Which story is more important, yours or someone else’s? Civilization provides overwhelming opportunities to watch someone else’s story. That’s true with news, sports, shows, even documentaries. There’s more than enough out there, and yet, sometime there’s nothing to watch. I’ve decided to take a hint from watching nothing by switching the perspective to creating something. The good news that it is cheap to do, may create something valuable, and provides an opportunity to say something without being interrupted. Writing, it’s an exercise in frugality, in a good way.
Think back a century, or find a friend who was alive then. There were options, but I suspect many people were still more likely to create their own music, trade stories with friends, maybe watch one of the best shows on Earth – a sunset, maybe a fire inside the hearth or outside in a firepit. With enough light and time it was possible to work on art or a craft – though it was probably considered a chore, and probably created something functional. Radio would start to change that. So would record players. Things got done. Skills were developed. Friends and family were included.
The simple introduction of three broadcast networks on television swept that aside, and that was for content that ended around midnight.
People blame governments and institutions for the decline of community and social interactions. I think it is more likely that it became simpler to listen to scripted strangers than listening to each other.
I catch myself doing the same thing.
Living alone means not knowing whether calling someone is interrupting them. People living in the same house announce their activities simply by living. Bumps in the hallway, dishes clattering in a sink, water running in a shower, a puppy running back and forth trying to visit everyone at once are all unscripted, and can be more readily engaged.
People move about the planet, so time zones get in the way. Schedules aren’t coordinated because businesses, schools, and events happen at times convenient to them. Robo-calls train people to not pick up the phone at all, or at least wait to see if the caller has hung up or has started to leave a message. CallerID makes it easier to check for real people, but that’s been spoofed, too.
Calling a friend can be a scheduling task trying to squeeze between both people’s dinners and bedtimes.
Visiting a friend has become uncommon enough that, instead of dropping by and knocking on a door people will text before calling to arrange a visit before knocking on the door. So much for spontaneity.
For the last year I’ve found myself less limited by what’s being presented. The available content on the internet is effectively infinite compared to my lifespan, but the real limit is how long it takes to find something that I want to watch. Social media could fill the gap, but social media is being filled with repeated headlines and outrageous claims instead of truly social things happening to people inside my social circles. Me, I’m writing a couple of books, producing a photo series, and finding myself better entertained.
Last September I finished the first draft of my first science fiction novel. The inspiration came suddenly, about a decade ago. Developing the story in my head took over seven years. The first draft took over a year and a half. (Science Fiction Novel 1 – First Draft) Partly because of Covid, I was able to devote more time to it, so the second draft took seven months. I’m halfway through the third draft in less than two months. Each draft takes less time. It looks like I have several more drafts to do.
And I am enjoying it. That’s one of the best reasons to keep doing it.
I look forward to working on the book. Keep in mind that I rarely edit blog posts, partly because I don’t enjoy it, partly because the important part is that the message usually doesn’t get lost because of typos, and partly because much of what I write about is topical and delays can make the writing moot. I look forward to visiting my characters, and letting them help me tell their story. I enjoy using my mind to create instead of consume.
Whether anyone will ever read, or buy, or be inspired or entertained is almost, almost, secondary. Caring about the story and the readers gives me reasons to care about what I have to say and how I say it.
By the way, for those who are curious about why there are so many drafts, here’s an analogy. Imagine making a chair. (Furniture builders note that I am terrible at woodworking, but this is just to give folks an idea.) Draft 0 = deciding to make a chair. Draft 1 = cutting a bunch of lumber into about the right sizes and shapes. Draft 2 = getting closer to the right shapes enough to be able to tie or tape the pieces into something that looks like a chair. Draft 3 = making enough progress to maybe be able to sit on it while it wobbles. Draft 4 = all the right pieces and shapes, but in desperate need of sanding. Draft 5 = more sanding, polishing, maybe even adding fasteners. Draft 6 = painting, staining, and maybe even finishing it.
For this first novel, I can tell the story, now; but the characters don’t have names, the settings need better descriptions, and there’s a lot of literary sanding to get rid of phrases that would cause splinters for readers.
And then there’s the first draft of the light-hearted book about tea, and the ongoing series of twelve month photo essays of Whidbey Island, and blogs, and, and…
And it has been a long time since I’ve been bored after sunset.
We’re spending more time at home, with fewer opportunities to be with people, in an economy that means tight times for too many. One of the benefits of studying history is learning from it, and sometimes the lesson is simple, creative, and frugal.
A note about writing: As I write this I know I will have #WritersRemorse after I hit ‘Publish’. Don’t be surprised if it happens to you, too. And don’t let it stop you. Write. And then write some more.