Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valor of my blog

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday, of course, and therefore it’s just about the perfect day for another of my weekly blog posts.

I still struggle to get a pattern rolling for Iterations of Zero.  I thought of a way to make use of “idle” time to do longer form “Audio Blog” entries that might become a regular feature, but my first attempt was met with static and road noise.  If you’re interested in hearing more about that—literally—then by all means, listen to the follow-up audio blog I did yesterday for IoZ.  I think it’s worth your time if even just for my description of various social media as…well, let’s not spoil the joke.

Of course, out in the wide world, things proceed as absurdly as always.  Viruses, both literal and memetic, trouble us all.  This is not always a terrible thing.  While it’s hard to see Covid-19 as having much of an up-side, if it forces us to be better prepared for future, still more virulent pathogens—which are all but inevitable, given the enormous and lovely petri dish the human race instantiates for pathogens of all types—then perhaps it will be a net good in the long run.  It would be nice if humans could learn without having to be hit in the face with disease and death, but the principle of least action seems to apply at all levels of nature.  As for the societal, memetic flare-up, though rooted in a real tragedy, it is much more a positive happening.  Some things, thoughts, and people—probably all of us—need to be troubled from time to time.

More pivotal to me personally, though, is that the final run-through of Unanimity is going well.  We’re* working on layout and pacing, deciding how to divide up the sections and chapters of such a long work, as well as developing the cover design.  This all tends to go pretty well when I write books.  My biggest failing is that I have trouble advertising/promoting myself and my work.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it feels almost unseemly to me to tout my own products.  I feel not just embarrassed but often ashamed when I try to shout my own praises.  It’s a strange thing, and I don’t know if the area under the curve of that function is net-positive or net-negative, but at this moment in history, we can at least say it’s not “presidential”.  I need to improve it, though, because I have books and music that I really would like people to read and hear.

One of the things that most makes me hesitant about bigging myself up, as they say**, is that I fear that I’d very easily go too far and veer toward full Khan/Kanye/Doom/Trump mode once I got started, and there are already enough people in the world who think I’m an asshole.  But perhaps I worry too much about such things.  For a time, in high school, I was able to pull off being faux-egotistical as a self-parody of sorts, and it worked quite well (I think).  But, of course, high school is a time of immense possibility, and I was younger then***.  Still, if I could work that persona up, or some acceptable version of a similar process, it might be useful.

I’ll have to think about it.  Your input would be welcome.

There’s not a whole lot more to add.  I’m continuing to practice guitar and to develop a few original songs.  I’m also working on an arrangement of the old, beautiful song “Come Little Leaves” and my version of the Joker’s song from The Killing Joke has long since been complete except for the actual recording.  Both of these could stand to be heard, in my opinion.  Of course, the latter is nothing I could ever produce for profit—unless I left the lyrics out, I suppose.  The music is all me.  I think “Come Little Leaves” might actually be in the public domain, since the original poem, at least, came out in the early nineteen-twenties.  I’m not sure it would fit in with the other songs on my imagined “album”, however.  Though it has a vaguely melancholy feel, and is in a minor key, it is a hauntingly beautiful and ultimately positive song, whereas my work tends to be a bit dark.

Oh, well, time enough for these decisions to be made as and if they happen.  Unanimity remains my top priority, and it is happily speeding toward release, possibly by the end of the summer, but more likely in the autumn…which is, after all, the perfect time for a long, dark story to be told.

TTFN


*This refers to me and my creative team, including but not limited to Trevor Smith, Nathan Talbert, and Franklin L. Ritemoore.  I thought they deserved some credit.

**They do say that somewhere, don’t they?

***Duh.

I once did hold it, as our statists do, a baseness to blog fair

gibbon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  As is often the case when I start writing a blog entry, I really don’t know what I’m going to “talk” about.  Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view) that rarely stops me from putting a great many words down in short order.

This seems a common tendency in both writing and speaking.  In fact, it seems to be more common in speaking than in writing, though I myself (you know:  me…the guy writing this blog) tend to be a bit reticent in social settings, unless ethanol-containing beverages have been consumed.  I was raised on the aphorism, attributed to Mark Twain, that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  I’m sure that there are many who would wish that I had followed this idea more assiduously.

The fear of being thought a fool does bring one to an interesting converse, or corollary, to the above-noted garrulousness of those who have nothing of substance to convey, and that is the human tendency to find it difficult to speak (or to write) when it’s important.  This isn’t universal, perhaps, but who among you cannot recall a time when you really liked some member of the appropriate gender and wanted to express that feeling (and perhaps ask said person out on a date) but found it impossible to say anything that was discernible from the babbling of an epileptic gibbon?  Many a comedy, both real and fictional, has highlighted such situations; alas, so have quite a few tragedies.

I suspect that this is born of the inherent perfectionism we all tend to embrace when trying to communicate something that’s important to us.  When what we say really matters, when we feel that it is crucial, we want our communication to be absolutely perfect…or we feel that it ought to be, anyway.  Those of you who have ever written term papers in school or university can surely appreciate that horrible sense that if it’s not perfect, or nearly so, then it’s simply horrible.

But of course, such perfection seems impossible to define, let alone to achieve, even by the greatest among us.  Upon occasion—Blasphemy Alert!—I’ve even read Shakespeare and had the sneaking thought that he could have written some particular line better than he did.  I might even, when feeling particularly cheeky, imagine that I’ve seen such a better way.  I hastily defend my humility in such instances by declaring that the line’s imperfection must have been the fault of the transcribing player who recorded it, not Shakespeare himself, hallowed be his name.

Actually, I don’t do that.  Nor do I imagine that everyone would agree with my suggested improvement, nor on which lines could be improved.  It’s simply the case that even Shakespeare was not perfect—whatever that means.

There are even people—yes, people of intelligence and good taste—who don’t much like Shakespeare.  Really.  It’s true.  I’ve met them.  They’re not monsters, nor are they insane (if you can believe it).  They’re ordinary, decent people.

My point is, perfection in communication isn’t even definable let alone achievable, so it’s curious that we get so hung up on stumbling over our words when we try to convey something important.  When we’re less wound up about it, we seem instinctively to recognize that conversation is like a sketch.  It doesn’t matter if a particular stroke of the pencil isn’t exactly right, because you’re just going to modify it with the next stroke anyway, and gradually you’re going to add and adjust until you get your point across…or until you fail to do so.  Even the overuse of metaphor and simile can still achieve some kind of communication.

That’s why I don’t subscribe to the nonsensical goal of sitting down and writing the “best sentence,” the “truest sentence”* you can write.  When I’m writing (be it a blog post, or a short story, or a novel, or a poem, or a song), I take the approach just to fucking write something.  Get something out onto the page, or the LCD screen.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It won’t be perfect.  In fact, no matter how much you edit it or improve it, it won’t ever be perfect…but it can get better.  You’re not stuck with what you first get out, you can fix and tweak and adjust it as often as you want…sometimes until you’re so bored with it that you don’t give a shit whether it’s good, let alone whether it’s perfect or not.

I sometimes think that this is the ultimate state of most shared works of art.  The artists finally get sick of working on them and just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, fine, that’s good enough.  Or not.  I don’t care, I’m done with it.  Get it out of my sight!”

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but I think that’s a good attitude to cultivate, at least if you’re a member of the legion of creative people with performance anxiety born of an innate (or learned) perfectionism.  Nothing is going to be expressed perfectly.

When you go up and talk to the girl (for instance) that you like, you may stumble over your words—indeed, you may literally stumble—your voice may crack, and you may say something utterly inane.  You probably will.  But that’s okay.  That’s just the first stroke of the pencil; the full work of art is just getting started.  The target of your affection might even find your incoherence charming**.  She might even like the way you mix and overuse metaphors!  But if you don’t say anything, then nothing at all will happen (except personal regret and self-loathing, which are overrated).

I don’t know where to go next with this, and I suspect that I’ve said all that’s useful to say about it for now…except, perhaps, to add my own correction to the irritating, related notion that “practice makes perfect.”  It doesn’t.  But it does make you better.  Indeed, the very fact that improvement is open-ended, with no practical limits, is more exciting than the notion of becoming perfect at something.  If perfection were attainable, there would be nowhere to go but down from there.  But as it stands, we can always get better and better, without limit, for as long as we’re able to do anything at all, if we keep trying.  But we do have to try; we have to say or do something.  And we’re not going to do that if we wait until we have something “perfect” to say.

TTFN


*I don’t even remember who said or wrote words to that effect.  That’s how anti-important I found the idea.

**And she might not.  This is the real world, after all, and sometimes the person you like just doesn’t reciprocate.  Likewise, not everyone will like every story, or article, or painting, or song, or sculpture, or whatever.  Universal popularity is at least as great a phantasm as perfection.