(Previously: “I Would Kill For A Maidbot“)
There are a lot of little things that go wrong around a house or whatever it is that serves you as one – personally, at the moment I’m living in a trailer that’s only one year younger than my middle-aged ass and more things than average go wrong around an ailing junkpile (and, yes, as a starving writer with a starving family to support I’m totally going to pimp my Patreon and my books right here).
But, things always go awry. Entropy shows its bony claw to let you know it has not loosened its grip on the world. Sinks start dripping, toilets running, caulk and grout grow cracks, door handles loosen, lightbulbs die, vases fall and break, dresser drawers begin to squeak and catch…
…I’d kill for a tinkerbot.
An automated little helper to watch out for all those little problems and fix them before I even notice I need to. Something programmed with the right way to fix things so I’m not improvising, covering up tack holes with toothpaste and repairing cracks in the wall with strategically placed posters and fixing drafts under the doors with strategically trimmed expanding foam.
Something to fix that funny noise the fan in the bedroom is beginning to make before that funny noise grows loud and persistent enough to start annoying me – which kicks off a week or two of “I ought to fix that” followed by procrastinating and forgetting and later testily saying to myself “why the hell didn’t I fix that? Well, maybe I can take care of it after I finish cooking dinner.”
I’d kill for a tinkerbot.
I’m sure some folks with higher income would just give the tinkerbot an allowance and let it purchase deliveries of whatever it needed to do repairs. That would be awesome. But even S.A. “Under The Poverty Line” Barton could surely benefit from a bot that would advise me what is needed and then I could either bargain-shop or look for it in secondhand stores. And some things it could probably manage with just the basic set of tools I keep under one of the kitchen shelving units.
I’d kill for a tinkerbot.
Maybe the damned thing could even fix the water leak under the elderly washing machine that still works but which I must tip up and install a thick mat under every fourth load so the water won’t start running out into the hall.
Oh, yes. I would definitely kill for a tinkerbot.
And for those of you whose appliances aren’t ancient and ailing, I’d imagine a tinkerbot could still pay for itself by extending the lifetime of your newer appliances, not to mention all the hours of changing lightbulbs and touching up the housepaint and fixing gutters and whatever – and averting the larger damages and inconveniences that our not noticing and putting off that sort of thing often leads to.
Yep. Tinkerbot. Kill.
(When I write the next one in this mini-series, the link will go here)
Seriously, people. It’s bad enough it took 50,000 years — maybe 100,000, depending on which theorist you think is most credible — to go from self-aware sentience and serious tool-using to getting off this planet and walking on the moon.
It was really a remarkable milestone. Getting there stretched the technology of the day to its limits.
But what it didn’t do was stretch human capabilities. At the height of the US-USSR space race, NASA funding peaked at a smidge under 4.5% of the federal budget. Now, it idles about at under 1%. Because we constantly find bigger fish to fry. We’re busy doing important stuff like slashing funding for higher education, keeping up with what celebrities are up to, maintaining our supplies of five dollar Starbucks dessert coffees, and complaining because putting up more solar panels and wind farms might just take the wind out of the highly lucrative fracking business.
Much like a spoiled, entitled teen, we’re endlessly finding reasons that we don’t need to get out of the house.
But sooner or later, we’ll need to.
Are we really going to sit around until we’re forced? Or until one wild-eyed dreamer, somehow, against all odds, does it despite the disinterest and disdain of the majority of humankind? Seems a ridiculous way to run things, if you ask me.
The title story of this one was a year and a half in the writing. Isolation started as a short story. When I thought I had finished it, I sent it to my wife to see what she thought, as I always do. And she thought that the ending point was WAY too open-ended, left WAY too much unsaid. She wanted to know what happened next, and she was certain that what happened next would be interesting and important and the reader had to know what it was.
I grumbled, but I sort of saw her point, so I put the story on the back burner. And then I came back to it months later when more came to me, and it turned out that she was right. A 5,000 word story, in bits and parts over the course of more months, turned into a 20,000 word story. And the ending was still open-ended, but this time both I and my wife were okay with that.
Back in February 2014, nearly a year ago now, I posted an excerpt from That’s All, a story about a man vaulted from the edge of homelessness into reality-show stardom in a future where television and movies include “emotional tracks” that transmit the emotions of the actors to the audience. I have 15,000 words of that one down, and I think that maybe it wants to be a novel — which would be cool, I haven’t written one of those yet. But I still don’t know what happens next. I have some ideas, but none of them are really resonating strongly with me so far. I re-read it every month or two and think about it. That’s how I operate, sometimes. Some stories come to me all in a rush. Others take time. More time that I’d like.
The prevailing advice to writers is, write the story no matter what. Make it happen. Bull ahead, write crap, then edit it like a demon and chop it to pieces. And from those pieces, you will assemble your story.
That’s just not how I work. I don’t like writing things when I don’t know where they’re headed. I don’t need an outline; when I do one, it’s skeletal at best. I tend to write organically. But I need to have a destination in my head, no matter if I discard it after a thousand words because things have changed as I have written.
Don’t get me wrong, I do benefit from sitting down and writing when I don’t feel like writing or when I don’t know what happens next. But some stories, for me, just need to marinate for a while. Sometimes for months. Maybe a year or two.
This writing thing is an art, not a science. Maybe my feelings on stories are wrong sometimes, and maybe they’re right. This is an uncertain pursuit, drawing stuff out of a human imagination. We all need to take our chances, follow our feelings, push ourselves to finish work…
…but we also need to back off when we don’t know what comes next and give things time. Or, who knows, maybe you don’t, you lucky bastard. But I do. So it goes.
There’s a reason I keep a dozen projects juggling at once. It’s because I go through ebbs and flows on any one project, and I need other things to go work on while another stalls. To produce writing, I have to have some grasp on how, personally, I work as a creator. And this is just how I work. So it goes.
Sometimes, this means I post an excerpt from a piece of writing and a year later I’m no closer to completion than I was before. I don’t really like doing that, because I like to follow through with my readers. I don’t like to tease what’s not happening soon. And I have come to hesitate to post work in progress because of that, which, today, I have realized is a shame. I like to share, and I think you like to read. Why shouldn’t we share some work in progress, even if its future is uncertain? Hell, everything is uncertain. EVERYTHING. A black hole could swoop in and eat us all tomorrow, or something.
But again, so it goes.
A few days of new words coming slowly and with great reluctance really grates on my nerves.
Successful writers will mostly tell you that success — having a goodly number of readers and selling material regularly — comes slowly. That sure seems to be how it’s going so far for me. The success stories that involve sudden viral surges of popularity, or look like they do because the years of lead-up aren’t visible to the casual observer, stick in my mind and whisper, if you were any good it would happen to you. You’d go viral. Much like me, those voices are bad at listening when told to shut up and how unreasonable they’re being.
The last couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky to squeak out a couple of hundred words daily. The high point was a 900 word flash one day. It’s writing. I wrote something. I didn’t totally give in to apathy and frustration. In addition, I managed some blog posts here as well. Those are writing. They count.
No, they don’t, the Angsty Voice whispers. There aren’t enough of them, and they are insufficiently awesome. Writing doesn’t count unless it’s totally awesome, unless *I* say it’s totally awesome.
Shut up, Angsty Voice. I’m trying to write over here.
When something needs to be done, it’s an instant signal to resent having to do it, at least for me. It’s a nasty habit, this resentment. It’s part of that procrastinosaur that lurks in the bushes right next to the trail we travel, waiting to snap up the bits of our lives we let slip through our fingers.
I don’t like being told what to do, especially when the one doing the telling is the impersonal, inexorable, natural flow of events.
So what? As much as I dislike beginning to do the needful thing sometimes, I like the view of what needed to be done and is now finished receding in my rear view mirror.
It’s all a question of perspective… and for me, a matter of survival. Because if I let myself, I’m pretty sure I could sit on my butt looking at silly things on the internet until I perished of thirst. Because LOLcats and stuff.