Well, you wouldn’t think it would catch me by surprise—it’s something that happens every month, after all, in an entirely predictable fashion—but I didn’t realize until this morning that today was the second Thursday of October and is thus the “official” day for me to write an episode of “My heroes have always been villains.” Obviously, since I wasn’t thinking about it, I haven’t given a second’s thought to what villain I should discuss today. Rather than pick a random baddie from my memory’s hat and produce an off-the-cuff essay on him or her, I’ll push that project back until next week or next month. I apologize if anyone out there was looking forward to a new episode today. Then again, if there are such people, I haven’t heard from them; I’d be quite gratified if you’d make yourself or yourselves known. I can exculpate myself a bit for my oversight by admitting that I’ve been rather worn down, tired, and slightly ill, this week (see my IoZ entry here for a brief discussion of the nature and effects of my troubles with insomnia), so I’m behind my mental curve.
Even as I wrote that last sentence, I realized that I’ve often made comment in these, my public venues, about being under the weather. Now, I don’t think that I’m too whiny and hypochondriacal, as a general rule, but I certainly don’t seem to operate at my physical optimum much of the time. It’s a problem that I need to keep in mind, going forward.
I will say this, in tangential reference to the above issue: I’m glad that I decided to put my audio productions on indefinite hiatus. It’s a melancholy gladness, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, because I really do like those audio productions, and if you’re interested you’re welcome to partake of the ones I’ve made, either here, or on my YouTube channel. But making them requires a lot of mental energy and physical time. Since putting the audios on pause, I’ve gotten more writing done on Unanimity, and I’ve worked steadily on my two other short stories during the the hours I would have spent recording and editing the audio, leading to an increased total output of about five pages a day versus only three on average (or roughly 2500 words versus 1500) before. This is a serious improvement.
It would be nice to be able to do all this full-time, instead of in the interstices between actions of daily necessity required to put food on the table, so to speak. Then I could write just as much and still make my audio files, which would be a lot of fun. I hope someday to reach that state, but I obviously haven’t done it yet.
Unanimity goes well, though, and is honestly approaching its climax and resolution (I swear! No, really!). I still expect—if I work on it as steadily as I ought—its first draft to be finished before the end of the year, and probably well before that long novel is ready to be published, I’ll release one or both of the short stories I’m working on, Penal Colony and In the Shade.
It’s amazing how something can take so many hours, so much effort, and yet yield a product that can be consumed within the course of, say, a few days for a novel, or at most an hour or two for a short story. It would be nice if I could give the readers of my work as much lasting entertainment as I get durable engagement from producing them, but I guess that’s the nature of all creative arts. Even a small, independent film is created through untold hours of effort by astonishing numbers of people, to be then enjoyed within the space of two hours. A great painting or sculpture can take perhaps less total work, but is then enjoyed in mere tiny, minutes-long chunks by even the most passionate enthusiasts of the arts.
I wonder how many people would have to read my books to make the “man-hours” of reading surpass the man-hours of production; it’s a hurdle I’d love to cross with all my stories. I don’t know if anyone’s done the math on such a question—I assume that the numbers would be different for different people and different works—but if they have, I’d love to know about it. I’m sure that Stephen King, for instance, passed that milestone decades ago. He probably passed it with Carrie, and I doubt that he’s ever caught up in the time since, despite the staggering pace at which he writes. To match such an outcome is a high bar for anyone to set, but as I’ve long said, only those who attempt the impossible can achieve the unbelievable.
And now, I think that will just about do it for today. I’ll say, tentatively at least, that I’m going to put off the next episode of “My heroes have always been villains” until November, unless I receive any complaints or protests from those who don’t want to wait.
I’ll close with an exhortation—probably preaching to the converted, but there it is—that you all be cautious of falling prey too much, too often, to the easy distractions of videos and memes and other short-attention forms of entertainment. Keep reading. Read “real” books, read e-books (they’re just two forms of the same thing), read fiction and nonfiction, read articles and blogs, read poems, read plays, but do keep reading. Written language is the lifeblood of civilization, and stories are the default mode of human thought (or so it seems). To read, and to write, are affirmations of and contributions to the health and longevity of the human project and are well worth anyone’s time.
So I am convinced. I may, perhaps, be biased.