Trains are pretty amazing, when you think about it.
You’ve got several tons of steel on a couple of rails, and be it through steam power or electricity, this monstrosity of metal can speed along at quite a good clip. It carries quite a few people from one place to another, more directly than some other means of transportation, isn’t as costly as air travel and, in the case of electrics, is better for the environment. Back in the days of the coal-powered locomotive, getting a decent pace going required building up what was called ‘a good head of steam.’
I feel like I’m doing that with the novel.
I have a little notebook from the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, and it’s slowly getting filled with the ongoing adventures of Asherian and his friends. I’m currently tearing through one of the action scenes in the story, down in the dark dwarven tunnels. Character and world building has proceeded better than I thought it would so far, and hopefully the fact that none of it has felt boring to write will mean it’s not boring to read, either.
It’s due in no small part to this train, right here.
Even if I don’t transcribe my jotted narrative scribbles right away, I still have that big of internal knowledge that I’m writing every day, making progress. As the train pulls into the station, I’m building characters. As it hurtles along to its destination, I’m debating the morality of and impetus for open warefare. The train takes on more passengers as I describe subterranian spiders and the efforts of Asherian and his companions to stay alive and uneaten. It’s a lot more than I ever got done with my commute while sitting in traffic.
I hope i can keep the head of steam up for the foreseeable future. It’d be nice to finish the first draft before the Philly Writer’s Conference in June.
Some people are good at just one thing. There’s nothing wrong with this. While you don’t want to over-emphasize specialization in any endeavor, as you never know when something outside of your specialization is going to come along and topple your entire plan, trying to be good at everything usually means you’re just mediocre in most ways and don’t excel in any way.
Most, however, aren’t. They have passions, talents and drive that go beyond normal expectations. A good deal of sane people dedicate themselves to a particular career path – “I want to be the best cheese salesman in the history of dairy products!” – but it’s a vary rare individual who’s capable of selling cheese for every hour of every day they happen to be conscious. Humans need to have a break now and again, to eat or rest or use the lavatory. Even if one is so wired for selling cheese that they want to sell cheese every waking minute, others might not be inclined to buy cheese meaning those cheese wheels will be spinning with no forward motion for that period of time. And what if the cheese salesman really doesn’t want to be selling cheese? They might have to, just to make ends meet, but what they really want to be doing is following in the footsteps of Hunter S. Thompson even when they stumble about the place because he was hopped up on something. Or several somethings.
My point is, what we do with our time on a daily basis isn’t necessarily what we want to be doing or what we love doing. I know some people who are blessed to be able to do what they love every day all day as their vocation, even when it’s a struggle to do so. It shouldn’t be a struggle, in a perfect world, but it is and I think I have an inkling as to why.
The world in which we live isn’t based on doing what we love, but rather what makes us useful. The corporate machine needs many, many cogs to continue operating smoothly. A corporate executive needs an expensive car to drive in order to show his status. The car salesman is happy to sell that car because his wife is concerned about her appearance and frequents the local spa. The owner of the spa wants to get more salesmen’s wives in and knows they spend time on the Internet. The spa owner’s Internet company helps him maintain his site, and so on and so forth. If the salesman’s wife were suddenly to take up painting rather than frequenting the spa, for example, the whole system might collapse.
It wouldn’t, but it might, and so the system rails against this creative desire by advertising more distracting and degrading things. It distracts with shiny objects geared to be of interest to the audience, and degrades by suggesting that not owning said things makes the viewer less of a person. “Do the trick you’re required to do,” they say, “and you’ll be rewarded with these things. Do something else and not only will you be unable to enjoy these rewards, but society itself will conspire against you in the form of rising gas prices, exorbitant communication fees and unforgiving landlords.”
It’s from here that the struggle arises. We are not one-trick ponies meant to cantor for the amusement of those holding the golden strings of corporate purses, yet those purses often remain closed to those who refuse to entirely conform. Some willful and determined animals are capable of breaking from the pack and running free despite being hunted by the wranglers of corporate greed and soul-grinding utility billing. Some give up and wander with the pack with no real idea of where they’re going. And some struggle against their restraints because freedom is too precious a commodity to be purchased with money, fear or a twisted and warped vision of the self sponsored by cosmetics companies and beer distributors.
I’m probably blowing things out of proportion. I’m given to hyperbole, after all, since I tend to think in terms of fiction involving space ships, wizards, steam-powered robots and vampires that don’t sparkle in the sunlight. Still, the point I’ve been hysterically gesticulating verbally at remains that we are not one-trick ponies. No matter what the advertisements, status quo or your boss might say, there’s no need to tread the same ground over and over again after the whistle blows. Find the seed of your passion, place it in fertile ground and shelter it from the elements. If it happens to grow into your daily life to shore up what you do for most of the daylight hours (or nighttime for you third-shifters), so much the better. If it grows in a different direction, let it. It might lead you someplace wonderful.
You’ll never know unless you try, and once you start trying, don’t stop. The greatest disservice you could ever do to yourself is letting the thing that makes you come alive starve to death while you’re totaling up your billable hours.
I’m taking a cue from Ye Olde Magick Speaking Beardface and just putting down some words about life in general at this point. I only have one real creative work in progress at the moment, which is more than enough considering everything that’s going on.
“Who’re you calling a program, program?”*
Right, first things first. The day job is keeping the roof over our heads (until we move to a new one in a couple months) and food in the pantry. I’m moving positions, shifting away from phone-answering bug-squishing troubleshooting to code-chomping cart-rolling Flash-AAHHHH-“savior of the universe”ing programming. It’s not a promotion, mind you, more of a lateral, semi-upwards shift in responsibilities and protocol. Still, it’s in improvement. I have a few things to square away in my current workload before the move is official, but it’s forward motion. By focusing on PHP, SQL and my already pretty extensive Flash skills, and leaving the ever-shifting environments of up-front client relations behind, I think I’ll not only become far more valuable to the company, but also start enjoying work a bit more overall.
The Project Marches On
I’m trying to crack open the manuscript for the Project and drop a few words in every day. Sometimes it’s more than a thousand, or even two or three. Others I’m lucky to get a couple dozen in there. But any motion is forward motion, and I’m trying to keep my spirits up. I know where I’m going with this plot, and I’m aware that some places might be a bit slower than others. If my setting had ninjas, I’d have them attack any time I was in doubt about what to have happen next. Ninjas are always cool.
“Did we just threaten someone with zombie rape?”
Tonight’s another session of the awesome Iron Kingdoms game being run by my wife. Our team (myself, David Hill and his lovely wife Filamena) have sort of become a steampunk version of Burn Notice. Dave’s noble never kills unless he has to, Mena’s gun mage is on the lookout for the next opportunity, and my rifleman sees violence as a direct solution to most enemy encounters. …Which pretty much makes me the Fiona.
Property of BioWare
I’m playing through Mass Effect again. Call me boring or easy to please if you like, but I have achievements to get, a whole other gender to experience (since Shepard can be either male or female) and situations to set up for future games. Once I get where I want in the first game, I’ll be playing the second again. And I also have things I want to do with Dragon Age, as well. Again, this probably points to me being dull, but in retrospect I feel this is a better way to spend my time than playing Star Trek Online for the time being. That and BioWare isn’t charging me $15 a month just to play their games.
And then there’s this stuff.
Taxes, bills, finding a new apartment that doesn’t suck, getting cats to a vet sometime in the near future… being a grown up sure is fun, isn’t it?
*If you know this reference you officially rock my socks.
So that idea I mentioned in yesterday’s IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! podcast? I got it off the ground. I actually got off my ass and tried something new. Basically, the idea goes something like this.
There are a lot of podcasts out there that get awfully boring awfully fast. I enjoy podcasting, but just because I enjoy talking about stuff that’s interesting to me doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be interested in listening to me talk about it. So why not open up the forum for people to contribute by sending me ideas? I mean, I don’t want to be boring and you don’t want to be bored. And you’re probably going to be more interested in what you’re hearing if you had a hand in making somebody talk about it. Give folks the keys to the city, so to speak, and let them vote on what’ll be discussed. One could even open up the possibility of having people donate to put weight behind their vote.
So I picked a song that’s freely available for some opening & closing music, brewed up a cup of tea, and blathered the first thing out. Oh, the other gimmick? Unscripted, unrehearsed, unedited. A little raw, as it were. Getting the creative goods directly from the source without worrying about little hiccups or snags. A more conversational experience, rather than me acting like a professional on a pedestal dispensing precious knowledge to you peons below.