Making my blogging system faster by doing less.
For some years now, I've been running my blog using a software project I wrote myself in Python, which I call M2 for short. (Actually, I should call it M4 ... ehh, it's a long story.) I've rewritten M2 completely once, mainly to apply all the things I learned about Python and programming along the way since I started. For all the guff Python gets about being a slow language, it's typically more than fast enough for any job that isn't specifically about computation. For jobs that are about computation, there are libraries one can reach for to pave over that gap. In my case, when M2 has been slow, it hasn't been because of Python; it's been because I run it on shared hosting with significant constraints on CPU and I/O. It's not because Python itself is too slow for the job.
In a field that's trend-driven, all the most interesting and truly groundbreaking work can only come from the fringes.
I've long felt the main problems with SF&F are things that stem from the perverse incentives created by publishing. Publishing's a business with disgustingly small profit margins, so experimentation and risk are discouraged. At the very least, you want to make back your investment or minimize your losses; at the most, you want to sell millions of copies or have your work turned into a major multimedia franchise.
I've got one of those projects in mind that needs paring down.
This might be familiar to some of you. Right now one of the projects on my rear burner, Absolute Elsewhere, is looking less like one book, and more and more like it's two, three, possibly four books, all being forced to coexist badly. And not in the sense that I just have to break it into volumes, but in the sense that the whole sweep of what I had in mind is too baggy and diffuse to pack into what I consider a suitable container for a single story.
One thing I've long hated about myself is how picky I've become when it comes to my tastes in fiction.
One thing I've hated about myself, more lately than before, is how damn picky I've become when it comes to my tastes in fiction. I gave it some thought, and realized that I've long had this issue where I've favored individual authors or specific books over topics/subject matter or genres. Often to a fault.
A phrase I repeat to myself often, chiefly when mired down in the middle of a draft: "Trust the process."
A phrase I repeat to myself often, chiefly when mired down in the middle of a draft: "Trust the process." Trust that the business of writing and re-writing, of reading and re-reading, of thinking and re-thinking, will bring you closer to the book you have in mind but which seems so far away right now. Trust that you will be able to see tomorrow what must be done, even when you can't see it today. Trust in your future self and its ability to follow the process. Trust the process, even when you feel you can't trust in the current fruits of the process. Such trust is difficult to develop and sustain, even for someone who's ridden this waterslide a few times, but absolutely needed.
One of the most humbling, and also clarifying, discoveries of my life was that while I liked weird stuff, I myself wasn't that weird.
One of the most humbling, and also clarifying, discoveries of my life was that while I liked weird stuff (not exclusively, but as part of my stuff diet), I myself wasn't that weird. Not nearly as weird as some of the other folks I knew who liked weird stuff, and definitely not nearly as weird as some of the people who made weird stuff. At the end of the day, I just wasn't that freaky, and if I was honest with myself, I knew it. I only thought I was weird because for too long I hadn't had much of a standard to compare to.
Skepticism of one's own positions is difficult to cultivate, in big part because the rest of the world openly defies us to doubt ourselves constructively.
I'm neck-deep in Draft 2 of Unmortal, hence slow posting, but I'm trying to carve out a moment here and there to blog. For your edification, Steve Savage:
There are legions of people, for pay and for free, who will pontificate about anything for no good reason.
Our culture has no place for ignorance. For admitting you don’t know. For humility and re-focusing. It’s all about the immediate satisfaction of acting like you’re right. It’s all about a high, engagement numbers, and whatever agenda.
These experts are meaningless. Scrambling, hollow things trying to feed a voraciously empty ego. No plans, no goals, just the next buzz and sometimes a political agenda disconnected from their moralistic posturing.
Skepticism of one's own positions is difficult to cultivate, in big part because the rest of the world openly defies us to doubt ourselves constructively. Bold assertions reap immediate rewards, even if they prove to be hollow. It helps when someone of public standing says "I don't know" and uses that as a rock to build on. Dan Rather has a newsletter called Steady, where he has demonstrated he's willing to say "I don't know" at least as often as "Yes" or "No".
Some of the best stuff I've ever read has been posted on blogs with a sum total of maybe five readers, myself included.
Some of the best stuff I've ever read has been posted on blogs with a sum total of maybe five readers, myself included, and now that they are (regrettably) no longer updated probably have a sum total of zero. My Ghetto (last post: March 2013) had writing about popular music as good as anything I've read since Lester Bangs left the premises. Jaime J. Weinman's Something Old, Nothing New (last post: August 2012) had more to say about the popular culture of yesteryear than any dozen other blogs have to say about anything going on right now. They are two great ways to spend an afternoon reading.
Change is the essence of storytelling: we tell a story because we want to document something that has changed. Or someone.
Again, sorry for not posting in a bit — busy several days (edits, work, etc.). But here's a brain-noshing for you.
Some time ago I jotted down the following quote from a Goodreads review, I think of a Brandon Sanderson book: "You can show a character going through many changes in a story, but not all of them represent character change. True character change involves a challenging and changing of basic beliefs, leading to new moral action by the hero."
Emphasis mine. Change is the essence of storytelling: we tell a story because we want to document something that has changed, typically a person, and because we want to document what was learned along the way.
Stories aren't diamonds of symmetrical perfection. They're pearls of asymmetrical beauty, and should be loved as such.
There's a bit by Marvel Comics dude Dan Slott (you can see it here) about how any story is going to be received incorrectly by someone, somewhere. "You can't write for a giant pool of internet-posting Goldilocks. ... Too much of my 'process' is a portion of time where I get tied up in knots WORRYING about how to make the story bulletproof. And you can't. NO story's bulletproof."
How not to succumb to the creative sunk-cost fallacy.
Sorry about the radio silence — it's been busy here. I have the second draft of Unmortal on the table, the remaster of Four-Day Weekend in the works (look for it sometime later in August), my day job, and a bunch of organizational projects eating into my time. Among them is me trying to figure out what book to work on next out of the five or six that have presented themselves as possible projects.