I’m not one who generally talks about his own life. Being inherently hyper-critical of myself means also having a hard time celebrating successes — or even believing that they are successes…
I’ve been working on my PhD all summer, trying both to pin down the topic long enough to build something, as well as keep my cynicism in check as to whether it is worth building. So far, I’ve seen some success: I have a basic framework together (a bit buggy, but it runs) and now I’m building the real brains, the stuff which might actually show some worth, and the stuff I have to measure.
I’ve fought back the insanity as much as I can, and tried not to get distracted. That’s a pretty constant battle. When the heat got too much, I started working overnight and sleeping during the day. I discovered that my laptop battery had expanded in the heat (which was causing more overheating, and the keyboard to stop responding from time to time), so I removed it.
My internet became.. problematic, so I started duplicating things on the one external drive I have and trying to just listen to the backlog of podcasts, and the selection of music I brought. This is my entertainment, beyond two books (one fiction, one not) that I brought (that aren’t connected to my PhD work).
I know: I should get out more, right? Well, during those hot days, the only thing I could do was “get out”. But, lacking significant funds, there’s only a few things to do. Generally, I wander down by the waterside — used to walk along the top of the old wall, but they’ve blocked it off, apparently to resurface it. Almost inevitably, I end up by the side of the quai. There are picnic tables there, and they offer alternately sunshine and cool breeze, making the days tolerable.
Of course, no tech is really available there, besides my iPod in my pocket. So, there I sit with my journal, debriefing my brain, running through a few ideas. That’s actually been quite nice, and I’ve nearly filled the journal I brought with me. Granted, I rarely re-read these things, but I think I’ll try this time. I think there are some gems to mine…
Maybe I’ll try blogging more often — which brings me (finally) to the actual reason that this post is going up: I’ve written something, again. Well, two somethings, really. Once again, they are in response to the monthly photo from the Every Photo Tells… (EPT) podcast.
The first story hasn’t been published yet. It grew out of my steady frustration and madness, and the determination that, to take my mind off of it, I would spend every moment indulging in writing for the weekend, rather than doing any sort of actual work. I’ve been working all the time, and the distractions otherwise are short and meaningless, blog reading and RSS feed reading, meant to “not be work” but not be anything significant, either.
I wasn’t regarding writing as anything more than “not what I should be doing”, because it means something to me. And if I am supposed to be doing anything during this summer which means something, its supposed to be my PhD work. That’s the logic, as near as I can figure, which caused my heart and my mind to be in conflict. My heart wanted to write, to explore stories, to create; my mind, well, it wanted this to, but it felt duty-bound, obligated to work only my PhD.
That sort of conflict tears you up inside. People for the last month or so have heard me struggling with this, have seen the edges of madness (and beyond) that creep in, from time to time. When the Internet restrictions went in, I lost it entirely, for a while. Complete dissociation from reality, yet an acute awareness of it, an outside point of view, distant and yet so close..
That was when I decided I needed to write. An idea came to mind, and I started. By the end of the weekend, I had 23,000 words, something which surprised me, but the words flowed. I sat back, surprised, and then said: “I want to write more.”
I had the decision: keep writing on this story, edit this story, or try something else. After consulting on Twitter, I chose the latter. That story, “Reflection”, is a much shorter, much more brutal, and much less “story”-like piece, that went up over the weekend on the Every Photo Tells… podcast, episode 23. It was practically pure word expression, no real plot, no development, just an expression of the anger that had built up, and the uncertainty in identity; I wanted to shock, just a little bit, and wanted to carve away at myself.
That story is attached, if you want to read it for yourself. I caution you: it’s graphic, it’s foul, and it’s meant to be. But, I kinda like it.
The other story, the novella, is currently being revised. I like the characters, I like the universe, and I like the ideas. I think I write there again, and already have a few ideas, but want to polish this one first. A few people have it to beta-read, and I’m curious as to what they think.
I should be done with the manuscript next week — I’m only taking the weekends to write, still — and after that, it will hopefully appear on EPT. I’ll probably post the PDF here afterwards, but I’m toying, ever so slightly, of actually looking at proper publication. I think I need more practice, and I’ll need to work harder at figuring out how stories really get sold, but the idea has merit.
It’s what my heart wants to do… After all, my heart hasn’t been in my research for a long time.
After that, I’ll write some more, I imagine. EPT is monthly, after all, and perhaps I’ll find inspiration elsewhere.