Saturday, June 9, 2001

Well, I wasn’t quite as productive as I’d hoped I’d be today, but I did get some stuff accomplished. Having a list to refer to was unquestionably helpful in getting me to do stuff.

After checking through all of my e-mail in the morning, I tried to back up my websites and stories-in-progress onto tape, so I could take a tape to my safe deposit box. After asking to to record my files to tape, Colorado Backup shrieked:

"Firmware sequencing error."

Great. This has happened several times in the past few weeks. I think the tape drive is dying, because it will record to tape if I just keep trying. Wonderful; tape drives aren’t expensive or anything.

So, I wasn’t able to get the tape backups made in time before my bank closed. I went out early anyway to check my P.O. box. I’m glad I did; my replacement pump for the pond was in, as well as a CD of the soundtrack for Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure (an anime spoof of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion).

On the way back from the post office, I stopped by a Methodist church that was having a yard sale. They were selling used books for, literally, pennies; hardbacks were ten cents and paperbacks were five. Here’s what I got:

  • The Complete Book of Garden Magic — Originally written in 1935, this is a great general reference for serious gardeners. While some of the author’s advice is outdated (“Moles can be killed…by opening the shells of several peanuts and inserting a crystal of Srychnine in each…[as well as] shelled corn soaked in Arsenic.”), it’s written as though to an old friend, and has lots of solid tips.
  • The Good News Bible — A modern translation of the Bible, useful for getting a fresh perspective on a particular passage.
  • Discipline and Classroom Management by D. Keith and Janie D. Osborn — An excellent text on teaching kids, from the effects of 4-year-olds observing bad teaching habits, to the issue of drug use in middle and high schools.
  • A Christmas Collection of Inspirational Verses by Helen Steiner Rice — Nine poems about Christmas; useful for quoting. Hey, it was five cents.
  • It’s Time to be Bold by Michael W. Smith — The Christian musician talks about his crisis, when he realized that he wasn’t living the lessons in his own music.
  • Utopia by Sir Thomas More — I believe this was the book that introduced the term “utopia” to our language.
  • A Treasury of Short Stories — A bunch of 20th century short stories from the likes of Tolstoy and Hemingway.

Besides getting the pump installed and moving some mulch (more on that in my garden entry), I didn’t get much of anything else accomplished.

Though I did come across a fascinating play-by-email game called Shazrad: City of Veils, a free-form fantasy RPG focused on “quality writing and character development.” What a concept. This might be worth playing; I want to check it out in more detail.

Writing Thoughts


I haven’t written in many days. I decided to sit down and spend some time working on my current WIP, the short story set in Outlook-on-Cove. Maybe just put in half an hour. I opened up the word processing file, read the last paragraph I’d written, and placed my fingers on the keyboard.

Nothing happened. The Muse was mute.

re-read the story up to that point (I’ve only written three pages), improving a few descriptions here and there. I added some adjectives and removed some others. I turned over the story in my mind, ratiocinating (it’s a word, honest!) carefully. I returned to the end of the story, re-read it, and kept my fingers hovering over the home row.

Nothing happened. Again.

This was perhaps more frustrating than it might seem at first ratiocination. I’d just spent a good fifteen minutes reading the first half of a short story by Tolstoy, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” (you can read it online). It’s one of those stories that is brilliantly funny for the first ten pages, and is thereafter about as enjoyable as a major car accident. Where you die.

But even Tolstoy’s amazingly boring plot couldn’t keep me from being excited at his talent for writing. This was a pure, character-driven story. Everything hinged on a well-humored glance, or a seemingly casual comment, or the way a person dressed. It was all so detailed and so fascinating.

So, I wanted to write that.

But I couldn’t. Not tonight.

And as much as I believe in persistence and the power of simply working even when it’s not fun, as a writer I’ve learned there are some times when I just can’t push any further. There is an element of art to writing, and sometimes Art refuses to answer the doorbell, no matter how insistently I push on the buzzer.

So, instead, I wrote this. And I ratiocinate now, as I re-read it, it’s better than anything I put in the short story.

Now I only have one question: Should this make me happy or sad?

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