospect of seeking it is too daunting and confusing, and it is further hindered by the fact that I feel, deep down, that I don’t really deserve any help of any kind.

On the other hand, work on In the Shade is proceeding reasonably well, as it has been for some time.  I’m doing a nice job trimming it down, at least as far as raw numbers go.  I hope it improves the story; it would be a shame if it made it worse.  In any case, though, I’m more than halfway through the overall editing process, and that’s a good thing.

A thought popped into my head this morning that has popped in many times before, and I’m tempted to send emails or similar to the likes of Brian Greene just to see if he can clarify anything about it.  But I would feel quite cheeky and rather obnoxious to trouble him, even if I could find a way to send him a query.

Roughly and briefly, the thought is related to the ideas of “M Theory”*—which encompasses more “traditional” string theory as I understand it—and the notion that our entire three-dimensional universe might be a “brane” embedded in a higher-dimensional “bulk”, and that we can only experience the three dimensional universe in which we live because we—all the force-carrying particles and matter particles of which we are made—are trapped within the brane, possibly because they are composed of open-ended “strings”.  However—again, if I understand correctly based on the reading I’ve done—the graviton, the hypothetical force-carrying boson of the gravitational force, would be a closed string, and could, if there are branes and a bulk and so on, travel between branes.  The hypothesis has been put forward that this might be part of the reason gravity seems so weak; it is not as narrowly confined dimensionally as the other forces, and so spreads out to a greater degree.

I played with some of these ideas very indirectly in The Chasm and the Collision.

Anyway, my thought was that, perhaps, this could provide the explanation for the apparent existence of “dark matter” which is proposed as the presence of a large amount of mass in the universe that doesn’t interact much with “normal” matter, or with light, but which has gravitational effects measurable in the speed of rotation of galaxies and of the interactions of galactic clusters and so on, and which, based on those various measures, would be about five times as abundant as “normal” matter.  But no one has been able, so far, to detect the presence of any such dark matter particles, which would be presumed to interact at least occasionally with normal matter in some way.

It’s proposed as possible in M Theory that there could be other parallel “three-branes” in the bulk, “next to” ours in higher-dimensional space, analogous to planes or pages that float, aligned but not touching, in three-dimensional space.  If most fermions and bosons are stuck in their branes but gravitons can more or less freely pass between them, and if parallel branes came into existence—in their current states, anyway—roughly at the same time, so to speak, then as those universes expanded and evolved, with initial quantum fluctuations leading to increasing clumping of matter, leading to galaxies, stars, etc., they would have influenced each other’s clumping, and so a galaxy in one brane might well tend to be “near” or roughly lined up with, a galaxy in nearby branes, and so on.  If so, and if gravity can, at least to some degree, pass between branes, then the vector components of such gravity that happens to align with the nearby branes’ dimensions might well be felt as an “extra” gravitational force without any source in detectable matter.

If there are multiple branes in parallel to each other—or perhaps even a limitless stack of them, so to speak—depending on their separation and the degree to which gravity can pass between them, the net effect might well be enough to generate the phenomena we measure as evidence of “dark matter”.  If one were only thinking of, say, a four-dimensional space between the three-branes (with other dimensions curled up small), the force of gravity between matter in them would presumably fall off at a rate of one over the distance cubed, but if there were multiple branes in parallel, and again, if the distance were right and the properties correct, then I don’t see why it couldn’t accumulate to give a net effect greater, on large enough scales, than the apparent impact of gravitating mass within a given brane.

Unfortunately, my math skills are not presently up to the task of even doing a “back of the envelope” calculation about how that might work, though I have tried from time to time.  I also don’t know much of the technical details about string theory/M Theory.  And, of course, the whole theoretical framework is troubled by difficulty creating measurable predictions, at least with current technology.  But…if such parallel branes could in fact account for “dark matter”, they would, if correct, predict that there would be no measurable dark matter particles.  Ever.  And so, of course, the longer we go without being able to find one, the more our Bayesian probability might edge toward the correctness of at least some version of M Theory.  Of course, if dark matter particles are found and have characteristics that explain the phenomena we see, then that would at least disprove my notion, if not all of M Theory.

It’s likely that such a notion is already ruled out by some specifics details that I just don’t know—which must of course be almost all the specifics of M Theory.

Maybe some day I’ll work up the courage to forward some version of this to someone like Brian Greene, or maybe Lisa Randall or Leonard Susskind**.  But probably not.  I have a hard enough time mustering the nerve to talk to anyone regarding my own neurological and psychological health.  And, in any case, those people have enough on their minds.  And I have books to write.  And—unfortunately—miles to go before I sleep.

In the meantime, I hope you all stay well and do your best to take care of yourselves and of those who matter to you—and also, while you’re at it, do your best to avoid causing problems for other people.

TTFN

more branes


*Which is, of course, speculative to say the least, but which is certainly intellectually interesting, and which could, in principle, be a description of the deeper physics of our universe.

**These are the three physicists from whose popular works I’ve learned most of what I “know” about such matters.  I first encountered string theory and M Theory in Stephen Hawking’s book, The Universe in a Nutshell, but alas, no one can get any messages to him anymore—or, at least, we can’t get any messages back.

A wretched soul, blogged with adversity, we bid be quiet when we hear it cry

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I don’t quite know what I’m going to write today.  That’s not so unusual; I often start my posts without any outline in mind.  Perhaps that’s only too obviously to those who read this blog on a regular basis.  Perhaps you would prefer that I made specific plans about what to write.  If so, I can only apologize and say that, at least for now, I’m not able to do that.  Sometimes when I try to plan what I’m going to write about, I feel stiff and tense about the writing, and it doesn’t flow well.  Sometimes I suspect that is the reason my little project about analyzing and exploring villains from various books, movies, shows, etc., didn’t come off well.  Probably, though, it was just because it wasn’t something that interested many people.

My editing has been going reasonably well this week, though I wish it would go faster.  I don’t ever get quite as much done on any given day as I ought to get done.  I find that, more and more lately, I need to take a rest in the morning and lie flat on the floor for my back to feel a bit better, and to clear my head and gradually break myself into the proverbial zone.  I’m just gradually becoming more and more mentally and emotionally exhausted, and it’s harder to develop energy and focus.  I still do it, of course, but it’s difficult.  I don’t really have much in the way of mental/emotional support; I’m very much on my own, as it were*.  Of course, in a sense, that could be said of everyone, but that would be a very cynical and pessimistic sense; I think it’s a bit too much even for the likes of me to claim.

Still, In the Shade continues to improve (I think), shrinking steadily but perhaps more slowly than at first, and definitely getting tighter and sharper…again, so I think, at least.  I’m not at all sure that I’ll finish the editing by the end of summer and have the collection ready before autumn, but it’s difficult to judge.  Time swirls about at bizarrely inconsistent rates—at “times” it feels like it passes ridiculously fast, the years being chewed up like…well, like some simile describing things being chewed up extremely quickly.  At other times, it feels as though each moment is proceeding far too slowly, and I just want to get to the end much more quickly than is happening.  I’m very tired.

I’m still pursuing that neurological thing that I mentioned last time—never yet by name in this particular blog—but the more thoroughly I educate myself, both from general consumption sources and from the medical and scientific literature, the more I’m convinced that I’m probably—almost certainly—correct in my assessment.  But I don’t like to rely solely on myself, even though I trust my mental judgement at least as much as anyone else’s, and more than most.

I’m having a harder and harder time dealing with social interactions, whether online or in person.  I even feel embarrassed writing comments on blogs and similar.  I feel that I’m sure to be saying something irritating or boring or inexplicable and nonsensical that will make others wonder why I don’t just shut up and go away.  Maybe that’s me projecting; goodness knows, a lot of the time I wish that I would just shut up and go away.

Anyway, I have at least put in inquiries to two organizations, one a non-professional entity that provides support and guidance and resources.  I investigated their available recommendations for professionals near me, but haven’t been impressed, so far, by the locally available people listed.  They don’t fill me with confidence or ease.  The other, a strictly professional organization, may be more promising, though they’re a little bit far from where I am.

A big problem I have is that all these kinds of people and sites and organizations have options for, and require, and provide resources for, calling or online chatting, or whatever, and the thought of doing any of those things is just terribly stressful, let alone actually going to some office somewhere.  I can talk on the phone at work, for goal-directed reasons, just as I’ve always been able to make friends or “friends” at school or work or whatever, in places where there’s a purpose, but when it’s seeking something for myself—let alone simple ordinary purposeless socialization—I’m at a loss.

It’s not that I’m afraid or anxious, exactly, though there is a bit of that; it’s just that I find the processes stressful.  They take so much mental effort.  I don’t feel I get much out of it, and I just inconvenience everyone else.  The last time there was a work-related outing, when the office (as it were) went to a restaurant after work to celebrate a particular milestone, I developed a migraine as the day went on, and ended up just not going.  I didn’t really put it together at the time, but the migraine was probably caused by the stress of anticipating dealing with a purely social situation.

So, asking for help at a personal level or a professional level is very difficult—mostly so daunting that I just can’t force myself to do it, even when I know I could really use it**.  It doesn’t help that I’ve had terrible experiences when dealing with “crisis hotlines” in the past, as I think I’ve described here before.  I’ve had other, similarly frustrating experiences on related occasions when seeking help or being forced to seek help.

I’m not sure at all what to do.  There probably isn’t any one right answer or best answer, and if there is, probably no one knows what it is.  The world is extremely complicated, and we’re never guaranteed that events will be fair or good or successful…at least not by any honest, reputable, reliable sources.

I know I’m being vague.  I started off meandering and, by God, I kept meandering.  That was the mode for today, I guess.  Apologies.  I hope to get again into a mental state where I can again feel optimistic about future writing and think and talk about the many story ideas and book ideas I have waiting in the wings.  I’m not sure if I’ll reach that point, or how to reach it, but I guess it’s possible.  In the meantime, I beg your patience and indulgence.  I also ask that you treat yourselves and those around you as well as you possibly can and try to be healthy and happy.

TTFN

broke down bigger


*This is no one’s fault but mine.

**It’s a bit like finding myself having swum a too far out from a beach and realizing that I’m in trouble because the current is sweeping me ever farther away from shore.  But calling for help will drain the strength I need to swim and tread water, and I’m not a very strong swimmer.  The people I can see in the distance aren’t really looking in my direction, anyway, and they probably couldn’t hear me no matter what.  And I’m not sure any of them are trained or qualified to make a rescue attempt without putting themselves at serious risk, which is something I certainly don’t want to happen on my account.  Better just to tread water quietly, trying to make my way shoreward (though the shore keeps getting farther and farther away), and let the ocean take me if that’s what it’s going to do.

Ruin hath blogged me thus to ruminate, that Time will come and take my love away.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, as happens periodically, and thus it is time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  It being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been another entry of the long-since-abandoned “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, had I continued that enterprise.  Unfortunately, that pursuit appears to be one of those idiosyncratic enthusiasms that a certain kind of person tends to have, holding little interest for others, and in fact boring them—a joy that, because of its peculiarity, cannot be shared.  Oh, well.  Life is rarely satisfying.

I made a follow-up video on the subject that I introduced in last week’s blog post.  I posted it on YouTube and embedded that in a post on Iterations of Zero.  If you want to learn more about what I was referring to in last week’s post, and about my personal reactions to it—and some rather random, meandering, and inconclusive thoughts on what I should do* about it—by all means, I encourage you to view it.  I tried to cut out most of the hemming and hawing, the pauses and mutterings, and to make the audio as clear as I could in a reasonable amount of time.  The fact that I still can’t bring myself here to write explicitly what the subject of that video is may give some clue as to how unsettled I am—unsettled because I think, more and more, that the results of the tests I discussed are probably right, based on my explorations and reflections since then.  But sharing such personal matters has always been difficult, at a certain level, for me.

I’ve always had trouble expressing my wishes for other people’s input and even (gulp) help.  I find the prospect of such interactions daunting, partly because I find interaction itself daunting.  More and more over time, other people have come to seem indeed very much “other” to me, in a deeper than usual sense—almost alien.  I’ve always felt quite different from the people around me and find much of what they say and do inexplicable** and stressful.  I’ve also, frankly, nearly always felt that I have no right to request or expect help of any kind from anyone.  And so, when I’ve tried on numerous occasions to make subtle requests for help, or for input, or for whatever, I’ve tended to be too subtle—or so it seems—and no one responds…or if someone responds, the things they say and do are often counterproductive or confusing, though the attempt should always be appreciated.

I think I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve long resonated with the last four lines of Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage, from the album whose name is invoked in that song:

“And if the cloudbursts thunder in your ear

You shout and no one seems to hear

And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

 Well, the “band” I was in has long since gone on to play completely different material from anything I knew.  I don’t even get to hear of any of the performances—by their choice—and only one of the “members” communicates with me at all anymore***.  It isn’t the first time I’ve experienced such alienation, though it is by far the most wrenching, and certainly the most heartbreaking.  But that kind of heartbreak—produced by and causing such alienation—is something for which I seem to have a talent.  It’s hard to blame anyone else when I’m the common denominator.

Oh, well, as I said before, life is rarely satisfying.  Most days it hardly seems worth the effort.  Actually, most days it seems utterly not worth the effort.  But I guess I’m stubborn, or habituated, or just the victim of my biological drives, at least so far.

Speaking of stubbornness, I’m continuing to edit In the Shade, and it’s progressing nicely.  I’ve finished three passes and have already almost achieved my level-one aim in word count reduction, which means I may have a decent shot at reaching or at least approaching my level two target:  a 20% reduction in word count.  I know that’s an arbitrary and mechanical target to use, but it’s not intended to be an end in and of itself, just a means by which to trim unnecessary discursions that may, I fear, lead people to find my writing too laborious.  I don’t really know—I’m hypothesizing without much data.  In any case, I have no idea whether any but a handful of people will ever read the story, anyway…or if I’ll even finish and publish it and the collection.  The future is stochastic, after all.

That’s more than enough for this week’s post.  I hope you’re all having a nice summer so far—I know it’s been hard for many people in many places, what with sweltering heat and fires and storms and viruses and building collapses and various other slings and arrows.  But many people seem to be astonishingly gifted at finding and making joy in their lives despite everything that drives weirdos like me toward despair.  Please keep it up, all of you.  You deserve to be as happy as you can possibly be—as long as it doesn’t infringe on the happiness of others unnecessarily.

TTFN

reaching out


*I’ve had a link open on my browser for more than a week asking if I want to chat online to a licensed professional about my results.  I cannot seem to work up the nerve to click it.

**It’s not so much that it’s impossible to understand as it’s impossible to credit, to believe…the sorts of things that lead one to think, “You can’t be serious.”

***Apologies for straining the metaphor here.  It’s part of that same severe difficulty I seem to have expressing myself explicitly when referring to anything emotion laden.  It’s something I’m aware of and recognize, but I can’t seem to overcome it.

So quick bright blogs come to confusion

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for it on tenterhooks.

It’s the first day of July, and in the U.S., we’ll have our founding holiday this weekend—Independence Day, popularly referred to merely by its date, The Fourth of July.  I prefer the more formal term, myself, since it reminds us of what we’re supposedly celebrating.  It’s a nice day to reread the Declaration of Independence, if you’ve not read it in a while, or have never read it.  It’s not very long, and it’s okay to skip the list of grievances if you want.  Actually, it’s okay if you skip the whole thing and just spend the day with your family (if that’s an option for you) and maybe watch and/or set off some fireworks.  It’s not as though any of it really matters.

Of course, if you’re outside of the United States, you probably will just have an ordinary Sunday.

I’ve continued to edit In the Shade, being fairly draconian in my word trimming, and I think it’s having a good effect.  Of course, I don’t know how others will perceive the outcome.  For one thing, no one is going to be able to read it in its first draft form and then compare it to the final draft to see which they like better.  Then again, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever read it but me, anyway.  And if they do, it’s unlikely that I’ll get any feedback about it.  So, again, it’s not as though any of it really matters.

A rather peculiar, or disturbing, or enlightening sequence of events happened to me over the course of this last week, some of the details of which I’m not quite ready to get into, but the general shape of which I’m prepared to share.

As happens sometimes, the YouTube algorithm—drawing from its vast, mindless database of patterns of videos people have watched and “liked” after watching others—presented me with a video on a subject that I’d not seen before.  Not to say I wasn’t aware of the subject, I’d just never watched or sought out any such videos, nor read any but very general information about it.  It’s one I was aware of, as a medical doctor (by training and degree, though no longer in practice), but I was far from an expert in the subject.  Something about the video’s thumbnail intrigued me, so I watched it, and one or two others by the same person.  I was truly flabbergasted by how familiar many of the things this person was saying were to me.

So, I decided to take an online test (it’s created and provided by a legitimate scientific source, not some click-bait website), and I got a surprisingly high result.  Higher than this video-maker had scored when he took the test, and higher than that of some other people who do videos on the same subject.

I assumed that I must have been exaggerating, overestimating, and misinterpreting the test questions, and so the next day I took it again, trying to control for such overstatement.  It came back with a higher score.  So, being me, I watched more videos and bought a book or two* and looked up some research papers and less formal writings, and I’m sneaking myself toward the suspicion that this test may actually be correct.  I’ve even retaken it again since, trying harder not to be melodramatic, and my score went up more.

(I only once took a related, subsequent test, created by the same scientist/group that had created the first; on this one the lower the score is, the more “positive”, and my score was so surprisingly, remarkably low that I think it has to be an error or a fluke of the way I took the test, or a product of my bias, or something like that.  I haven’t taken that one again.  I’m frankly afraid of the result.)

I know I’m being terribly vague about all this, but please try to bear with me.  I don’t like jumping to conclusions, and I’m quite hesitant about my ability to be objective about myself.  I’ve only told one person (my employer) about the results with full information about what it was, partly because of the understanding way he’s always responded to my weirdness.  He was only generally familiar with the subject but seemed almost congratulatory about the result, which caught me by surprise.  I don’t quite know what to make of that.

I also don’t know what to do about all this; at first it seemed like a possible boon, a useful discovery, but now I fear that it really doesn’t change anything or, again, really matter at all.  There are links provided, after one takes the test and gets a high score, to possible people to “speak” to, to find out more, or get “help”, or whatever, but frankly, the thought of interacting with such people, or even of seeking out others who have scored highly on such tests is about as pleasant as being told that, to achieve some moderately desirable result, I need to eat a large bowl of fried eggplant.  That may not sound bad to many of you—you may happen to like eggplant—but even the smell of cooking eggplant makes me physically prone to throw up**.

I can’t even bring myself to seek out a new therapist regarding my dysthymia/depression, which is a confirmed and often dangerous problem for me; I’ve been through it all so often and in so many ways, and I have actual, clinical, expert level understanding of the problem—I’ve literally helped treat people for it, as a medical doctor.

It’s not out of arrogance that I avoid getting the therapy (though I think I am arrogant sometimes); I’m quite sure there are many people out there who could provide useful feedback and input for me, even if there’s no greater explanatory insight involved.  I’ve had therapists I liked, and who helped me, and if I could go to one of them again, I probably would, but none of those is close enough and I have no interest in trying to meet and develop a relationship with a new one.  The prospect is such a huge and daunting chore as to make me feel more depressed (see above about the eggplant).

So, anyway, for right now, I’m caught in a conundrum, with all the force vectors pushing against each other and holding me, pierced like a dissection specimen, in the center of their arrows.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with a psychologist (not about me, this was in a professional context) who said that in family therapy, in a severely dysfunctional setting, sometimes the only thing they could do would be the equivalent of setting off a stick of dynamite in the family dynamic, and hoping that after the explosion, things would settle back into at least a less dysfunctional pattern.  It sounded awful.  But sometimes I fear that it will require similar metaphorical dynamite for anything to change for me.  I’ve been through such explosions, more than once, and I don’t think the new patterns are better.  I don’t like my odds.

So, anyway, I’m knowingly being nonspecific, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of honest confusion about what, if anything, to do.  I guess it might be nice to find a kindred spirit of some sort, but I honestly doubt whether such a person exists, and the notion of hoping they might be possible and then finding they are not, or failing in some other fashion, is worse than not knowing.  Tennyson was an idiot, frankly, and similarly, Sisyphus would have been far better served just to stop pushing that stupid boulder.  He wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, no matter what he did.  He’d have been better served just to use it as a chair or a back rest and go to sleep.

That’s enough of all that for now.  I hope you’re all well, and that you have a terrific month of July, holidays or not.

TTFN

indecision


*Academic in character—the “personal” ones seemed entirely too subjective and anecdotal, which is probably unfair of me, especially given the nature of this blog post, but I’m trying to learn objective things, as much as possible, and most stories of and by real people, in written form, tend just to spin my head around, or bore me, and aren’t useful for insights.

**I’m not exaggerating.  It’s worse than mildew, worse than the smell of a dead skunk on the highway, and far more nauseating than walking into a camp latrine that hasn’t been cleaned in years.  It’s a physical response, not a value judgement.  I’m honestly envious of people who like eggplant, as with other foods I find intolerable.  They get so much pleasure from them, and it’s pleasure I can never have.

But modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise, the tent that searches to th’ bottom of the blog.

Okay, well, hello and good morning as always.  It’s Thursday, June 10, 2021, and it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I’m a bit under the weather—some low-level gastrointestinal bug has troubled me for the last three days—so I intend to keep this comparatively short.  However, I have long experience of such intentions going astray, like so many of the best laid plans of mice and men.

It feels, at first thought, that the plans of mice ought to go astray more often than those of men, but perhaps the plans of mice, if there can honestly be said to be such things*, are more constrained and simpler than those of “men” and so may have fewer contingent and unpredictable aspects.

Who knows?

It’s been a reasonably productive week.  I’ve finished In the Shade, as I think I might have mentioned last week, and I’ve been working on the initial editing run-through, which is now all but done.  This is only the first edit, of course; there will be many passes to follow before I consider the story fit enough to publish.  I’m being particularly assertive about reducing the story’s word count.  I obviously don’t want to take out anything that I think adds to the tale, and certainly nothing essential.  Nevertheless, I do tend to run off at the keyboard, so it’s useful to be hard on myself.  I enjoy writing words and conveying thoughts in written form, so I sometimes do too much.

This might come across as egotistical, as a sense of loving to “hear myself talk” so to speak, but I think that would be a mischaracterization.  My writing certainly doesn’t make me feel proud of myself, or that I’m particularly special, nor does it produce or reflect some narcissistic self-love.  Self-love is not one of my noteworthy attributes.

Indeed, I’ve often thought of depression (and dysthymia) as a sort of deficiency in the ability to delude oneself (positively) about one’s nature and abilities.  According to at least some studies of which I’ve heard, people with a tendency toward depression rate themselves more realistically on self-assessment tests of certain kinds, as opposed to their peers, who tend to overrate their own relative abilities.  This can be comically stated as a situation in which most people tend to rate themselves as above average, which is often declared to be mathematically impossible.  However, if by “average” most people refer to the arithmetic mean, it is possible for most people to be above average, if those people are only modestly above average and the others are well below it.  Such a circumstance is pretty unlikely, but it’s not a mathematical impossibility.  However, if one is referring to the median as the “average” then, by definition, it is impossible for most people to be above average.

I’ve recently read a book called On Being Certain, by Robert A. Burton, M.D., and he makes some interesting points about how the nature of being certain is related mainly to a feeling of being right, an emotion, produced in the limbic system, not actually to a process of thought or the conclusion of a logical train of argument.  That feeling—that sense of knowing, of revelation, of being convinced of something—can even happen spontaneously in certain kinds of seizures, and in certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.  As a feeling, it can’t readily be overcome in the same way that a logical conclusion can be abandoned if the flaws in the logic are demonstrated.  But only such emotions, not mere logical conclusions, prod us to action.  In reading the book, I realized that another possible aspect of the disease states of depression/dysthymia involve, at least in my case, a deficiency of this feeling**.

There are very few things I feel certain enough of not to allow myself to entertain significant doubt.  There have been times when I’ve even doubted the conclusion of the cogito ergo sum—though you would think that, by doubting it, I’m demonstrating its truth.  But part of me thinks that if there’s a supernatural being (or a civilization of machines, a la The Matrix) that can simulate all the external facts of reality, then why could they not be “simulating” my very experience of thought?  As an author, I’ve created many characters who, within their stories, would certainly think that they are thinking; my readers can read those thoughts from the characters’ points of view.  Yet, those thoughts are artificial, in the strict sense of being brought about by external artifice—in this case, mine.

So, this combination of deficiency at positive self-delusion, coupled with a sincere doubt about one’s ability to be certain of nearly anything can engender an exhausting enervation, the deterioration of motivation, and a broad sense of pointlessness.  At least it leads to the avoidance of dogma, and I think that’s a good thing.  I think the world as a whole would have far fewer large-scale problems if more people could feel less certainty and more doubt.

But it would be nice to be able just to feel good about myself and my right to exist, however unjustified such a feeling might be.  It might be nice to feel that I—or anyone—deserves to be happy, even though that’s an incoherent notion.  Unfortunately, on those rare occasions in which I’ve felt a strong degree of certainty about myself or my conclusions, or about my value or values, it’s frequently been disastrous.  So also for humanity at large, I think.

And here I’ve gone and not written a short post, as should come as no surprise to anyone.  I really do need to try to get some of these thoughts out in Iterations of Zero on a regular basis, so I can spare hapless readers of this blog from the ordeal of such topics.  I haven’t given up on that notion, at least, which is rare enough for me.

TTFN

doubt


*And why not?  Mice surely have at least some rudimentary conceptions of courses of action to take and expectations of likely outcomes of those courses of action.  They are certainly not simple automata.

**He points out how this deficiency is prevalent or evident in OCD, for instance, as in cases where a person simply cannot feel convinced that they really did lock the door or turn the oven off, say, and so can become paralyzed by unreasonable doubts.  I don’t have OCD, but I certainly have some of those attributes.  As I leave the house in the morning, I check my pockets multiple times to be sure that, yes, I really do have my keys, and my phone, and my wallet, all of which I have already checked, and which I always bring with me.  I simply don’t trust my memory, nor my habits—I’m too well aware of how malleable memory is, and how fragile habits can be.  This does mean that I almost never forget to bring any of these items, but I also never can seem to embrace the conclusion that I should be able to trust myself not to forget them—and so every day involves that feeling of not being certain at all.

Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes write blogs on the bosom of the earth

Good morning.  It’s the first Thursday in June of 2021, and since it is a Thursday, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I finished the first draft of In the Shade last Friday, as predicted, and have since embarked on the first editing round.  I’m already nearly halfway through it, so hopefully it won’t be very long before the story is ready, and thus I will be poised to compile my upcoming collection.  I haven’t decided on the order of the stories, except to say that I’m going to put House Guest first and In the Shade last.  I’m also going to put Solitaire roughly in the middle, and as I think I’ve said before, I’m going to surround it with comparatively light fare, since it’s probably my darkest story ever.  “Comparatively” is, of course, an important qualifier.  Most or all of my stories tend to be rather dark, at least in parts.

It will be interesting, if anyone out there reads the story carefully enough, to learn if there is any qualitative difference between the parts of In the Shade that were originally handwritten and those that were composed directly on the computer.  For anyone interested in investigating, the first portion of the story—right up to when the boy, Kyle, predicts that the deputies investigating the strange house where his friend was injured will not come back—was originally handwritten.  What follows was composed on the computer, until the very last section, in which we change our point of view to that of the owner of the house (you’ll understand these references when you read the story).  That final section was also handwritten, constituting just shy of the last 6000 words of the story.  It’s difficult for me to judge any possible difference objectively, so I’d be grateful for any feedback; I don’t have any actual friends who might read it and let me know ahead of time*.

I don’t know what else I should write about today.  Ideas and thoughts and reflections on many subjects frequently pop into my head, often during my commute or while reading some science-related book or upon encountering some absurd event in the news.  These are sometimes stored as my proposed posts for Iterations of Zero, but I haven’t yet worked out how and when to produce them consistently.  The video idea was simply not worth the effort; I’m not photogenic enough (to me, at least) to justify viewing or sharing my image.  I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to try it in the first place.  Whatever it was, that urge seems to have disappeared.  I considered trying to write the posts by hand and retyping them, but that’s more onerous than I have the will to carry out, and I’ve noted often that I don’t want to take time away from my fiction writing more than the one day a week I give to this blog.

I keep toying with the notion of just doing voice recordings when the mood strikes me, sparing myself much of the burdensome editing by simply committing to noise reduction and level adjustment, then putting them up as is—pauses, breaths, coughs, “umm”s and all.  So far, unfortunately, though I frequently feel the urge to talk about ideas, it tends to happen when I’m not readily able to record my thoughts.  It happens a lot during my commute.  So, what I end up doing quite often is just talking to myself, partly in my head, and partly out loud.

Ah, well, it’s not really that important.  Probably such thoughts are of little value to anyone but me, if even that.  I had a brief burst of Twitter enthusiasm, but it’s too short form a medium, and anyway, I can’t seem to find any energy for social media, or for any other kind of socialization.  I find interacting with other people, including on Facebook and Twitter, increasingly stressful, though I’m not sure quite why.  Seeing a notice at the top of the Facebook screen indicating that someone has sent me a message is enough to make me avoid the site for a very long time, though I continue to share things like videos and articles and so on through Facebook and Twitter.  I apologize to anyone who considers this rude.  I can honestly say, “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Part of the problem—though not all of it—is that when I’ve posted on Facebook at times when I’m particularly depressed and having an especially strong case of my frequent “promortalist” urges**, and am honestly hoping that someone out there might have something helpful to say or to think or to suggest or to do, I get at best some discussion of the sorts of points that I’ve already encountered years and sometimes decades ago and found wanting***.  Others offer supportive words and thoughts which, while definitely appreciated and valued, don’t seem to have the power to change anything.  And then, of course, occasionally I’ve received statements of actual offense from some people who I would have thought knew better or were better—as if the fact that I have “issues” with which I struggle were an insult or slight upon them.

Well, that’s the last thing I need.  And, of course, the never negligible baseline level of human stupidity (my own far from the least) is positively enhanced by social media, ironically—though I feared from the outset that the internet and its byproducts would produce at least as much harm as good—and so the whole thing becomes a painful experience, and I’m not masochistic enough to keep laying my hand on a stovetop when I can’t tell if it’s hot or not****.

So, social media isn’t very beneficial to me in general, and I’m not good at pure personal socialization of any kind.  It’s never been my greatest strength, and it seems to have weakened over the years.  I often become confused, stressed, and even angry even at seemingly inevitable, ubiquitous, pointless inquiries like, “How are you doing?”  I honestly don’t know how to reply without lying.  The only person with whom I socialize at all, in any purely social sense, is my sister, and it’s hard for me not to feel that she’s never committed any sin or crime grievous enough to merit that burden.

I honestly would love to be rescued somehow from this mental state or tendency.  I would also love to see world peace.  But I fear that the only reliable ways to achieve either goal are probably similar in character and similarly irreversible.

Anyway, sorry about all that.  I’m venting, I guess.  I’ll try not to indulge in this so much in the future, and will strive to stick to my brief, or whatever the phrase is.  I do honestly, fervently, and sincerely hope that you’re all as well as you can be, and that you can keep your own spirits up, despite reading my gloomy grumbling.

TTFN

Lost in maze


*This is entirely my own fault.

**I’m euphemizing to avoid triggering any automatic responses either by computers or by people.  These aforementioned euphemized urges of mine happen, to a very good approximation, every day, and they have done so for a long, long time.  A day without them would be so rare as to merit something like the Dickensian description of the Cratchett family’s Christmas goose as “a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course.”

***I am, after all, a medical doctor who has had dysthymia occasionally veering into full depression pretty much my entire adult life, and thus have taken a particular interest in them.  I understand the pathophysiology of the disorders, to the degree that they are understood at all, and the means, nature, and reliability of treatments at a level slightly better than most general practitioners, though perhaps not at the level of specialists.  I’ve partaken of numerous medical and psychological/therapeutic interventions, and I continue to use that which has historically been my most effective treatment.  That’s right:  all this is me while using the best treatment I’ve found.

****In a similar vein, the one time I called the “crisis hotline”, I found myself handcuffed by PBSO deputies (causing nerve damage that lasted almost a year to my left hand), and was brought to a shit-hole of a facility where I was assigned to sleep on a battered sofa, then discharged about thirty-six hours later, with a follow-up appointment in one month, which provided nothing I hadn’t already been doing.

Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, for thee, and for my blog no quiet find.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m still comparatively “out of it”, so I had to double-check that, yes, today really is Thursday.  I woke up yesterday feeling that it was Friday, though that might have been wishful thinking; I thought not only that it was Friday, but that I didn’t need to work on Saturday.  Both of these turn out to be wrong.  (Sigh.  Life is so tiring.)

Despite still obviously being reduced from my peak abilities by the aftereffects of Covid, I’ve had a relatively productive week.  First, I recorded and posted an “audio blog” which I guess counts as a sort of mini podcast, on Iterations of Zero.  It was triggered—weirdly enough—when I woke up the other day with the old Genesis song Land of Confusion going through my head, particularly the line about how “my generation will get it right, we’re not just making promises that we know we’ll never keep”.  I find such utterances terribly irritating, even in what could be considered poetry, and I replied in my head that, well, you might not be making promises that you know you’ll never keep, but you are making promises that you’ll never keep.  And indeed, they have not kept them.

Promising, after all, is easy.  Actually doing something takes work, usually a lot of it.

And of course, the remarks in the song about superman, men of steel, men of power, always set me off; there are no supermen, there are no “men of steel”, there are no “men of power”, and there never have been.  There are just other flesh and blood humans, just other bees in the hive or ants in the hill.

Anyway, I went off on those ideas for about seventeen minutes, since I was still fuming when I arrived at the office, and I then edited it (a bit) and posted it.

I did something a little more upbeat also, finally releasing my cover of the Radiohead song Nude, which is on IoZ and on YouTube:

I really like that song, but the process of having to correct for recording issues in the edit and mixing process finally drove me to buy a somewhat better microphone (closing the proverbial barn door after the equine had exited).  Just in playing with that microphone, I realized how much easier it makes things to have a good USB condenser mic.  I was able to record a draft of a cover of the Beatles song Julia in just one morning, which I embed here in present form.

Of course, I mixed it and did some reverb after the recording and whatnot, and it is a simpler song, but still, that’s a total of maybe an hour’s work or so (not counting learning and practicing the guitar part, of course).  And the microphone I used only cost about thirty-five dollars, so it’s definitely not a big expense.  I probably spend more than that every week on bubbly water.

Of course, I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, but there’s not much new to say other than that I’m one week closer to being finished.  I still enjoy the story, and I look forward to seeing it published and then going on to finish Outlaw’s Mind and then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities and all that stuff.  After all that, I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to write next.  I’m going to write something, though, since it turns out the novel coronavirus hasn’t killed me*, and as long as I’m alive, I mean to keep writing.  I’ll also probably (to a lesser extent) keep doing music—especially now that I have my new microphone(s)—and I’ll probably keep doing little mini-podcasts that I’ll upload, though I don’t know if anyone likes them or wants to listen to them.  I’d actually appreciate feedback on that question, but I don’t think I’ve ever received any despite asking for it, so I’m not going to hold my breath.

With that, I guess I’m done with my weekly summary of events and thoughts, though I’m sure I could have written more**.  I hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you stay well and, if you can, even get weller.

TTFN

Picture1


*I have mixed and varying feelings about this.  In all honesty, life often does not seem worth the effort to me, which is probably part of why I love Hamlet so much.  And yet, even though people throughout the ages have noted that life is often not a net gain, particularly after a certain point, our culture allows, and even encourages, other people to hold us accountable for staying alive so that they don’t have to feel the pain of our death…even if they are not putting any effort into helping make our life worth living.  I’m not saying that other people should be responsible for making my (or anyone else’s) life pleasant or positive or whatever, but if they aren’t, they sure as fuck shouldn’t then arrogate to themselves the right to try to manipulate and coerce someone into enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune just because their deaths would cause that other person pain.  It’s logically inconsistent if nothing else.  It’s also selfishness and cruelty masquerading as humanitarianism.

Anyway, just to conclude this footnote with a request: if you are worried about someone who’s depressed or has some other disorder and you don’t want them to die, don’t wheedle or berate or manipulate or cajole them not to die just because it would make you upset if they did.  What right do you have to insist upon their continued suffering just so you don’t have to deal with their death?  If you really want them to stay alive, then make it your business to help them have good reasons to want to stay alive.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up!

**I can almost always write more.  In fact, an early pseudonym suggestion for me by my father was “Franklin L. Ritemoore”.  It took me about five minutes to get the joke, but I was only in junior high at the time, so I was less advanced at wordplay than I am now.

Yet, do thy worst, old Time; despite thy wrong, My love shall in my blog ever live young.

It’s Thursday again, and thus, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I would like to say, “Hello and good morning,” to all my readers, even though you may not be reading this in the morning.  (I switched up my usual starting order to keep things fresh for those who read my blog regularly, and for me as well.  It’s not much variety, but it doesn’t take much to break up minor monotony.)

Speaking of things that might seem as though they would be monotonous, but which somehow are not, the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  I said last week that I was only twenty or so pages from the end of the latest run-through, and I’m now well into the next.  I’ll be more than halfway to the end of my usual, rather laborious process, by the time I finish this current iteration, and getting past the halfway point is always a good feeling.

Unless you count life itself, I suppose.  For most people, realizing that they are already (probably) halfway through their lives is a somewhat troubling thought.  Sometimes it’s a very troubling thought.  One readily sympathizes with their angst, particularly when one realizes that, as we grow older, our subjective sense is that time passes much more quickly.  Much of our perception of time is dependent on how much of it we’ve already experienced, so the years before us seem far less substantial than those that came before.  I can remember, when I was much younger, that being told that it was twenty minutes until dinner time felt like an almost unendurable wait.  And if it was still an hour before dinner?  It was hard not to think that I would surely starve to death.

But though I can recall the fact that I felt that way, I can’t recall the feeling itself.  Twenty minutes now feels like an eye-blink, and an hour is barely enough to get anything useful done at all, unless one applies that hour daily.  Pink Floyd captured this nicely and concisely in their song, Time:  “Every year is getting shorter/ never seem to find the time / plans that either come to naught / or half a page of scribbled lines,” as well as, “And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking / racing around to come up behind you again. / The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older / shorter of breath and one day closer to death”.

Of course, everything is a matter of scale and comparison.  Over the course of a single day, the sun may not change in a relative way, but it is older, and though its “lifespan” is measured in billions of years, it is finite.  Likewise, on even larger scales, our universe itself has a limited lifespan, enforced by the laws of nature and the inexorable tendency for entropy to increase.  There are some very good recent popular science books that deal with this, and I personally recommend two of them:  Until the End of Time, by Brian Greene, and The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack.  Both authors are working scientists who know their subject well.  Mack’s book is slightly more playful but is nonetheless clear and informative.  Greene, as usual, gets slightly deeper, but his love of the subject is unmistakable and contagious.  He uses a wonderful metaphor to try to convey the vastness of the time scales he’s discussing, asking the reader to imagine an Empire State Building in which each subsequent floor represents ten time as many years as the floor below.  The top floor is a lot of years later than the bottom floor.

And yet, as Carl Sagan first told me (and a lot of other people) in the ninth chapter/episode of Cosmos, “The Lives of the Stars”, neither a googol nor even a googolplex is any closer to infinity than is the number one.  Even the lifespan of our universe is just an eyeblink from a certain point of view*.  Of course, there may exist some grander arena, a metaverse, which is truly eternal and infinite in all possible dimensions.  I suspect that this is the case, mainly because I find it harder to conceptualize an end of actuality (What’s there at the end?  How does it know where to end?  What could it even mean for there to be nothing beyond it?) than an infinite regress.  But reality isn’t constrained by the failures of my imagination (thankfully) so that’s just a strong intuition or prediction or supposition.  I make no claim to final knowledge.

Anyway, what was I talking about again?  Oh, yeah, the changing subjective sense of time over a human lifespan.  The fact that our own sense of time changes so drastically (in a seemingly logarithmic way) over the course of our lives can lead one—or at least me—to wonder what the subjective experience of time would be for a being, like one of Tolkien’s elves, who lives a very long time, or forever.  It’s more or less pointless to think too precisely about the latter, because forever never happens, or at least it never finishes happening.  But a being that lives for many thousands or millions of years would eventually, I imagine, come to see even the rising and falling of nations as no more momentous than, say, the life of an adult mayfly, or the brief growth, sporulation, and then shriveling of toadstools after a rain.

I think it can be useful to imagine such perspectives, though I’ve found few authors who have tried really to get into the mindset of such possible characters.  Still, to see things from the long view can help us keep our own concerns in perspective.  Our petty differences can be seen to be all the pettier, our urgent ideological divisions not much deeper or more consequential than changes in fashion, and the experiences of our lives both less cataclysmic and at the same time more precious and beautiful.

With that thought, I’ll close by sharing with you a picture that I encountered on Jerry Coyne’s website, taken and shared by one of his many readers.  It’s a photograph, edited in camera** only, by Joseph Routon, who said that I was free to share it if I wanted.  I think it’s beautiful and brilliant, and I like his title for it:  Life is beautiful!  Wear a Mask!!

TTFN

Life is Beautiful! Wear a Mask!!


*In fact, if I recall correctly, in Roger Penrose’s book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind he points out that, taken from the scale of the Planck time, and the time scale of subatomic processes, the lifespan of a human is comparable to the lifespan of our universe itself.  Now that’s thought-provoking.  I was so pleased when they gave him the Nobel Prize this year.

**I mean that in the literal sense, not that it took place in a judge’s private quarters, without the press or the public present…though I in fact doubt that there were any members of the press around when he did it.

And thus the native blog of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

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.

TTFN

Do it


*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.

**Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City.