All right, how’s everyone’s 2014 shaping up so far? Pretty good, right? Words flying out of you like a spastic colon? Excellent, excellent.
Wait, you in the back, muttering under your breath, what was that?
You’re still in a post-holiday slump? Two weeks after the holidays have finished?
Don’t feel bad, I am too. The good news is, I’m writing. The bad news is that it’s been in drips and dribbles. After experiencing the firehose that was my November (yep, I did Nanowrimo this year and even made a helpful spreadsheet to simulate the Nano experience year-round that you can have for free), my December, and first part of January have felt less than stellar.
I think it’s okay though. I mean, this is all part of the creative experience, right? The hardest thing, I’ve found is getting back in the swing of things after you’ve taken a break. This is true of exercise, diets, writing and competitive trampoline ping-pong.
So go easy when you’re getting back into it. Start slow and for fuck’s sake, go easy on yourself too! I’ve been doing a lot of beating myself up lately. I have nearly two books finished, but I’ve been editing one for over a year now. The editing/rewriting process is challenging, the first draft process is challenging. The thinking that other people might hate me if I peak my head from under the covers and share my words thing is challenging. We all go through it. Even people who seem like megalomaniacs. Probably especially them.
I’ve been laid up for a little while thanks to a broken ankle. I’m not into crossfit or combat dancing or anything, generally I just go for walks. And not being able to walk has put a damper on my energy levels. This has fed into my writing energy too. It’s crazy what a little exercise can do for you. And it’s crazy to sit down and just feel exhausted by the idea of creating.
But there’s one consolation, even though my output has been small, it’s promoting more output. Each day I sit down, even if it’s to write just a handful of words, it’s easier the following day.
Hope your new year is going well, and I hope that it continues with steady progress.
I think it’s easy in this era to feel pretty down about things. The rampant destruction of our environment, both on a local and global scale is terrifying for most of us. The problems feel so monumental that we’re left feeling powerless to make any sort of meaningful change. This is where I’m at right now. When I see the news about the general insanity that our climate is beginning to kick up, I worry (legitimately) about the future. And there is nothing more disempowering than worrying about events that 1) you can’t control and 2) haven’t even happened yet.
But as fans and writers of science fiction, we’re always thinking about the future, right? Back in December, someone on twitter (sorry, can’t remember who) remarked that it’s kind of astounding that so few people are writing fiction that includes global climate change as part of the narrative. Or even the subtext. That comment got me thinking.
Do we feel so fucked by this that even science fiction writers shy away from it?
Are there no imaginings of the future that do not include dystopia as the final outcome? Why are we skipping over the part where we come up with solutions? Even if they are fantastical? I know this isn’t a new question, it’s been brought up quite a bit in the last year.
Over on the Apex blog (of which I’m a contributor), M. Asher Cantrell recently published a blog post about 3 Reasons Why It’s Time for a Rebirth of 1950′s Sci-Fi. While I’d disagree about returning to that particular era for its cultural baggage and sci-fi in particular from then for its lack of inclusiveness, I think I understand what he’s getting at. The sense of hope and optimism, that even monumental problems could be solved and that the future would be a wonderful thing. That’s what I’m missing.
So to his list of reasons, I’d like to add a fourth: now, more than ever, we need a sense of hope for the future. How many countless people became engaged in the sciences because of the portrayals by authors of what the future could be like? I’m not advocating a Pollyanna-ish, “gee, the future is swell” approach. But I would like to see clear-eyed gazes that assess and begin to tackle the problems. Because our best hope might not be coming from us, but from our children. And we need to offer some inspirational and aspirational ideas up.
Neal Stephenson has created the Project Hieroglyph online journal, to address the dearth of optimism. Check out that link, there’s some good stuff happening there.
As writers, we’re used to being pretty low on the ‘power in a hyper-capitalist economy’ scale. I can only point to a small handful of people who are capable of using their creative power to eke out a living, and even they have a hard time of it. But we do have an outsize power when it comes to influencing culture. We don’t just write novels and short stories, we write movies and TV shows. We script out video games, comic books. We have podcasts and speak in public. We’re a diverse bunch and what we say still resonates.
Let’s embrace the future.
Now that the curtains have closed on NaNoWriMo for another year, you may find yourself in the post-NaNo, pre-holiday slump. Persevere, dear friends! I’ve created something for you to help keep that old-timey NaNo feeling of panicked word production persisting throughout the year (sorry for the alliteration).
It’s a Google spreadsheet that– wait, where are you going? Come back! I promise, not all spreadsheets are boring, some can actually be useful, I swear! Especially for writers who are trying to keep on track and hit deadlines.
This spreadsheet is actually based on the ‘stats’ page in NaNoWriMo but you needn’t be a former NaNo participant to get use out of it. So, you’ll need to do a couple things to be able to use this spreadsheet. First, make sure you have a Google account. Then you can go to the Butt kickin’ goal tracker so you can pwn your novel! spreadsheet. You’ll need to make a copy of it so that you can edit it for yourself. Do that now by clicking on File –> Make a Copy. This will save it to your Google Drive.
Just start out by filling in the project targets, the start date, end date and what you would like to achieve in that time. The other fields you see here are automatically calculated.
There’s even a message that pops up if you’re ahead of your target or falling a bit behind.
To the left, you’ll see a string of dates in one column and a corresponding target number in the next. That number is your cumulative goal for that date, in other words, where your total word count should be by that date. The third column, labeled “Actual” is the one you actively fill in each day. It’s important to remember that this is a running total, not just the words you wrote today.
For example, you can see that on December 1st, I wrote 2600 words (I wish) and then on the 2nd, I have 4500. That means on the 2nd I wrote 1900 additional words, bringing my total to 4500. Sorry if this seems like hand-holding.
Finally, we come to the chart. For NaNo-ites, this is where the real action is. This is your visual representation of where you are on that golden novel highway… though based on the steep grade, you may want to drop it down a gear or two. Think of it as a highway to heaven. Heavenly, first draft goodness.
That’s it, it’s pretty simple but hopefully it will help you on your path. If you have any questions, just hit me up here, or over at twitter, @nmhall. And if you find this useful, give me some link love on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google+ or whatever other flavor of impersonal digital socializing you prefer.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced this past Sunday (12/1/13) that his 21st century version of Wal Mart has been considering using drones to deliver small packages within 30 minutes to certain households. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bezos guessed that this system might be in place in the not too distant future.
“I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA. My guess is that’s, that’s probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Rightly so, this caused a degree of ridicule from all sectors of the web, here’s Charles Stross pointing out why this might be a bit far fetched-
Amazon drone deliveries would rely on dense-pack housing within short flight duration that nevertheless have front yards to drop parcels on.
— Charlie Stross (@cstross) December 2, 2013
Drone deliveries in suburbia: unlikely. Drone deliveries to high-rise apartments: stupid. Who is this product for, anyway?
— Charlie Stross (@cstross) December 2, 2013
That being said, I recently enjoyed a TED Talk with Andrea Raptopoulos about using a very similar delivery network to bring food and medicine to inaccessible parts of Africa. Companies are developing this technology… so why not one of the largest companies on earth?
James Ball at The Guardian helped to deflate the enthusiasm for it and bring a little bit of reality to the situation. Calling it little more than click bait, he sees it as a distraction from the very real stories about the Panorama investigation which concluded that working conditions in Amazon’s factories could cause mental and physical illness, or the story that in spite of £7 billion in UK sales, they have paid no UK corporation tax.
Ball goes on to state that this was little more than a cynical ploy to boost Cyber Monday sales by getting their name into a major media outlet. This is, I think, Amazon’s reason for having Bezos do the Charlie Rose interview. The technology is incredible, and I do believe that after 2015, when the rules on these devices are relaxed by the FAA, we’ll see a lot more businesses start to use drones. For good and ill.
Here’s the clip that aired on 60 Minutes