Where the inane meets the mundane

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The Effect of Seasons

I think the seasons affect my writing, and a lack of them is a detriment to my productivity.

Looking back, I have almost four years of data on daily word counts. Like any activity, there are ebbs and flows in my productivity, but before our move to California there was a definite cycle to my output. Fall and winter I produced large volumes of fiction. Springtime I slowed down to a tickle, and summer’s were typically quiet until I ramped up again in August/September.

I think a lot of that was the psychology of the seasons. The problem is, once we moved to California, we have lived in a near permanent spring. I can see that in the tracking of word counts – since our move, I have large stretches of low to no word counts. The few knolls and hills in the chart are short-lived.

I’m not trying to imply that you can’t be a writer and live somewhere like California, or a tropical island, etc. Plenty do and are far more successful than I am. I am only suggesting that something in my conditioning – winters being a time of holing up, reading and writing and playing games so that you’re ready to stretch your legs again in the spring – precludes me from successfully writing now.

While it’s been nice to not have to ever deal with snow, or a cold snap, or random road conditions, I’m not sure my brain has adapted. One of the appeals to our pending move to Portland is that there will be seasons again. I really hope that means you’ll see more from me on writing. At the very least, more than these almost but not quite weekly blog posts.


Gearing up for the Age of Enlightment

In just under two weeks, I will be entering the Age of Enlightenment.

That’s right, I’m turning 42. To celebrate (not), I’ll be flying up to Portland for a week to finish settlement on our new house. I won’t say I’m not excited, but I’m not thrilled about being away from the wife and kids for a week so I can sit around to sign some papers.

I used to think getting older would bother me, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not even convinced I’m that old. I just don’t feel old. It still feels like yesterday I was only twenty something, getting ready to set out into the future with my best girl at my side. I look in the mirror and I don’t see the wrinkles I expected, and only one white (not grey) hair. I still feel young, despite how tired I get between work and kids and life.  We have had a few kids since then, but at the core, we’re still exactly the same. How can I be turning 42?

But maybe I am getting older. I’ve certainly grown more introspective in the last few years. I’m realizing just how good I have it, between work and family, but most importantly, with the woman I love. There’s a line in the Princess Bride about True Love, and to wax a little romantic, that’s exactly what we have. But I haven’t forgotten how lucky I’ve been.

On my BART ride home Friday night, I sat down across from a gentleman. We nodded at each other, and then he told me how they cut his hours at work. Like any public transport system, there are categories of people you find yourself riding with. Commuters and travelers are the more common, but there are also the beggars, the homeless, etc.. I am ashamed to admit that my first thought was that this man might be a little off. Didn’t he know the boundaries of social interaction for strangers on a subway?

But we continued talking, and I quickly realized this poor man was just scared and talking to the first friendly face he met. He told me how he was dropped from SSI in January and had to get a job for the first time. He was proud to be a dishwasher, but you could tell he was scared too. We talked for an hour, much to the annoyance of our fellow travelers who would rather no one spoke. I’m no fountain of wisdom or life guidance, but for this young man forced to go out into a world he wasn’t ready for, even trite reassuring words from me seemed to help.

When we parted, I realized how much I appreciate how good I have it. Appreciating what you have is a step to enlightenment, so maybe I do know a little something about life, the universe, and everything. Maybe I am ready to be 42 after all.

Tweet me some book recommendations! @kodermike

I’ve been reading more paper books lately for a couple of reasons. The one that’s germane here is that I like reading at the end of the day to relax, but by the time I get to that obligation free time my eyes are tired, and even  the screen of my paperwhite can give me a headache. Hence, the need for physically printed books in my life again.

My kids know these things. They also know that I’ve asked for more books for my upcoming birthday, because books are great. They occupy free time in a way no interactive screen activity can, and I usually feel better for having spent the time with one. Even books that are just eye candy (brain candy?), fun romps through a made up land with fake peril and mighty feats of magic make me feel better. They exercise a part of the imagination that needs a thorough workout, no matter how serious they aren’t.

This is where you come in. I’m on a tight deadline with everything else going on, and I could really use some suggestions to put on my list. Most of the books I can think of as great to have all have Pre-Order pages only. Some are coming out before my birthday, others are still tentatively scheduled for this fall or later.

Here are the guidelines of what I like. If you know of a book that falls into one of these categories, tweet it to me so I can consider adding it to my list.

  • I like fantasy. Largely epic fantasy, not as much the grim dark stuff, but I’ve been known to dabble.
  • I like Science Fiction, or at least, sci-fi. The difference there being that it doesn’t have to be hard science fiction. I love space operas, alien threats, etc. Neal Asher’s fun, but so is Scalzi, or Schoen.
  • In fiction, I am a bit picky. Stephen King has written some of the best books I’ve ever read (Bag of Bones is my favorite, though The Stand is on that list too), but that isn’t to say I only read horror. General fiction is actually a weakness of mine – it rarely holds my interest, so I don’t pursue it too much.
  • I like memoirs. I didn’t realize this, but I like reading history as recorded by the participant. Granted, I tend to lean towards the memoirs of explorers, adventurers, etc., but I try not to judge before at least reading the first few pages.
  • Nonfiction is a broad category, I know. Some recent reads have been The Analog Revolution (mixed opinions – loved the first half, want to write a blog about it, but the second half felt discordant to me), a history of the atom bomb, and a collection of essays by Sagan. I guess you could say I prefer my general nonfiction to be more in the sciences, though I am willing to take interesting side trips.

No guarantees that I will read the books you tweet me, but I will do my best to consider each. And thank you!!

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