Introducing a new (planned) regimen

IOZ

Okay, I want to start doing more writing here on IoZ on a regular basis—to discuss stream-of-consciousness matters, to explore personal philosophy, to share my reactions to current events, my thoughts about science and math, and so on.  I do not, however, want this project to interfere with my daily writing and/or editing schedule, since that is the fundamental purpose and meaning for my life.

Given all that, I’m going to try just to fit this writing into the moments of down-time during my working day—during lunch, for instance—so that I can get it done without interfering with more essential matters.  Hopefully that won’t have a detrimental effect on the quality of the writing; I hope for feedback from you, my most beloved and loyal readers, if such becomes the case.  Still, since Iterations of Zero can, officially, be about anything, and in any format (unlike my “main” blog, which focuses mainly on fiction writing and related matters), I don’t have to feel too constrained.  For instance, I started this current entry without any topic in mind other than to introduce the notion that I mean to write a bit more regularly, hopefully putting at least one entry out a week.

I’m not sure whether I’m going to post pictures with each entry or not.  I suppose you’ll know the answer to that for this entry at least before you even get the chance to read it…though you may not realize that there was a question until you reach this point of the post.

Again, today I plan on just making this more or less stream of consciousness, and for the entries in general more or less to be according to whatever whims drive me on any given day or week.  I’ll try not to let the entries be too dominated by my dysthymia, but I can make no promises.  If I were able to have that degree of control, I would exert it on my own behalf before applying it merely to the blog posts.

That being said, writing new fiction at least tends to do good things for my mood, so hopefully writing a decent amount of non-fiction—which technically is what these blog posts will be, though there may be matters included which are apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate—will have a similar beneficial effects.  It’s at least unlikely to be detrimental…to me, anyway.

I make no promises to my readers.  Caveat lector.

I’ll try to keep the posts from getting too long, and I plan to keep the final length on the order of about a thousand words, perhaps a bit less.  I figure that’s a pretty good amount of reading to digest in a quick sitting.  There may be occasions on which I need to put more than a thousand word’s worth of writing down on a subject, but if it’s very much more, I can always split an entry into more than one part and publish them as a micro-series.  That could be exciting, right?  It might introduce a bit of suspense to the process.

Probably not.

And with that, though it’s slightly shorter than a typical post will probably be, I think we’ve said enough for now.  It is, after all, just an introduction to the new regimen.  I hope you will enjoy my forthcoming posts and my planned increased output volume.

“And I am of the universe, and you know what it’s worth”

I wanted to write today, but I had no specific subject in mind, so I figured I’d just start typing and see what came out.  Of course, I write nearly every day, no matter what.  Every work morning, I get up a few hours earlier than I need to, and I use the extra time to write…always at least a page, though usually more.  Most days, I write fiction, but though fiction cannot help but be an expression of its author’s character, it’s not quite the same as more directly sharing one’s thoughts.

One of the main uses to which I put this blog, “Iterations of Zero”, is precisely that:  to share my thoughts on various issues—scientific, psychological, personal, social, whatever.  Often, these thoughts are triggered by current events, and perhaps even more specifically, by people’s reactions to those events on social media, such as Facebook.

Facebook has been getting more and more depressing to me over time, though.  I mean, when I first got on it, it was mainly a way to reconnect with people I’d known back when I was alive, and it’s still good for that.  It has been good for that, anyway.  Unfortunately, it seems to distill the world’s stupidity in ways that are so overwhelmingly depressing that it’s all but impossible to bear.  Maybe it doesn’t cause this phenomenon, maybe it just brings it to the fore, allowing people to say in the hearing of the billion or so Facebook users what they would only ordinarily have said when drunk at a bar.

Modern technology makes it all too easy to create a Facebook “meme” and/or web-based “article” about almost any subject one might wish to undertake, including photos—which can easily be manipulated and adjusted to suit the needs of any would-be commenter—without having to go to the trouble of gathering evidence or making cogent arguments, and to share links and memes that other people—people who had seemed reasonably intelligent—will “like” and “share” in turn.

The quality of popular entertainment on television and in other media has always been hit or miss, but with the rise of for-profit news stations and reality TV, and then of social media, the actual level of intellectual discourse seems to have sought out, and located, the lowest common denominator.  Maybe it’s always been this way, and I just didn’t notice it until I’d lived long enough.  Maybe it really is getting worse.

So, I’ve been getting on Facebook less and less often.  I probably will never abandon it completely, since it’s the main venue through which I communicate with my daughter, and I don’t want to lose that.  But even such communication has its poignancy, its own bittersweet flavor.  I only connect with my daughter through Facebook (and my son, not at all); I only connect or pseudo-connect with anyone through social media, now.  But in all honesty, except for my daughter, there is no deep connection.  My social awkwardness is such that even interacting on Facebook, via direct messages or comments, makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know why I care, and I don’t know why that caring makes it so much harder for me to do.  I just know that I feel utterly disconnected from the world on anything but the most superficial level.  I’ve no common ground with anyone at work.  I’ve no connection with any of my old friends; our lives are utterly separate and disparate.  There’s no one to whom I feel I can actually talk, though I’ve become quite good, as a matter of habit, at pretending to be in a good mood when speaking to family and the few others with whom I interact.

I’m at a loss.  I mean, I am writing my fiction and all.  I finished the first draft of Unanimity, a really long novel, at the end of January.  I wrote the first draft of a short story right after, and I’m now working on what was a random, walk-in short story that will likely become a novella.  But I doubt the world would be measurably poorer if neither these, nor any of my other works, were ever read by anyone again for all eternity.

I’m not even sure if I should post what I’ve written here.  It is, fundamentally, just an expression of depression and loneliness, and I think I’ve done enough of that, both here and on Facebook, without any sign of useful results.  Maybe I’m just too cryptic.  I’ve never been very good at traditional “cries for help”.  The one time I called a “suicide prevention” hotline, I got picked up by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, who handcuffed me—injuring a nerve in my wrist—and brought me to a shit-hole of a mental health emergency place, from which I was released just a day or so later.  And while I was in jail I got put in a “suicide watch” cell with no mattress, no blankets, just a metal cot-frame (with sharp corners, ironically enough) and a thin, flimsy paper gown that fell apart within an hour or so.  These aren’t experiences I long to repeat.

Anyway, everyone to whom I might reach out is busy with their own lives; they have enough problems.  I have neither right nor merit to infringe upon their limited supplies of time and energy.  Maybe writing this blog is the best answer available to me, frail and limited though its use may be.

I considered titling this post with a line from a Beatles song: “And now my life has changed in oh so many ways.”  But the next line of that song is “My independence seems to vanish in the haze,” whereas mine is, if anything, more complete than ever before, and I’m leery of trying to remedy that.  I used to be able really to talk with my ex-wife (before she was “ex”) about nearly anything, but that didn’t turn out so well in the end.  I think that I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter my fundamental disagreement with the poetic claim that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  I know how I felt when I had never loved at all, and I know how it feels to have loved and lost.  I prefer the former.

That’s not saying very much, though.  I’d rather receive a hundred lashes than two hundred, but I’d prefer not to have either, thank you very much.  The people I’ve most loved in my life have uniformly found me unpleasant to be around (probably the people I don’t love would concur) and that’s a pain I could stand to avoid.  I frankly don’t even like to be around myself…quite the contrary.

I do wish I didn’t feel so depressed so much of the time (I also wish for world peace, and to eat all the junk food I want without getting fat, while I’m at it).  I’ve been treated medically and psychologically for depression in the past, but never with very satisfying results.  I even reached out to a former therapist of mine not long ago for a recommendation of someone to see near me.  The recommendation was given, but I never contacted the person recommended.  The prospect of trying to open up to someone new is too depressing in and of itself.

Also, I have very limited spare time, and I want to use what I have on writing, mainly my fiction.  My fiction is better than my non-fiction, though even it tends to be pretty dark.  Reading my work isn’t something that can readily be predicted to uplift anyone; I apologize for that.  I am who I am, and I write what I must, and I cannot be anyone else or write anything else.

Maybe I’m just tired.  I’ve been trudging along for ages through barren terrain, and I’ve been doing it by myself for nearly the last third of the journey.  I have no Fellowship, no band of companion gunslingers to accompany me on my trek to the Dark Tower.  Maybe no one ever does.  In a certain sense, we are all alone in our thoughts and minds.  But in another sense, humans really do have a sense of empathy and connection, we have mirror neurons and “theory of mind”, among other things, which make our relations with our fellow tribespeople visceral and profound, as real and biologically salient as the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.  Some of us, though, appear—by nature, by choice, by circumstance, whatever—to belong to tribes of one.  I don’t know how many such uni-tribes there are, but if one cannot even find people with whom one feels kinship even on the over-a-billion-people venue of Facebook, it’s hard to see where one is going to find them.

Maybe we need to wait for AI’s or extraterrestrials to arrive.  Or perhaps that’s too grandiose and self-congratulatory, as are my own frequent thoughts—bolstered by some science—that people with depression are fundamentally poor at being able to fool themselves about the nature of reality in order to make themselves feel better.  This is “humbloid” speech, really; we say we are poor at fooling ourselves as though we are being self-critical, when actually it’s a kind of bragging.

Then again, I would dearly like to be able to maintain a positive attitude—not at the expense of fooling myself about reality, but simply by not letting it bother me; perhaps by embracing despair and depression and coming out the other side.  I don’t know if that’s possible.  If it is possible, I don’t know if I have the skill or endurance to achieve it.  It’s hard to be optimistic.

Honestly, what I sometimes wish most of all is that I were not saddled by nature with the irritating survival drive that gets in the way of any possible rest, or at least of oblivion.  But that stupid, stubborn, mindless urge is fundamental, as nature has required it to be, for good, sound biological reasons.  This machine was built to survive.

What a stupid idea.

I think after all I’ll title this blog entry with a line from a different Beatles song, one that much more clearly expresses my sensibilities than “Help” does.  John wrote this one a few years later in his career.  He never did live to be as old as I am now.  I, on the other hand, am ancient—subjectively at least—and that agedness has effects on me similar to what it had on Vermithrax Pejorative in Dragonslayer.

Whataya gonna do?

Schrödinger’s Head

Schrödinger’s Head”

To be performed by: What’s in the Box?

Lyrics by Robert Elessar

Music to be written by Robert Elessar

Is the cat alive or dead?
Is the stop light green or red?
Is he awake or still in bed?
Is he hungry or well-fed?

I don’t know
What’s going on
In Schrödinger's head.

Is he in charge or is he led?
Is he below or overhead?
Did you take in a word he said?
You can go from A to Zed

And you won’t know
What’s going on
In Schrödinger's head.

Everything’s divided,
And everything is one.
Your view is so one-sided
But well-done is half begun.

Are you undecided
on what's already done?
The way ahead is lighted
by the blocking of the sun.

Did he charge or has he fled?
Excited now or filled with dread?
Is he behind or far ahead?
We want to know, and yet, instead

We don’t know
You don’t know
I don’t know
What’s going on
In Schrödinger's head.

I need to circle the zero from a different angle

I must rethink my schedule for writing Iterations of Zero.

The reason I need to do this is that writing IoZ is interfering with the speed of my fiction writing, and fiction is my primary utility function.  Unfortunately, since I write my fiction in the mornings, and do my original blog on Thursday mornings, writing this blog on Tuesday mornings (as I am now) further interrupts my weekly fiction flow.  I have one day on, then one day off, then one day on, then one day off, then one day on for fiction during the working week.  When I go into the office on Saturday mornings, I also write fiction then, and that’s good as far as it goes, but skipping days during the week slows me down and breaks my flow.

Of course, I’ve said to myself, and to you, my readers, that I could write at least a page of fiction on Sundays, as well.  I said that writing fiction on Sundays would be easier than producing an IoZ post on Sundays, and I still think that’s true.  Unfortunately, “easier” is apparently not easy enough, and I’m not getting much writing done on Sundays, if any.  I aspire to the Stephen King/Ray Bradbury ideal of literally writing every day, of course, but when one writes in one’s spare time while also working full time, with a long commute…well, the time takes its toll on one’s will, and on Sunday mornings I tend just to want—perhaps need—to vegetate.

If I were writing full time, and only writing, then I think I could swing it, but unless and until I achieve that blessed state, I need to adjust.  “Know thyself and act accordingly,” great Socrates exhorts us, and I try to comply when I’m able.  Obviously, I don’t quite know myself as well as I should, because if I did, I wouldn’t have to keep reassessing and changing things, but hopefully I’m getting to know myself a little bit better all the time.

So, if I must prioritize, I will choose my fiction over my nonfiction, heartrending though that can be.  I need to maximize the continuity in my fiction writing, with as few instances of “day off/day on” as I can.  Therefore, at least tentatively, I’m going to switch away from writing IoZ every Tuesday morning.  That way, I’ll at least get in a good four to five days of fiction writing a week instead of three to four, even without Sundays.

There are, however, still numerous topics on which I want to express my thoughts, from politics to philosophy, to science, to math, to mental health and the lack thereof, and every random, walk-in topic in between.  Though the list of my stories waiting to be written is long, the list of potential Iterations of Zero posts is even longer (though the total volume of work will no doubt be much shorter).  I need to work out some method of getting it done without impinging on my fiction.

The inspirations for IoZ posts can strike me nearly any time, (though, amusingly, they often occur when I’ve had large doses of caffeine—I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing overall, but it at least gives me useful knowledge of one possible trigger that I can squeeze when needed).  In the past, I’ve jotted these thoughts down in the notes section of my smartphone—the list has lasted through three successive phones, growing as it’s gone along—and I need to get back into that habit.  Writing down article ideas both stores them and makes them concrete.  Then, when I review these ideas frequently, with new thoughts occurring as I do, the articles compose themselves in my head as I go along, usually making the eventual writing much smoother.

All of this would be easier to accomplish if I could just master the art of getting enough sleep.  I’ve always tended to be an early riser, even when I was a teenager, but waking up at one or one-thirty in the morning—after going to sleep at perhaps eleven, and sometimes later—is just ridiculous.  It’s clearly not the case that I’ve simply had all the sleep I need; if that were so, I’d feel rejuvenated and enthusiastic when I wake up at those times, whereas normally I groan inwardly and curse my perverse sleep cycle.  I’m usually able to sneak in at least a little more sleep before morning, in fits and snatches, but it almost never feels like enough.

<sigh>

Oh, well.  No one ever promised that this “life” stuff would be easy, did they?  At least, no one ever promised me such a thing, and I suspect that if someone promised you such thing, they were trying to sell you something, tangible or otherwise.

I would welcome any advice, recommendations, personal experiences, etc. that might point me in a good direction with respect to writing my IoZ posts on a weekly basis without interfering with my fiction.  Any advice on getting better sleep would also be welcome, but remember:  I don’t really have trouble getting to sleep, just staying asleep.  Maybe I should simply meditate on those occasions when I wake up early…but thinking to do that requires a presence of mind that I often don’t have at such moments.

I’m certainly not giving up.  I mean to solve this problem or die trying, so I expect I’ll figure out something that works.  In the meantime, of course, you could all help by buying and spreading the word about my works and increasing their popularity to the point where I’m an international best-seller and can write full time.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

A fiendishly cunning new plan for writing this blog

I’ve been having trouble trying to set the day of the week to work on this blog, Iterations of Zero.  I’ve long tried to commit myself to writing a post every Sunday for IoZ, just as I write a post for my main blog on Thursdays (except when I’m ill, as was the case two weeks ago).  Unfortunately, this hasn’t worked out too well.

The primary problem seems to be that, on Sunday mornings—the only morning on which I am consistently able to sleep in—with the whole day stretching ahead of me, I find it hard to discipline myself to start the day with a blog entry.  Putting the writing off until the afternoon, even if I set a specific time, doesn’t work too well, either, as any procrastinator would probably predict from long experience.  If I don’t get that writing done first thing in the day, the odds are good that I won’t get it done at all. Continue reading “A fiendishly cunning new plan for writing this blog”