I can scarcely believe it’s been 18 months since I last published something on this blog. I swore not to do any more of these “oh look how long its been I promise to write more soon” bullshit posts, so I suppose that’s probably why. What you don’t see, is the mountain of unfinished drafts that have been started in the interim, but which have not yet achieved a degree of quality or completion yet that I feel they’re ready for the great wild web.
So here we are. I’m still trying to write, and code games. I have a new day-job, web development, but I’m still working on pretty much all the things I was working on at the start of 2018. Scratch that, at the start of 2017 things didn’t look all that different. It’s tough to maintain momentum. But if talking about it will help, perhaps this is what I need.
The most significant thing that has happened is that I have gained a daughter; Lucy and I are now proud parents. That might seem to put stagnating timescales of personal projects into perspective, but as she’s only been around for a month or so I don’t think that’s fair on her.
Life, uh… finds a way I guess. Of getting in the way. One way or the other.
But I feel optimistic. Parenthood is an exciting time, and honestly, it is no exaggeration to say I am inspired every day. I never claimed to be the greatest person at time management. But perhaps, if I could just improve it a little, the fruits of all the years of work on so many projects might start to at least see the light of day.
Well, I failed NaNoWriMo.
Okay, so “failed” isn’t the most constructive word to use, but I am feeling somewhat masochistic and in need of a stern talking to. This has been a difficult year for me, but I feel I’ve been making a few too many excuses. I’ve been made redundant, headed out onto the hostile airless moon that is Self-Employment, and I published my first book; which nobody knows about and I’m struggling to figure out how to make people know about it. But I am free; what more do I need?
I thought that with my workday effectively under my control, I’d be able to negotiate with myself to get the necessary time I need to write 1,667 words a day (or sixteen-and-a-half centiwords, as I have started to think of it). Problem is, that amount of time with me is a bit long, it would seem. Something like 4-5 hours, most days. Which makes the challenge at best a 150-hour commitment that earns me exactly zero toward my monthly deficit of bills.
This has been a big week for me.
Back in something like 2003, I was laying on my back, looking up at an angled skylight and seeing only lightly clouded sky. I found myself wondering: what if that was down? What would it be like to live in a world where the sky was like an endless ocean, above and around you? Where you travelled in airships between floating cities, like islands in the vast blue void?
Eulogies really aren’t my thing, especially not when they pertain to people who are very well known by the general public and not personally known by me (which, let’s face it, are usually the same thing). However, I make an exception here in that I’d like to mark the passing of Terry Pratchett in a way that I failed to do with the death of another of my literary heroes, Ian Banks, last year.
As a child, I greatly enjoyed reading about fantastical worlds. A few books from my early years have stuck with me, but none so much as Pratchett’s Bromeliad/Nomes trilogy and his Johnny Maxwell series, particularly Only You Can Save Mankind; in which the main character plays a spaceflight simulator game only to discover that it’s actually taking place in a faraway galaxy. I also read a few of the Discworld novels and will doubtlessly read more of them in the future, but the Nomes and Johnny were the biggest influence Pratchett had on me (and certainly on my upcoming novel Chronozone Zero).
So I’d like to just take a moment to say a quiet thanks to him for that. I only wish I could have had the chance to meet him.
” A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called ‘leaves’) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person – perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic. “
– Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)
Came across this yesterday; seems all the more poignant now that Sagan himself is speaking to us beyond his time.
I recently realised that I haven’t made any posts for a good long while. This is always the way of these things; after a gap, you feel the need to do something worth the wait, which only worsens the problem. New Year provides a useful occasion to carry on like nothing happened (or in this case, did happen).
So, Twenty-Fifteen, eh? We meet at last.
It’s shaping up to be a busy year. First up, in February I am pushing a new initiative I made up on the spot: Finish a Novel Feb. Specifically, I am looking to finish Chronozone. NaNoWriMo is all well and good for creating loads of rough, unfinished drafts but, well, it seems I can do that pretty well already. So come Feb, I will be committing to complete the draft of Chronozone Zero.
It’s not an initiative that’s going to catch on or anything; hardly a challenge worth a website for; but it will get me where I want to go. Wish me luck.
A lot of the famous and successful writers you come across describe themselves as being obsessive or living to write. It makes sense, of course. If you spend each waking hour with the written word, you ought to be pretty good with them.
If I’m honest, though, that’s not really me. I hugely enjoy writing, but it isn’t my raison d’etre. Mostly, I just get too distracted by all the other awesome-cool vocations out there that I can’t decide what I like more. Sometimes this makes me wonder: can you be successful with a divided attention?
If you focus on your vocation, you will obviously further your skills in it. So it stands to reason, taking only this into account, that the best writers will be those that work hardest and longest at their craft. And to a degree, this is true. Does this mean those of us that are undecided or took a while to find the right thing are destined to be hopeless “masters of none”?
Nope! As much as this fear sometimes nags me, it’s worth remembering that there’s more to writing than a proficiency with language- just as there is more to art than shading techniques or volumetric form. When we create, we draw upon all areas of who we are and what we know. A breadth of knowledge is as important as the depth of it.
My many hours of flying give me a pilot’s knowledge on my works. As an artist I have a vivid visual sense of the world I’m writing (and will sometimes use drawing to work through ideas). My understanding of games and emergent systems affects how I build plots and implement causality.
You do need to put in a lot of hard work to excel at any craft worth doing, but don’t be afraid to diversify a little, too. It’s what makes your work yours.
So earlier this week I released the preview version of my first novel, Cloudgazer, somewhat low-key as it’s still in draft 5 and only the first 8 chapters are up for feedback. But it’s been quite exciting just in this short time, starting to discuss with people the characters and plot points that I’ve been working on for over ten years. So if you’re curious, check out the link above and grab the PDF for your e-reader of choice. All feedback and critique welcome. At this stage there are still probably several misspellings & typos, but I’m mostly interested in how people feel about the tone and pacing and the like.
I’m missing out on the fun of NaNoWriMo again this year. It’s hard to keep writing, sometimes. I find it all too easy to just want everything to be perfect and never let it out. But you have to keep writing. Because the alternative is stopping. That sounds obvious, but it’s something I have to remind myself from time to time. Keep on writing, even if everyone seems to disagree with you. Keep on writing, even if you think nothing will become of it.
Here’s a toast to anyone too busy trying to finish something to start something new this month.