Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tautologies

A professor once told me that the difference between a writer and someone who wants to become a writer is that a writer writes.

It was an odd day for a class. There was an assignment due which nobody, including myself, had actually bothered with. The professor had walked  in, looked around at the half of us who'd come in on time, asked us to raise hands to see how many of us had actually done the work, blinked, called us a bunch of assholes, and pointed out the room was kinda cramped. We walked across the hallway and then he played us Jacques Brel songs on his guitar for the rest of the class.

From where we were sitting, we could watch late-comers scurry into the old room, look confused, hear the singing and then wander over to where we were. His classes were often like that. He was--and apparently still is--pretty awesome that way. Then he pushed the deadline back a day or two.

He delivered that nugget of advice right after a song about capitalists and greed, and right before he launched into the next, some catchy bit of 60's-cool extremely-French fluff. It was like something out of the Dead Poet's society, one of those cool-professor moments which usually never works out well. Arnie could pull those moments off effortlessly.

Whenever the subject of doing something comes up I always come back to Arnie's tautology. A lot of the universe and how people behave seems to boil down to nonsensically-basic nuggets like that. Writer's write, for example.

You can talk about something all you want, but at the end of the day if you don't buckle down and actually do something, you're not what you're talking about. You're something else, somebody who talks about doing something, which is rather silly on the face of it.

It's easy to do, especially these days. There's a glut of information out there, way too much of it to digest. You can spend all day seeping your gray matter in it until you are saturated with info about whatever you're trying to do, using it as a sort of procrastination. You can, without leaving the comfort of your computer chair, talk with any number of people who are also not actually doing the things they're talking about doing.

It takes you to an odd place eventually. You find yourself with four thousand dollars worth of biking equipment which you wind up using maybe once a month. You know the names of at least a baker's dozen types of yoga, hundreds of postures, have a class membership, but never actually find the time to use them. You have a shelf of writers' books and dozens of blogs bookmarked about writing, but haven't written more than an eighth of your Great American Novel about the ins and outs of the online furry fetishist community.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to getting your ass in the chair and fucking doing what you're talking about. The barrier to entry of acquiring information these days makes it far too easy to procrastinate by telling yourself you're "sharpening your tools" or "acquiring information" or "looking at pictures of naked ladies" or...wait, no that's something else.

You need to go on something like an information diet, say "that's enough" and draw the line somewhere. Does this mean you should completely cut off all sources of information? Fuck no, that's like bringing a spoon to a shovel fight. You just have to realize there's a point where talk becomes talk and just jump in and start doing things.

And now I want to go find Jacques Brel songs. Thanks, random urge to talk about Arnie's Law.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Modern Man

This is a short story week, so I decided to do another Wendig flash fiction thing. The challenge was to randomly pick one song off your hard drive and make that song's title your story's title.

I got "Modern Man" by Black Flag. It's mostly about refusing to engage with mainstream society because mainstream society kinda sucks. As much as punk rock can be about anything, I guess.

I started out wanting to write something philosophical and deep, so naturally it turned into a shaggy dog story about simulated monkeys in a slightly dystopian near future. Oh, and there's math and mohawks.

Read: Modern Man.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sound And Fury

There's nothing like a big thaw in the middle of a harsh winter to remind you that an entire world exists outside your front door. I'm actually excited to see rain, which are not words you often hear coming from my mouth. And then it's right back to the usual, at least for a few more weeks. The world spins on.

Talking about the weather always reminds me of a professor I once had.

He was a new guy; came in like a March thunderstorm, full of sound and fury. He may have referred to his course as boot camp or something like it. The syllabus was full of astonishingly large projects, group and otherwise. He told us he was a terrifically harsh grader. He did everything but sweep in wearing black armor and force-choke someone in the first five minutes.

It was a lowish level graduate class, full of communications majors, who are not renowned for thriving under academic adversity. One-third of the class didn't come back for the second day. Another third quit by the end of the first week. I considered quitting, but a rather un-blonde classmate from Norway, who looked a bit like a young Teri Thatcher, burst into tears when I told her I was dropping the course and implored me not to because she had to take the class to graduate and I'd be leaving her with a pile of group work to do. I suspect she also needed the moral support. I stayed.

If there is ever danger of a war being started somewhere, I'd suggest parachuting in crying Norwegian girls. They're very persuasive.

By the middle of the next week, only six people out of twenty-eight remained. I think at that point the professor did some math and revised his approach. Our workload dropped by ninety percent. Class discussions became much more informal.

I've always wondered if he was planning that all along or if he realized that having a drop rate that high might get him a talking-to from somebody further up the bureaucratic chain? I'd like to think the first, because as it turns out he was an astonishingly cool guy who had forgotten more about cross-cultural communication and cultural differences than I'll ever learn.

Once the class changed in tone, lectures became pretty informal. The reading assignments became less of an assignment and more like you were doing Santiago a favor by reading them. He made us watch a really cool movie at one point. He's probably one of the few professors I've ever had that I'd just hang out with outside of class if I had the excuse.

One of my favorite things he ever said was when we were talking about the weather one day, during a particularly harsh stretch of the usual Michigan sturm-und-drang. When he was growing up, they'd make fun of rich white people by talking about the weather. You see, he was born and raised in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, the weather is the same every day. No seasons, really. It's much like California there. You can be pretty sure the forecast is going to be something like 85 degrees and sunny, chance of rain in the afternoon. It's as predictable as taxes, stock market crashes and Justin Bieber.

When he and his friends imitated rich folk who sat around all day discussing the weather, they were really saying rich folk, usually white, had nothing better to do. The biggest things they had to worry about was whether or not they might get slightly wet. I'm guessing they saw tourists a lot. I am also guessing these tourists tended to be snowbirds.

Because when he moved to Michigan he found out why we always talk about the weather.

If you don't talk about the weather here in Michigan, you will die. Simple survival. I've lost count of the number of times when I've first heard about an impending snow storm just from office chatter. They come up so suddenly and frequently you easily lose track or forget to check the forecast.

Also, talking about the weather here is a bit like a spectator sport. Those big lakes of ours make things unpredictable. Snow in July? Why the hell not! And then, because Santiago was a pretty damn good teacher, he segued into a pretty informative lecture about how you can never just assume seemingly-frivolous behavior is entirely frivolous when dealing with other cultures. A lot of his lectures make more sense after 15 years or so of perspective. I wish I'd taken better notes.

Anyway. Still mulling over what story I'm going to write this week. I'm very tempted to just not write one and continue on with the book. I've got quite a bit of steam going for this time of year, my energy levels and the amount of time I have devoted to doing writing. Perhaps I'll make a mini-goal--finish Act I by the end of the month. Or maybe I'll just get there when I get there.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

And So It Goes

It's strange to think I've only got three more chapters after this one before I wrap Act I. Most of the plot points I'm using (and a lot of the ones I'm not) developed over the course of eight months or so last year during my previous resolution. It feels like I've been writing Act I for...oh, about one one-hundredth of a century. A long time. Being able to stick a fork in it will feel nice. Act II is going to be really bizarre and not at all like Act I.

Things are going much faster now. Of course, now that I mention it I realize that this coming week is another short story week. And so it goes.

I'm probably going to wrap up that clone story I left off at a cliffhanger at the end of December. Either that or do something random and bizarre. Who knows. Probably not something extremely long, though--I'm itching to make progress with the book

It's always weird doing important things in small chunks. You never really think you're getting anywhere because you're too close to the process. It's only when you step back every few months that you realize you've gone a long way. When your face is buried in it you tend to lose perspective. Then you step back and realize, holy crap, I've written most of a book.

I've mentioned before that most of my philosophy of life can be summed up as "boring and consistent". If I ever need to write my own biography, that's probably going to be the title.

Big things happen because you do little things regularly. Most people don't just randomly find a hundred large laying around when they want to buy a house. They have to save a little of each paycheck over a long period of time. And nobody wakes up in shape, with six pack abs and the ability to run a marathon. They spend a little bit of time every day following a routine. Routines are the epitome of boring and consistent. It's why they're called routines, after all.

That's the damnedest thing about routines, though. At any given time, I think I'm dead broke, wasting money on crap I shouldn't be wasting money on. I think I could be working harder in the gym or eating better or writing more or writing better, spending more time with friends and family or getting more work done at work.

And then I stop, realize that the important thing is that my ass is in the chair, so to speak, and then I look back over my notes and realize I've done quite a bit over the last few years. I look at my checkbook, realize I've invested a fairly huge amount of money into my retirement accounts or I look at old workout logs and notice all my lifts are way up, my pants still fit and I can still run a mile if I need to, even though it's winter and indoor cardio sucks worse than a vacuum cleaner during a power outage.

And I read over stuff I wrote a few days ago when I was absolutely convinced I was just vomiting gouts of garbage, absolute drek, onto the page and...it's not that bad. Maybe the stuff I wrote today was drek, but the stuff I wrote yesterday was fairly solid. And so it goes.

The book is doing well. I'm pounding out about a thousand words a day now. Sometimes more, over the weekend, or when I'm on a tear, sometimes less. I'm kind of  in a groove now.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Moments Of Clarity

The natural reflex, at least if you're raised watching big budget Hollywood films, is to think that life changes all happen in one tidy package.

In the movie version of your life, where you are played by, say, a young Robert DeNiro--or more realistically, Peter Lorre--you come to a low point after having fucked up your situation in every possible way. You find yourself being rained upon in a dark alley while a dog pees on your leg and then a door opens or perhaps dawn breaks: there's a beam of light and you have a nice and tidy epiphany while your own personal theme song swells majestically. There's probably a long slow pull of the camera into the sky and then in the next scene you win the girl's heart, the pie-eating contest is a shoe-in, you've regained the use of your superpowers, whatever.

This almost never happens.

Moments of clarity rarely come in one big lump. It would be nice if everything in life fell into a neat and predictable three act package, but it doesn't. These moments tend to happen when they happen. Sometimes they come in small pieces, or lots of big ones. Sometimes the biggest changes come with no thought at all. Or sometimes they don't come at all and that makes you even more uncomfortable.

I've only really had a few. Giving up soda pop* happened almost at once. I was reading about the average amount of pop an American drinks in a week. It was one of those infographic-heavy scare articles which convey a tone of Western civilization being sucked into the Bog of Eternal Stench. Lots of frightening language. Diabetes, cancer, tooth-rotting, the works.

I did the math, realized I was drinking pop on an order of magnitude greater than the average and quit. It was diet pop, sure, but I realized that I was riding through the day on an artificial caffeine buzz and the constant ups and downs were fucking with me. My teeth weren't great at that time. I was also spending an exorbitant amount of money on the habit. So I went cold turkey. It sucked and it was pretty hard for a few days but it was worth it.

That was a Hollywood-style epiphany, I guess. Stimulus, trigger, result. Bang.

The other ones I've had, though...fitness, for example. When I turned thirty, I was pretty out of shape. I was overweight--not by a lot, but I was getting there--it hurt to kneel down or lean over. My back was constantly complaining about something. I was weak.

There was no single moment which caused me to kick my ass and get back in shape. A careless reference to my growing belly from an acquaintance. Going to a concert and seeing a really hot woman dancing up front and then realizing that I was shaped like a pear. Having a friend roll his eyes when I mentioned I was a fitness buff back in college (I was, which is why I fell back into fitness so easily). It all added up. Eventually, over the course of a year or two, I realized that not keeping in shape was prematurely aging me and that the benefits of spending a half hour a few times a week working out far outweighed an afternoon nap, or maybe an extra hour or so of video games per day.

I haven't stopped working out since, and it's been almost ten years. I've been down the not-working-out-road and it ain't pretty. It's probably added years on to my life and my general quality of life is much better.

I suppose in ten years, my decision over the last year to scale back my drinking is going to be similarly large. I don't know. It's too big at the moment for me to wrap my mind around. Alcohol's a hell of a drug and rather insidious, particularly if you have poor impulse control and a family history with it. I never let it take too much of a toll on me, especially compared to a lot of people I know, but I know that I've occasionally made bad decisions.

The decision to drink less wasn't really precipitated by any single moment. It was rather a chain of small moments--hangovers, the occasional night where I blacked out and had to reconstruct the evening so I could figure out who to apologize to in the morning. The hangovers became more frequent. Even when I didn't have a hangover, I found my body didn't feel as great, even if it had been a few days since I've had more than a beer or two that evening. I was acquiring a slow general feeling of malaise. Nothing specific, just my liver telling me not to do that shit.

If there was a tipping moment, it was probably Fourth of July. As far as benders go, it wasn't unusual. And that's what decided me to cut back. It was the fact that it wasn't unusual at all that haunted me the next day. So I told everyone who would listen that I was putting rules into place in which I would let myself drink: special occasions (once a year type things), shots with friends (within reason). For a while, I was allowing myself a drink on Friday, but I've since stopped that. Too open to abuse. Every week gives you an excuse to say "Damn, that sucked. I need a drink."

But it wasn't sudden. It was a long series of moments of clarity, each one more mundane than the last. I back-slide occasionally because I'm still figuring things out. How much I can let myself have, what occasions are okay. Where my triggers are.

Quitting was pretty hard. Much more than giving up sugary pop, diet pop, not staying in shape, any of my other resolutions.

Mostly I just kinda get angry because I really do like alcohol. It's not like being out of shape, because exercise is fun. Diet pop is, when you get down to it, really kinda gross. I occasionally get the urge to indulge, but there's always a sense of "I used to drink this garbage a lot? Why?"

Alcohol's much different in that I still like it. Even if it wasn't intoxicating, I'd drink beer. And that's kind of a problem. So, I keep the special occasion clause in play. When I do indulge, I make sure I set limits for myself. In the rare occasions I am at a bar, even if I'm not driving, I try to stay in drive-friendly condition. For example.

But nothing in my experience would make for a good movie. I never did anything to jeopardize my life or career, save for risking potential DUI's. People mostly thought I was a pretty jolly drunk. The drinking itself, on a day to day basis, wasn't out of control. If I knew I had to be somewhere, I didn't have to drink before-hand to get myself through. Never got into any fights, no jail, no DT's or anything like that.

Objectively speaking, I wasn't an alcoholic by anybody's standards. When I told my friends I was quitting or at least scaling back heavily, the general reaction was "...why? You don't have a problem." Except I kinda did, by my own standards.

It would be awful cinema. Our hero would, probably around Act II, look kinda annoyed after a hangover and then say "that's enough." Credits would roll. It would get awful reviews.

Moments of clarity are usually like that.

* I don't fully cold turkey bad habits--I still drink pop on rare occasions, like eating out. I leave that clause in as a pressure relief valve in case I need to blow off steam. It works surprisingly well.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reduction

I've decided to forgo my Tuesday morning blog posts in favor of actually working on my book. 'Tis a sad, sad day. The fifteen Russian SEO landing page search bots who regularly cruise past here will be saddened to know this. Perhaps the overworked drone in Kiev who oversees them will raise a glass of vodka in my direction.

But it had to be done. Sacrifices must be made. See you on Thursday, folks.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Swamp Zombies, Killer Trees And Life

Words are a precious commodity this weekend. I'm going into today's writing somewhat drained already.

This is the part of the blog entry where a less honest person would pretend the responsibilities of adult life had beaten them flat. I'd probably write about my arduous week in the widget yards, pounding together doodads on the factory line to be shipped off to the rust belt's vast thingamajib assembly hubs. How little Mabel and tiny Wallace had fallen afoul of the grippe and gotten a bad case of the Fenville Mumps or some such story. Maybe my long-suffering wife, Ethel, had lost her job as sub-junior attorney at Dewey, Cheatum and Howe and been forced to queue up at the dole or we'd all starve to death in this harsh and frozen northern winter. Last week was a long road of pain and tears and that's why I haven't really written much this weekend.

Nope.

I'm not married, don't have any kids I'm aware of and I've got a relatively stress-free job I enjoy. Instead...

I played Dungeons and Dragons for roughly 18 hours straight, beginning Friday night and ending sometime in the tiny hours of this morning. It was one of those sessions like you had back when you were in school, and capable of sustaining yourself on nothing but Mountain Dew, Doritos and sheer youthful exuberance, and the knowledge that you were doing something your parents would probably disapprove of, if only on the grounds that members of the gender appropriate to your personal preferences and sunlight should be involved somehow, even on a tangential basis.

Such marathons are better as an adult, and for two primary reasons: one, they are very, very rare, since the friends you are most likely to do this with and the most likely to have the stamina to make it are also the ones who have adult responsibilities. Aligning the schedules of four or five such people is like awaiting the Great Conjunction in the Dark Crystal: sometimes the orrery swings into place with a massive click, resulting in joyous celebration and weekend-long gaming...and most of the rest of the time it doesn't. The clock arms swish past each other and everyone goes on their way with a raft of apologies and excuses.

The other reason is simply that, as adults, your perspective changes. Gaming as an adolescent is often a wish fulfillment exercise. You're still in the phase of your life where playing make-believe is an exercise in trying out new clothes, figuring out what you want to become, finding what you want in life. You are not just Grondorr the Orc Barbarian, you are you in Grondorr's clothes, playing at being an adult, albeit through a sweaty junk-food fueled lens.

There's always a sense that making your way in the fantasy world is paralleling how you will make your way in the adult world. So, when your best buddy Joe backstabs your orc and sells his magic axe to the elves in exchange for a life-time supply of potions of heroism, you tend to take it somewhat personally. When the GM makes you trek through the Fetid Jungles Of Arquorr and you contract dysentery and turn into a swamp-zombie, you take that personally as well. Failure is something to be avoided, because success is important to you at that stage in life. This is why most of our early gaming experiences are of having that one fiftieth level character who couldn't die, who hobnobbed with gods and dragons and whose sole personality trait involved his ability to cleave things in twain.

As adults, we've either already found our place in life or at least know what direction in which that place lies--whether or not we can actually get there at the moment. There's a certain amount of comfort level we all have as adults with pretend failure--we tend to revel in it more. We game for the story, the ability to try out a new set of clothes, let the randomness of the rules come up with its own narrative.

In this session, set in a remixed version of the classic X2 Castle Amber module, I played a trash-talking rogue, handsome and witty, fast on his feet and with a rapier as sharp as his tongue. The first day out, I was trampled to death by a stampeding treant, got resurrected and then skewered the next day after insulting the captain of the guard's hairdo. Instead of resurrection, I was reincarnated and came back as an orc. Then I passed out after being exposed to magic gas and woke up with angel wings.

From handsome swashbuckler to flying orc in less than a day. That's the beauty of Dungeons & Dragons.

As a kid, I think violence would've happened at the table after the first death. As an adult, I view gaming as an exercise in narrative-building. Most of these events were not the result of planning. The GM mostly let the chips lie as they fell. The course of the session was determined by dice and on-the-spot decisions by the group. The fact that everything comes together in a way which creates a compelling (albeit completely insane) story is the magic of the hobby.

In other words, I'm probably not writing much today because I feel like I've already written a few dozen pages. What's that echo you hear? A dry well? Yeah, it might just be that.

I've been making good progress on the book. Cutting off all sources of internet distractions first thing in the morning is working wonders. I'll probably crank out a few words today and call it good. I don't believe I have much in the way of social obligations this coming weekend, so I can scent the telltale whiff of a few chapters getting written. Hopefully I won't get crunched by a panic-stricken tree while doing it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Things That Matter

Nihilism usually gets a bad rap.

You bring up the word in mixed company and most people simply laugh. For good reason, I guess--this scene rocks.

"We believe in nothing!" is probably the phrase that gets quoted the most. If not that, then people use the word in a negative context, to denote a life without meaning. Nihilists are suicidal types, mopey people who loiter around in graveyards, who wouldn't know a life worth living if it grabbed them by the ears and gave their thought-boxes a hefty shake. They believe in nothing, that everything is worthless. That view couldn't be more wrong.

At its heart, nihilism is something of a minimalist movement. The thought that nothing exists but that we make it so is a powerful one.

It assumes our life and minds are a closet full of stuff and we are free, if we know that we can, to sort through all this garbage and give it a good shaking out every once in a while. Among other things, of course. It's hard to reduce a school of thought to just one sentence.

Way back when, when I was a wee sprog, fresh out of high school and convinced I knew everything, I took a college course in Russian literature. It may have also been history. It's been a while and I forget. I digress, however. The topic of nihilists came up, because they are a thing in Russian history, particularly in the late 19th century.

The professor quoted one of them, to the effect of "If you see a thing, lash out to your left, lash out to your right. If it still stands, it has value and you must keep it."

At the time, I took that as a fairly frightening quote, a thing a terrorist might say. I thought it was a dreadfully combative way to approach life, destroying things and only keeping their shattered remnants. These nihilists, I thought, must be horrible people.

After twenty years, it's something I take to heart.

I constantly test things in my life, see whether they stand up to a simple battery of questions: does this add value to my life? Does it align with my goals? Does it help make me the person I hope I actually am when I look at myself in the mirror? Does it actually make me happy?

And when I say "things" I mean things in a very broad context. That extra stapler you have, your spare television, your collection of badger-themed saltshakers. Cars and jet skis, spare shoes and garden gnomes, sure. But it's more than that: habits, things you do, people you know, your job and your goals, the way you treat other people in all the minutia of your life. Everything.

It's amazing just how much of reality is constructed. Yes, I know that sounds like bullshit, you can't reconstruct, say, your hand getting lopped off in a horrible industrial accident. You can, however, accept that there are such things as toxic influences and take steps to minimize them and there are good things you can do that you can take the time to nurture and to support.

It's an interesting exercise to pare down your life. You pull out your flensing knife and you slice away cruft. The big things at first: that friend who only hangs out with you because they want a binge-drinking partner. That pile of sweaters in a box in your closet which you never wear. You get rid of that habit you have of going out to eat on Thursday night which you no longer take pleasure in. You sell off a bunch of books you never read anymore.

You go to bed. You wake up refreshed, more than ever, because you realize it was all baggage. You pull out the knife again. You dig into your closet and you find a toaster, which against all accountability and common sense, you've kept there even though you have a decent toaster already and don't actually need a backup one. You donate it. You go to work, realize that you fill your mornings with busy-work you can automate or delegate. You've only been doing it to avoid the real work which you find more fulfilling but you never seem to find the time to dive into.

You slice again. The more you pare away, the more you strike to see whether or not it stands, the more you find out about who you actually are.

Minimalism and, by extension, nihilism is more about efficiency than destruction.

You've only got so much time in your life. You have, if you're thirty years old, say, a finite number of heart beats before your ticker stops and you expire. If you live to be eighty and have an average heart beat rate of 60 bpm, this comes out to roughly 1,576,800,000 heart beats. If you spend one of them doing something, you should be careful it's something that aligns with every one of your goals--whether that's to be a successful writer, or a better person, a better parent, whatever. Time is the only thing in life you cannot get back.

When you're a nihilist, you're constantly reinventing yourself, making sure you're not chaining yourself down with useless shit which clouds the waters and prevents you from seeing the things that matter. So, yeah, I think it gets a bad rap. Also, I really like marmots.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Going Nuclear

One of the more interesting books I've read in the last year was "The Four Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferris. It's one of those polarizing books which starts arguments amongst people who've read it.

Honestly, it's something of a mixed bag. Ferris made his name in the fitness industry, selling supplements. He has a bit of reputation as something of a bullshit artist. Nice guy, just a bullshit artist.

The thesis of it all is the "four hour work week" and it gives a step-by-step guide on how to untether from your traditional job and move to having a lot more free time to pursue your own personal interests. It's largely bullshit. Most jobs worth having tend to require a lot of physical presence, for one thing. The book seems to be more of a blueprint for becoming a bush-league entrepreneur, which may or may not be what you want out of life. It also assumes you're good with money and don't have much in the way of debt or big obligations. I resemble most of the bullet points on his list of assumptions, so I found it valuable. Most peoples' mileage can and does vary.

The value of the book, I've found, is more in the details than the thesis. There's a ton of advice on automating annoying shit, managing your time and, in general sorting out your life so you're more in control of things. Ferris is a big fan of making annoying and time-wasting work either go away or become someone else's problem. I'd recommend reading it for that alone. Well, for that and for his advice on goal-setting and achieving. And the fact that the book is just a good read. He's occasionally pretty hilarious. And the book itself is rather upbeat and good at making you take a hard look at your life.

One of his productivity tips is to set a time when you're working and then install a website blocker to your browser to aggressively stomp out all the websites you're using to distract yourself. Having tried it for a couple of days now, I can tell you THIS WORKS LIKE A CHARM.

I'm using StayFocusd. In spite of the hilariously Web 2.0 type name, it works exactly as advertised. I'm using the "Go Nuclear" option to block the top five sites I spend way too much time on between the hours of six and eight in the morning. Amazing just how much more writing you get done when you CAN'T pop off every five minutes or so to check up on your news feed.

It's very liberating. I mean, it's not as if news will stop happening when I don't follow it. It's a little embarrassing, though, that I need a program to short circuit my monkey brain from sabotaging my own progress. Ook, ook, I guess.

Also, I just brewed THE COFFEE OF THE GODS this morning. I immediately wrote down what I did. Hopefully I can replicate it. This isn't Reinstein and the super soldier serum. I can make this coffee happen more than once. There's always a bit of doubt in the back of your head when you say that about Chemex brewing, though. It's fiddly, but rewarding.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog's Day

I think I need to be more stringent about writing every day.

When I actually do sit down to write, my natural urge is to just blast out thousands of words, until I'm an exhausted shell of a man, a grinning skeleton with burning fingers surrounded by drifts of paper and empty coffee mugs. This would be bad. I think the sweet spot for me is about two or three thousand words in one go. Any less than that and I have a hard time keeping narrative focus. Any more than that and I drain the well. Also bad.

You have to find your balance. Ideally, you should always step away from the day's session feeling like you have a little left in you--that seed will germinate overnight and flower. When you come back to it, you'll be ready and enthusiastic. If you push things, go too far, you'll hurt yourself, get burnt out or write a lot of things you'll have to rewrite later on, because it's crap.

Write too little and nothing gets done. You get discouraged, feel that you're not making any progress. Worse, you take so long you keep changing direction because the writer that you are now is not the writer you'll be in six months. Not necessarily better, just different.

Anyhow, I tend to waste too much time in the morning before work reading news. I usually have an hour or so I spend sipping coffee and reading. On the days that I blog I have no problem blogging--I need to harness the power of my need to pontificate towards actually doing something productive with my pre-work morning time. So, here's a mini-resolution: stop dicking around on the internet every morning and write something instead. News-reading is useful, yes, but a fairly empty expenditure of time.

Mostly I just want to get through this damn book so I can get on to my next book. It's kind of a terrible thing to think, like you're a little tired of raising this baby and want to get on with raising the next, but it's a true thing. I'll probably think differently in a day or two. It helps that I'm actually in new parts of the story now and not having to rewrite a whole lot of stuff I've previously written.