So here at the WorkSpace, I've been writing a passage about a nanogoop-based painting that can fix itself if the image gets damaged. Here in the real world, there are some paintings with thick, ridged lines of textured paint on display in the hallway, and as I was walking to the kitchen for a glass of water just now I was tempted to grab one of the ridges and snap it offlike my protagonist had just done to his painting in my story. This is why I shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard. Or maybe near art.
Some questions for you other full-time writers out there. What are your work habits? How long a day do you write? Do you keep regular hours? Where do you work? How do you keep yourself going? What do you do when you get stuck?
I guess I'm not managing the transition well very yet, and I'm looking for some pointers.
I found myself applauding Timothy Egan's guest column "Typing Without a Clue" from Saturday's New York Times. Not that I, as the author of a "riveting memoir" unsold "after 10 years of toil," feel any bitterness on the topic:
The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?
I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate....
With a résumé full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion....
Of the Six Fundamental Machines inscribed by the Builder in the Cornerstone of Time, the Wheel and Axle lends itself to perhaps the most stupendous domain of potential recomplications. Picture the sky as a giant clockwork mechanismeach planet a semiprecious stone set in the rim of its own great wheel, ticking about the axis of a star that is in turn a chip of diamond studding the rim of its own greater wheel, one that inscribes a unique but interdependent path about the center of gravity of a galaxy that is itself less than a cog on a still greater wheel that in concert with hundreds of billions of others drives the engine of the Universe. Fractal geometry on a scale to beggar the imagination.
Now zoom in again to picture yourself on the rim of your own planetary wheel, observing the progress of a friend on the rim of another wheel in the same system. Assuming different rates of travel, to watch that friend is sometimes to see an apparent reversal in his course. This loop of retrogression, as it's known, stems from the fact that you the observer are yourself a passenger on a body in motion.
All things in the Builder's creation serve not only their own functions as objects but also as lessons for his children. Thus does the Wheel and Axle teach us that to move forward is sometimes to appear, perhaps even to ourselves, to slide back.
On an almost separate note, I'm delighted to report that besides my cubby at Writers WorkSpace, there are a couple of coffee shops right by our apartment that are laptop-friendly. It's less than a block to this one, where (taking a page from the gregvaneekhout playbook) I spent a little time on Thursday afternoon:
This is why you live in a city, kids.
Writing is thinking.
Writing is not a process simply of transcribing ideas that are already worked out in full. Writing is the process of working through those ideas.
It is not necessary, nor is it likely even desirable, to sit down and write only after your ideas are worked out, because the very act of writing is the most important part of the process of working them out in full.
Writing is thinking.
Thanks to everyone who weighed in yesterday on my version-control questions. I know it may seem like overkill, and I'm prepared to be made fun of, but I finally decided to go with Subversion (a/k/a SVN), which I'm running through Apache 2.2 with SSL on one of my boxes here.
A lot of factors came into play for me. We have several computers at home, and I like to be able to work on whichever one is convenient, which means it's nice to be able to grab the latest copies of drafts and my notes quickly from wherever I am. I need to be able to do this from outside our home network, in case I'm around the corner at the coffee shop, on the road, or over at the Writers Workspace. And since I obstinately continue to work in WordPerfect, I can't rely on solutions like Google Docs that are geared specifically toward Word files. Since I've been using CVS for years, SVN seemed like a natural step up for me, since it's similar but does a lot of things more smartly.
The coolest part of this whole setup, to me, is the SVN client I'm using, TortoiseSVN. This lets you access all the SVN commands from right-click menus directly in Windows Explorer. It also adds layover icons to the file icons so you can see at a glance what files and directories need to be committed. And SVN itself handles tasks like renaming and moving files and directories so much better than CVS, I wonder why I didn't start using it for code a long time ago.
I already use a free dynamic IP address from DynDNS to access my home music server from the outside world, and I'll use that to access my SVN repository from out there as well. The one slightly tricky thing that hung me up for a long time last night was writing a Perl script I could run on my laptop from the outside world to update the "svn" alias in my HOSTS file from an internal IP address to the current value of my network's dynamic external IP. That way I would never have to change the URL through which my laptop attempts to access the SVN repository.
A technical question for you techie writer types out there. Do you use version-control software to keep a repository of your work? If so, what? What platform do you run it on? What do you like? What don't you? I know CVS pretty well from my programmer days, but I'm not sure that's what I want to use for my writing. Maybe Subversion? SVK? I've just started looking into this, and there are a whole lot of options.
I used to just use the Windows Briefcase to keep my writing in sync between machines, but my new laptop with Vista doesn't seem to implement Briefcase in a way that's entirely compatible with older versions, and anyway it doesn't do squat to keep copies of older drafts around. I'd like to start doing something a little more sophisticated than that.
I'm part of this week's "Mind Meld" over at SFSignal.com. The question under discussion is: "What's your favorite sub-genre of science fiction and/or fantasy?"