Sometime in October of this year we’ll be filing articles of incorporation for our company. We’re in California, which means we have an enormous $800 annual franchise tax bill even if we lose money that year. I wish this state would consider waiving any franchise tax fees for businesses that make less than minimum wage, because it feels like it stifles the idea of the American Dream™ when you have to pay-to-play.
By far the most frustrating part about my writing process is that so much of it relies on a word processor–and that, by the end of the day, I am so sick of staring at a computer screen that it’s very hard for me to find the energy to want to keep my reading glasses on and continue squinting at a monitor past 12 hours straight. I do try to take regular breaks to focus on things far away, but the reality of my job is that 100% of working from home involves staring at a screen in some way, shape, or form. Thankfully my roots as a longhander has ensured that my writing momentum continues mostly unabated, but I would be much more productive all around if I could just stick to using a word processor most of the time.
There’s a cognitive element of writing stories of paper. When my brain interacts with a computer, more of it becomes “involved” than if I were to simply lay on the floor with a pen and paper. But even then, I can feel all the creative parts of my mind activating, and they do so in ways that are rarely possible with the slew of distractions at my fingertips on a computer. So it would be more accurate to say that pen and paper facilitates a different kind of creative process than the computer–which, admittedly, may be more of a reflection of my lack of discipline than anything else.
I need to do something different, though. I wrote about my process in last month’s post, and it’s hard to change a process like that–especially when it has served me so well. I can do a first draft on a computer, but rarely can I finish one on a computer. Maybe I just need to try more.
Today is the 12th, and we’re about to embark on our first family vacation in over two years. the pandemic disrupted our annual plans to get everyone away from our locale for a while, and the only real “time off” we had was some extended weekends of sitting around the house and balancing the familiar comfort of air conditioning with the depressing reality of wildfire smoke and heat. We decided that this year we’ll head to the beach and not plan on anything else; if we can go to the aquarium or the zoo those will be bonuses, but our focus is primarily sitting down on the beach and just existing by the ocean for a few days.
I spent a few nights collecting all the feedback for my Rust tutorial and, finally, getting all the changes incorporated. It’s now a lot more polished and a lot easier to read, and my foray back into the Rust language has left me with many ideas for a follow-up version of this tutorial. Technical writing like this is something I’ve been doing since the first time I learned about programming; I taught myself C with a book I checked out from the public library during my freshman year of high school, and have been an autodidact in the field of computer science and programming ever since. Technical writing will always be something near and dear to my heart since I’ve yet to find a better combination of my passion for being a strong generalist across a bunch of technologies and languages, my interests in programming language theory and tool-building, and writing.
I have a backlog of stories ready to publish that don’t quite fit the needs of existing publishers. This situation has been going on for quite a while; when I was writing one particular story, I had the idea to break up each section across a whole collection of short stories. The creative goal here is to provide a set of rails for the thematic elements of each story to coast on toward the end of the collection, not necessarily tying things together, but perhaps maybe instead as a means of convincing our subconsciousness of the ultimate immutability of our own narratives. I’m not quite sure, but I do know there’s something going on there.
One thing I’ve come to accept as I’ve gotten older is that my writing doesn’t always have to be so thoroughly planned out that it makes absolute sense no matter how much you dig in and analyze it. With more life experience, I’m noticing that my writing tends to reflect life in a way that invites my imagination to the table more often than it had been with my earlier works. This feels a lot more like how life can be; if you peel back the onion layers of our experiences I rarely find simple causal relationships that I can follow from one end to the other. Maybe this is what draws me so much to speculative fiction as both a genre to read and also an art form to explore. Cast off the moorings of our imagination for a bit, then remind ourselves that this particular experience is still anchored in the fact that it’s fiction — and invite our imaginations after the fact to consider how the story might continue, change, or exist beyond the last word.
I told myself that this would not be a place where I write about my non-fiction/technical writing, but the truth is I cannot separate the forces inside me that want to write fiction form the ones that want to write tutorials and documentation. These energies coalesce naturally, and there is great discord and tension when I try to separate the two. It’s why my old mailing list just for data science and machine learning never felt quite right, and also why my strictly fiction mailing list always felt like it was missing something. I wonder if Past Me had any clue as to what Present Me was feeling when they were making Coping with Creativity. As I’ve crested the middle of my 30’s, I’m noticing that the audience for whom my work around creativity and self-expression was intended is actually not correct. I wasn’t trying to help others understand how to cope with creativity; I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to create for myself.
I wish it hadn’t taken a decade of self-reflection to figure that out, but Past Me is dead and Present Me dies at the end of every day. All I can do is try to get back on the rails so that Future Me has the opportunity to explore the train cars.
I don’t feel compelled to write here at all, but I do wonder if I would get more actual words written if I did. Interestingly, forcing me to commit to a once-monthly blog post has really made me focus on my fiction more. Not because I feel compelled to write about my life, but because knowing that there will be a new post due at the end of whatever month I’m in forces me to remind myself that I’m a writer. And writers write.
I have about a dozen short stories that are in various states of “done.” I’m excited to start sharing them with the world in the coming months.