So this year has seen me swamped by work. Again. Still…. I’d estimate that I’ve been working around 70+ hours a week since the start of the year. This is not the first time that things have been so out of control. It is not a badge of honour, I am not proud of this, nor do I encourage it. In response to this, and the long list of things I “need” to do this weekend, I’ve been reading about how and why we should reduce the normal work week to 3-4 days, 20-30 hours etc. There appears to be a realisation that this is primarily an option for the affluent, but there is also a growing awareness that significantly increasing the minimum wage and even moving to a unconditional basic income- everyone gets to survive – is an absolute must if this is going to be tenable for everyone.
The problem, which is not directly mine or yours, is where does the money come from? It would appear now that we, as a society, need to pay two people to do one job. The reality is actually that we have all been taking on more and more – for whatever reason, but usually need – and doing two jobs for one salary. People’s time has been devalued, especially those at the “bottom”. I’ve been at the bottom and I’ve worked plenty of crap jobs to survive, so I do not say that with any disrespect – we all do what we have to, and what we can, to survive. So all this requires is a shift towards paying people what they’re worth, rather than what the market can afford.
I’ve never been one for making New Year resolutions, but the end of the year, and a few days holiday, do give one the time to reflect. So reflecting I am. This year I complained a lot about time, specifically, the lack of it. Sorry. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been reliably informed that 2016 will not be coming with more time. Nor will time expander packs be available. More’s the pity.
It would appear that the only solution is to do fewer things. Which is exactly NOT what I am going to do. Seriously, I don’t respond well to “slow down”, “take it easy” or “don’t do so much” and similar expletives.
I know you’re sick of hearing writers complain about not having the time to write. I would say that it is not so much that they are not writing, in most cases, but that they want to write more. My writing word count is all over the place from one week to the next. For sure I’d like to increase the overall amount that I write, but mostly I want to have more of a rhythm.
I’ve been thinking about doing nanowrimo this year but that is a 50k target in a month – more than 1k a day. I cannot guarantee that I can do that so it would be nothing but an exercise in frustration. Frustration is not what you want at the end of a writing exercise/competition. I don’t want to get to December and be more concerned with only having written 10-20k words, than just being happy that I wrote 10k words.
There are times in life when it all hangs in the balance. Now, is one of them, at least for me. As the blurb says, I write science fact to science fiction, however, these two worlds do not always find a peaceful way to coexist. In life we always have choices even if some of them don’t seem like it at the time. And so it is that I find myself here, at one of those decisive moments. Concentrate on the scientist, or concentrate on the writer. Let’s be clear, science is what puts food on the table, while writing is a passionate pastime that is very much in its infancy.
So on the science fact front I face an uncertain future. In six months time I might be out of a job OR I might be spearheading an initiative that will take most of my time for the next 15 years. There are a lot of “ifs” to fall into place for the latter. So it appears, at least for the next 6-12 months, that the “decision” is not so hard, or at least not so complicated – I need to concentrate on the science. My apologies but this will have to remain cryptically anonymous for the moment.
You often see people/memes saying that anger is a bad thing. Anger is negative. Nothing good ever comes from anger. Bollocks! If you replace “anger” with the word “violence” then I agree, but most of the time people seem to confuse the two. Perhaps you could replace “anger” with “frustration” but only up to a point.
So, what am I angry about? Well, not everything – I think – but a lot. I’m angry at me, at the world, at people, sometime, maybe, possibly, even you. I am angry that we are not doing more to stop destroying the planet. I’m angry about equality. I am angry with organised religion for exploiting people. I’m angry at banks and governments … for exploiting people. OK, I’m angry at anyone exploiting people. I also get angry at people driving cars with headphones on, or who change the settings on the toaster. Mostly, I’m angry about people accepting this as the way it has to be. I’m angry with people for not being angry enough!
In my ongoing struggle to balance my day job as a scientist and my passion for science fiction it occurred to me that I could reconcile this by simply stating that:
I write science – from fact to fiction.
As a scientist one is typically writing about the latest results – at least that is what we would like to be doing. In reality we also spend an increasingly large amount of time writing project proposals, which is in fact writing about what we want to do in the near future, but is perhaps not even possible yet. Then, if one is really unlucky, one has to write “roadmap documents” and “vision statements”. Typically the later discuss what we can imagine to do if 5, 10, 20 years. This is very hard and requires a certain perspective over a field, or even many fields, of research. Furthermore, if we’re honest, once we get past five years, these uncertainty on these “predictions” rapidly increases. In polite company one might argue that these are educated guesses. If we were increasingly honest, we might simply say that they are a guess. Obviously, the time scales involved depend on the field, its maturity and how fast progress is being made.
So it is that with my science fiction writing, speculative fiction if you prefer, we can see that as simply an extension of this – typically I would be looking beyond the 10-20 year time scale, certainly into guessing territory, and imagining “what if?” In science fiction, I am free from the constraint that I actually have to prove or demonstrate what I claim will be true. Nor do I have to worry about respecting the currently accepted laws of Nature but the “what if” question remains the starting point.
Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid is a french proverb that dates back to 1835 (dictionaire de l’Académie). A more or less literal translation would be: little by little the bird makes its nest. In daily speech, the lazy things that we are, this is often shortened to “petit à petit”. As in: “How is it going?” … “Petit à petit” – little by little. It is extremely useful in a wide variety of situations, for example, when you really don’t want to go into detail about what you’re doing. More often though, it is an admission that you’re probably struggling to make progress at all today and you just want it (the day) to end so you can start fresh tomorrow.
So it was that this made me think of the life of a writer. We run around collecting all sorts of bits and pieces of ideas, text, pictures and weave them like threads into ideas until, eventually, some form starts to appear. A story. A nest. I’ll leave the metaphor there for the moment, but leave it as an exercise for the class – yes you – to run with that metaphor and see where you find yourself!
As promised, this is the home and playground of Harry Tuttle, part enigma, part machine, mostly confused and trapped in modern life. If anyone has ever read more than one post then it should have become clear that I am mostly confused. Actually, in the real world, I like to feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on things… but this is not the real world. At the moment, I have to apologise because the posts are coming, or not, like a drunk trying to hit the side of a barn with a shot gun from a thousand yards out (that makes sense to me – you know, like hits but mostly misses… If I have to explain everything this is going to take some time.). n.b. I used yards so the Americans among us don’t feel left out. No, I don’t have a problem with Americans I just never understood why you decided yards were that much better than cubits but a meter is the devil’s work?! OK, I know that’s not entirely your fault either. Anyway, whose idea was it to start picking on Americans? To be fair, I was only referring to the USA. Just to be clear.
So it is that I realise that this blog, like so many before it, has run off, like a metaphor from a poorly educated person struggling to sound like they at least went to school for a few weeks, most notably around exam time, which was a pain because it was in summer and the waves at the beach were so good and what a shame to miss out on that for what? … oh, look, a squirrel!
I always considered myself a committed person, more than a passionate one. If I tell you I am going to do something, I will try and do it even if it kills me. So why do I baulk at passionate? I tend to associate passion with excitement. We all know people that can’t sit still and want to shout out to everyone that they love what they are doing. I’m not sure I have ever been like that but I love people that are. It is infectious and I am always looking for these people. Personally, I tend not to be passionate about one particular thing – things come and go. I am more interested by ideas and sometimes I think that these can be too big to be passionate about.
I am committed to making a difference. The problem with trying to make a difference is that it is vague. When people at parties ask you what you do, you do not respond with – “oh, me, I make a difference”. Apart from sounding monstrously pretentious, it just doesn’t mean anything. Anyway, vague … When you are targeting something vague it is very easy to get distracted doing all sorts of things as a means to an end. Imagine the scientists that now spend half their time asking for money to do science rather than sciencing, or the writer spending so much time on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ building their network/following that they forget to write. They spend so much time talking about what they want to do, or doing something they feel will help in the long run, that they lose sight of their passion. I sit guilty as charged on all counts.