365. Where The Road Ends

The last day of the year is a hell of a good day to wrap up your 365 project.

(I really took 519 days to get here; but give me a break, alright. It’s hard work cranking that many words out)

365 days. 500 words a day. That’s 182,500 words – probably the length of American Gods. Considering how some of the posts were much, much longer than the 500 minimum I placed on myself, I’d go out on a limb and say that the real number of words uploaded onto this space to be in the range of 200,000 – 220,000.

Anyway.

The last day of the year is also a hell of a good time to take a good, hard look back on the road and consider…

Consider what?

Consider the number of days that have passed? Or how, when I was slugging through the middle, I thought this damn thing was going to go on forever? Consider the milestones I’ve marked along the way? The successes – the disappointments – the days on which absolutely nothing of note happened?

Stuff happened. Yeah, I think that’s a good summary.

Over the last 519 days of this 365 project, stuff happened.

And I continued writing.

I think one of the important things I’ve come to realize is the need for patience. You know what I’m saying? I’m not going to go on one of those “In the age of instant things, we all want things yesterday” rants. But that’s what I learned: patience, indeed, is a virtue.

Whether it’s dressing a short story up or completing a 40,000 word novel (that’s Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through TIme, which I am still working on, if you’d like to know), I have found that it’s almost always a bad idea to be overeager. Impatient. To be caught in the excitement of the moment, mistaking the heat for the spark of brilliance, and end up showing the world something half-baked. And it’s slowly deflating as the initial excitement escapes from it in hisses.

Impatience is what the older generation always fault the younger with, right? I’m reflecting upon my very first posts to this space, and I’m thinking of Past-Me… What an impatient little prick. Always rushing from one thing to the next.

I actually feel older now, 519 days later.

A little bit older. A little wiser. A little bit more patient with the world.

In many ways, I believe I have also matured with my writing. I have read more, experienced more… Learning to deal with disappointments and handling people. I’m definitely a lot better with rejection now that I was in July 2013. And yet, as a certain wizard in a tall grey hat would say… The road goes ever on and on.

I’m still young. 23 today. 24 tomorrow. Just beginning to scrape at a quarter of a century old. Even if I suddenly age 6 years, I will still be at the ripe young age of 30 – a good ripe age to begin doing something with me life. So I think I’m still good. 23 going on 24.

I have time.

I can wait.

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364. Audiobooks

I’ve been listening to audiobooks lately. Since, er, my disappearance from this space.

One thing that I learned very quickly about the working life is that you don’t have time for shit anymore. Your job (plus travel to and fro) basically owns 3/4 of your waking hours. With the 1/4 that you have left, there isn’t a lot of things that you can do. You will have to start thinking about how you want to spend your time after work.

Watch TV? Play a computer game? Hang out with a friend? Work on a side project?

Choose carefully. You can only have one.

And on those particularly difficult days, you don’t get any of them at all. Because all you have left at the end of the day is energy enough to plop yourself into bed.

I was doing remarkable well for the first half of the year trying to overcome the Librarian Threshold. I was blazing through them books. Heck, I finished my reading of American Gods in 2 weeks! Talk about speed and dedication to boot!

But then work happened.

At first I thought I’d keep a book hanging around the office. All those extra time in between tasks aren’t gonna fill themselves, amirite?

But no. I found quickly that reading a novel while everyone else is working isn’t exactly upstanding work behavior.

(while I know that the eminent Mr. King – may he live ten thousand years – said that social correctness should be the least of the writer’s concerns, I’m afraid to say that I don’t have half the cojones to follow through with his advice. I remain to this day terribly afraid of what people might be thinking about me)

It was in this time of need that I discovered the wonders of audiobooks.

Where can I begin about the wonders of audiobooks?

Some people are of the opinion that having a book read word for word out loud to you is a tedious process. “I mean, just read the goshdarned book, amirite?” But think of it this way: every day, I spend an average of 2 hours on the road. There are better days, and there are worse days, but let’s stick to that nice, round number. 2 hours on the road each day.

The radio in my car is busted. It wasn’t always busted, but I have long since given up on trying to get it fixed. So that’s 2 hours on the road, from Monday to Friday, that I’m not doing anything but trying not to space out. 10 hours a week. 40 hours a month. Heck, that’s a full week’s worth of work hours right there! Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and you get 2080 hours of trying not to space out!

And like every stereotypical chinaman, I must squeeze every last bit of goodness out of the things I have.

I was fortunate enough to start off my audiobook adventures with one of the finest works on the medium: Mr. Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, read by the man himself. Even more fortunate I was to continue that exhilarating ride with Mr. Hill’s Horns.

Five months down the road, these are the books and I have read thanks to the medium:

  • The Graveyard Book
  • Horns
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
  • Coraline
  • NOS4A2
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Gone Girl
  • The Martian

And the list keeps going on for as long as I have people willing to read books out loud.

If you are an author who allows/pushes your books to be converted into audiobooks, or if you’re an audiobook performer, or if you’re someone in or marginally related to the industry… From the bottom of my heart: Thank you all.

You make the 2080 hours spent on the road worth the while.

363. Four Months Later

Um. Hi.

I’m back.

I promise, I have a good reason for my mysterious disappearance four months ago.

See, in January I accidentally got myself into a job; which sucked at first, but turned out to be actually quite bearable towards the end – until I got university troubles and had to resign at the end of March.

I went through April without much event. But by the end of the month I realized that I have to find money somehow. You know, Stayin’ Alive. I had to get a job.

So from a contact I got from Sue, I got myself into a part-time copywriting job in May. It didn’t pay a lot, but with tight budgeting and copious amounts of potato, I managed to get through the next three months, in which I worked and studied on alternate days (but still had my weekends off).

Finally in August, I started working full time.

And nothing was ever the same again.

I guess I’ve underestimated the kind of energy a full time job takes out of you. It’s not tiredness, mind – it’s more like fatigue. After a day of sitting and staring at a screen, the last thing you want to do is to get back home to sit and stare at a screen.

(or at least that’s how I think it works)

And so the posting frequency on this blog space has suffered.

But I have been writing. Not as fiercely as I did in the first half of the year, but I have been writing. A little short story here, a little feature there, send a couple of them out to magazines, get an equal number of rejections back, curl up in bed and wait for the tears that won’t come because I’m a cold-hearted bastard… You know, the works.

But it hasn’t been all bad. I wrote a short story titled “The End of the World” that some people said some really nice things about, even if it did not make it to publication in the end. I wrote some scattered scenes for stories I intend to later expand into proper novels. I started writing poems for birthdays of friends, which was nice.

(because let’s be really honest here: what are they gonna say, that it’s a shit poem and they hate it? No! They are socially obligated to smile at my half-arsed attempt at wit and say some variation of “How nice!”. Check-and-mate, social correctness)

The highlight of the four months that I’ve been away, however, must be an email that came in from a certain Mr. Wallace on a dry October night. Short, succinct, it read:

Hi Joseph, I’d like to accept this submission for The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk.

I slapped myself a couple of times just to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The two and a half months following that mostly consisted of waiting between emails and responses; but earlier this week the first pass came in for the publisher, and there I saw my name nestled in with other fantastic writers of science fiction.

What can a writer do?

Smile like an idiot, stare at the email for minutes too long, then close the browser.

And then get right back to writing.