In Absentia

Happy holidays, everyone! Merry Christmas, happy Hannukah, happy solstice.

There’s a time for hard, diligent work, and there’s a time for relaxation and board games and red wine. There’s a lot to be said for intention: for knowing whether you’re working or playing and throwing your weight and will behind it.

Much love to you all this holiday season. I look forward to sharing new developments with you in the new year. Be good… but not too good.

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In Flagrante Delicto

My intention with this blog was severalfold. Primarily, it was to share my experience working on our architecture book, and to generate interest in it, but also to release some short little essays about the writing process based on what came up for me along the way. Also, to provide just one more layer of accountability: to make it harder for me to back down from the deadline and from the project.

I consider myself to be a professional – in my attitude to my work, and in the quality of it. My writing clients have always been happy with my work, and I’ve got a few awards on my resume. But I want to look and sound like a professional as well. I want to come here and say “Hi, everyone. Sam the professional here. We’re on time and under budget. We made a plan and we’re executing the plan. Everything’s great.”

But everything isn’t great. And I didn’t come here to lie to you.

In the last three weeks or so, I’ve done some decent work on the book, but nothing close to what I set out to do.

I’ve also read three novels (“The Bombmaker”, “Hostage”, “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”) two graphic novels (“Ooku volume one”, “Moomin volume 4”), and two great short story collections (“Thieves’ Dozen” by Donald Westlake, plus a “Transgressions” collection that had a novella each by Westlake, Walter Mosley, and Ed McBain). I’ve watched six episodes of “The Sandbaggers”. I’ve purchased “Flight Control” and “Starscape” on Steam and logged some serious play hours. I’ve had a few drinks. I’ve hit my snooze button more times than I care to count.

Both of my desks are covered with paper – stuff related to the book, notes for the Shine rewrite and the websomething project (both of which actually are going great), sheet music for the City Soul Choir, visa slips, bus transfers, diagrams from my page-a-day origami calendar. Lists of things to do. Library books. Cookbooks. A spent toner cartridge. Half a bag of caramel corn flavoured rice cakes. A jar of dry roasted peanuts. Don’t get me started on the laundry backlog.

We could use a lot of different names to describe my condition. Let’s look at a few of them.

  • Writer’s Block: You’ve encountered a difficult stage in the work and the discomfort of working through it makes anything other writing very appealing.
  • Laziness: You know what you should be doing, but you just don’t feel like doing it.
  • Depression: You feel bad. You don’t want to think about why you’re feeling bad because thinking about it makes you feel bad. You deaden your senses with activities that occupy your mind and your eyes so your problems can’t call you because the line is busy. Your problems get worse. Repeat until furious.
  • Burnout: You’re a sprinter and you’re trying to run a marathon. The first hundred metres go great. Then things start to hurt. You don’t worry about eating or drinking or resting, you just run. Until you can’t. Then you’re done.

Each of these is a partial description of what I’ve been experiencing. None of them is the whole story.

If I was on trial for this, my lawyer would say the following in my defense: that I created an arbitrary schedule based on an unrealistic deadline. That the amount of work I tried to do simply wasn’t feasible in the amount of time that I had available to me, and that since the bulk of my writing experience has been in scriptwriting and storytelling, and neither myself nor my writing partner have ever attempted to write a book before, let alone a 600-page doorstop with 15 chapters, 80 essays, and 80 exhibition-quality photos, it’s understandable that there would be a disconnect between the projected schedule and the actual schedule.

And the prosecuting attorney would say “Yes, that’s all very well, your Honour. But he said he was going to do it.”

My coaching-exchange partner, Jennifer Howd, seems to take the role of my defense. In our last conversation she said “Why don’t you just make a new schedule? A realistic one. Now that you know how long it can take. Stop beating yourself up about not keeping to the old schedule. It’s not helping you. You knew it might not be realistic, and you’ve got a lot of work done.”

Well. She has a point. As always.

I haven’t much felt like updating this blog. The car was cruising down the road and I didn’t like the way it was handling so I pulled over and just stopped driving and went for a walk.

This has been a postcard from purgatory – a snapshot of where I’ve been.

I’m coming home now.