Irons in the Fire

What’s next, Jez, what’s next?

That’s the question I keep asking. It’s a very good question that must be asked. There’s the old joke about the guy who starts to clean his room, only to stop and start making lunch, only to stop and start taking a phone call, only to stop and wash himself, only to stop and fix a leaking tap, etc, etc and by the end of the day he has worked himself out and accomplished nothing.

That’s a very real trap.

I have many, many things I want to be doing. If I have a couple of lifetimes, I might be able to get through some of them, but I don’t and I can’t so that is a pickle. What can I do? There’s only one me and I’ve got limited resources and time and all of that.

I can prioritise, that’s what. I can put those projects forward that are doable and urgent and worthwhile. Aren’t they all? Yeah, but some more than others. I can’t go into exactly what my criteria is. What I can say is that there are pressing issues outside of writing and art that need to be done, so they rank right up the top (mostly because I’m responsible for making them happen). Next to those, I have my own personal endeavours and investigations that I want to do just because. OK, so they aren’t so critical, but all work and no play makes Jez a dull boy.

Lastly, I have books that want to come out. Tedrick Gritswell needs his third book. Paranormology just got Milena. Darkness from Below wants a re-write. In fact, it wants a complete overhaul.

That’s where I’ve landed:

  • I’ve finished the audio book of Atlas, Broken.
  • I’ve written three quarters of the next Tedrick Gritswell but put it down to let it simmer.
  • I’ve written the next book in Paranormology but put that down, too, because I’m not happy with it.
  • I’m overhauling Darkness from Below. It’s now going to be very different indeed from its original form.
  • I’m making plans to construct some cool experiments in the garage.

Hang on, hang on. Didn’t I just say that starting too many things and not finishing them was a bad thing? Yes, I did. That’s exactly what I said. So why did I stop with Tedrick and Paranormology? Because I’ve gone as far with them as I’m comfortable with. For now. There is such a thing as over-working, and for each book I’m at the stage where I need to step back and let it sit.

Muscling through to get something finished when there’s a clear-cut path to success is fine and recommended. When the end is obscure, though, or if there’s too much going on, backing off is a perfectly viable strategy. Tedrick, you see, is done. Done to the point where I can come back with a fresh, critical eye and start it up again when I’ve decided how to proceed. Paranormology is done. Done to the point where I could publish it right now, but it wouldn’t be what I’d want. I’m too close to it, too invested.

So those two are parked and Darkness from Below is my current project. This is going to take some brain-work. It’s going to be furious typing and several thousands of words every day. It’s going to be planning and deleting slabs of text and revisiting stale paragraphs that haven’t been seen since 2012. And that’s going to take time, which is fine. In the meantime, when I get bored, I’m going to do my experiments to keep my brain fresh.

In short, I’ve had a lot of irons in the fire, only not all at the same time.

The Road to Hell

I was sick yesterday. I’m still sick today, but yesterday, man. Fever, nausea, headaches, chills, aches, the works. It was the worst. World ending, full-blown Man-flu. Took some psuedoeffingwhatsit to help with the nose and passed out on the couch with a bunch of tissues as company.

Uh, I thought this was about Hell?

It is. Bear with me. In moments of fever induced delirium, my mind rubs its neurological hands together and, unrestrained by the normal censures of common sense, it goes on a merry little romp.

I remember, once, I watched an obscure tea-party on the back of my eyelids. Another time I thought up a ridiculous rendition of ‘Lasciatami Cantare’. Upon another instance I truly believed I had fallen off my bike and had lost my leg. I was astounded, not to mention utterly relieved, when I woke and found it attached.

Most of the time, not that this happens very often, but often enough to notice a general trend, you see, my brain decides that it’s time to do some spring cleaning. It sorts through all the shreds of memories and sniffs at each one, holding it up to the light, peering closely at it.

Still not seeing the correlation, Jez…

Getting to it. The thing is, this time around, after the usual regrets of uncontrollable failures, it hit upon an old story I had written back in high school. Penfold and Diana, it was called. Probably only about five thousand words, it was a decent story that I had, way back then, thought could do with a bit of love and sprucing and, perhaps, one fine day, publishing.

As usual, my brain lamented that it was stored on a floppy disk somewhere (remember those, kiddies?) and so was most likely lost to the ether. It moved along, following the thread, picking up all the stories that I had written and discarded, intentionally or otherwise.

There was the story about the man who tried to kill his shadow, the story of the adolescent who found love too early, the story of beast within the walls, the girl who lived with her insufferable torment of ‘Holkum Fire’.  And, of course, Darkness from Below, the unprintable novel. Each time my brain picked one up, I had a pang of guilt – was it guilt? – maybe regret, I don’t know, and each time I resolved to re-write the story.

Are you sure you don’t still have a fever?

Maybe. That’s not important. What is important is that, while there are some things that I cannot control, some failures that are too far gone to repair, these stories don’t belong in that category. They can see the light of day. I could trawl through my old hard drives and poke about for those forgotten gems, or just write them again from scratch.

And here comes the part about Hell: If I follow up on my good intentions to give these little guys some love, it will be at the peril of what I’m doing now.

It is not about whether I will resurrect these stories: Easy. I’m going to. No-brainer. Next.

It’s that I cannot drop what I’m doing now – working on the sixth part of Adaptation as well as getting some images in order for a Grosvenor Lane Ghost animation – and get cracking on these little guys. On top of this, I need to maintain this website, perform some administration on the domain and such, not to mention the everyday chores of watching after a little (and increasingly crafty) boy.

If I were to attempt to get everything done, I would not succeed in getting anything done. Men don’t multi-task at the best of times. I need to focus on one thing and only one thing.

In Software Engineering, context-switching is a very real way to burn an engineer into the ground: Swapping between various, unrelated tasks is a helluvalot slower and more error prone than doing one task at a time. The intention is good – to get everything done to make everyone happy – whereas the end result is getting nothing done and making everyone angry.

By the same token, having ten tasks 10% done is equivalent to having nothing deliverable, whereas having one task 100% done, and nine not started means I actually have one thing deliverable (and only nine things left to worry about!).

My good intentions to ‘Get it all done’ are indeed paving the road to Hell. Similar to my previous post, When Too Much is Too Much, aiming for everything will result in hitting nothing.

It’s at times like this that I put the ideas pad down and pick up a whiteboard marker.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to cool my jets and prioritise.Mini Jeztyr Logo