How I’m Not Finishing a Book.

There are a million and one books out there – perhaps a million and two – about how to write a book. They’re all full of advice, and some are good – most are horrid – and it seems to me that given my own situation, it’s appropriate to write about how not to finish writing a book.

It’s the death of a thousand paper cuts in a digital age. 

Like all people who call themselves ‘writers’, when asked about whether I’m writing a book or not, I say, ‘yes’. Then it gets more complicated. People want to know what it’s about, people want to know what sort of writing you do, what you’ve published before, and so on and so forth.

I’ve come up with, “When you read it, you’ll understand it”, and found that depressingly untrue as I evaluate people who ask the question.

They may never understand.

Then you have all these writing contests, where people talk about how much they have written in a day, which is akin to IBM’s old and abandoned metric for computer programming – Single Lines of Code (SLOC).

What does it mean that you wrote 3,000 words today? I could write a dictionary and make that claim. Personally, I’d prefer writing a thesaurus.

On top of this, at last count there seemed to be approximately a zillion resources on publishing the book you haven’t finished, which forms it’s own distraction. Will I publish here? There?

And who is my audience? And what are critics saying about books like this? Will anyone read this? Is it worth it? Let me surf the Internet for a while.

Worse, books like ’50 Shades of Idiot’ pop up on the radar, and you realize how fickle even women are – on one side, rampaging feminists rooting out every penis they can find, on the other, books about toxic and abusive relationships for women are being bought by women. Oh, the market, so fickle, so very… human. And what if you mention BDSM relationships? Why is that poorly written series of books so popular with women? Is it because who should be the villain is rich?

Suddenly, you become acutely aware of how inconvenient potential readers can be. Again, like software engineering, life would be easier without users.

You still write, of course, but these things keep eclipsing the muse with the nagging doubts. You keep reading, of course, because reading is good for you for many reasons, not the least of which being you are digesting what you will eventually cough up over your keyboard with the juices of your life intermingled. And when that visual hits you, you sit there staring at the ceiling just long enough to really make the nagging voices their own muse.

And then you write this.

Oh, you made it this far? You poor soul.

And then I start thinking back to why I started writing, about the earliest of muses.

For me, it was hiding in a library in secondary school when the Physics class I got kicked out of was in session (I did very well in Physics because of that). Hidden within the tomes of books – so many books for a young mind – sat J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. 

I’d already devoured ‘The Hobbit’. My life pretty much sucked, so escapism was a plus. And I began reading the story that Tolkien had woven together – not written, woven. The world was alive in my young mind, the details sometimes as dense as Butterbur himself.

And then, there, leaned between the bookshelves of a school library, with a wary eye out for authority figures, my mind soaked itself in a new world and was so happy that it said, “I want to be able to do this!”

Then at home, mining things to read from my father’s sacred collections of books — mainly novels — I found between the engineering texts a book of engineering specifications of the U.S.S. Enterprise, 1701. Someone had written a book on how the ship worked, including ‘Desitter Space’ for Warp drives. I studied it, learning nothing of practical use, but it was a new world.

And then my mind roved back to the magic of seeing Star Wars and it’s characters, and how R2D2 captured my imagination – but my mother was in love with C3PO and thought, mistakenly, that I liked C3PO – not realizing I always laughed at C3PO and with R2D2, the clearly more intelligent robot who had communication issues that I completely understood.

Clearly I understood. My mother bought me C3PO as a gift and didn’t understand why I dismembered it. It ends up I was also prescient. 

And with all of that flooding back into me, about what made me passionate about worlds that made sense as opposed to the one I was born into – there was a reason I kicked and screamed on entrance that I did not know – the world falls away to the page, the idiots capitalizing on the death of Stan Lee fade into the background, and the writing can continue.

A Character Writing Itself.

“To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing it’s best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” — E.E. Cummings.

WritingI spent a week scribbling in a notebook, pen to page, ink to wood pulp, filling hundreds of pages in a cleansing ritual that I began using during my teenage years – notably when it took less time, ink and paper.

This writing was not to be published, it will not be published. The physical act of writing things on my mind, an exercise in what I would later learn is free-writing, is the way in which I aligned the world in my mind – instead of what the world would do so innocuously otherwise, aligning our minds to the world. And the final act of destroying it, as symbolically hollow as it may seem, ends the process.

I have been overdue.

There is a space there that must be kept, a boundary that allows us to be who we are in a world where we are expected to fit into molds, into categories, into these things only to make the lives of others simpler so that they can easily categorize us and put us on shelves to collect dust and cobwebs of convenience in their minds.

WritingTheir convenience has never been convenient for me; they would tell me only to study what I needed to pass tests but I wanted to learn everything and never cared much for tests. Who are they to test me on what they think I should know when they are gambling on knowing what I should know? How is it that they can justify measuring me as if I were a shoe for society to wear, to protect it’s tender feet from the reality they do not teach of?

By the time I was 11 I knew that they would not teach me the things I needed to know then, the challenges I had to face were well beyond their curriculum. They could not teach me to adapt as I had to, they would not teach me then how to help my father make sure that we made enough money to put food on the table. Certainly, I have used much of what they taught me, but most of it was not timely, most of it was inappropriate, and the only real benefit I would find later would be understanding the intrinsics of how a bureaucracy can mold people into not only accepting but expecting bureaucracy as some form of answer in a society that shudders under it’s weight, humans shuffling from one line to another with the quiet hope that by continuing in those lines that someday they might become something they have been taught is ‘successful’.

No one teaches what success is. They’ll toss you carrots when you jump through hoops, but tigers do not eat carrots and are not fond of flaming hoops – thus the whip.

To some of us – I do not know how many, they will know who they are and announce themselves if they wish – there is a need for this boundary between ourselves and society, where the indignities we suffer in pretending a conformity we do not have can be forgotten, if only for a while, because in the end it is only a while that we have. We do not see the world as they taught us, but we recognize that others do. We do not see the world for what they want us to see it for, we see it for what it is – whatever that may be for any one of us.

There is no ‘woke’ to be had by reading a book or following someone else’s philosophy, it comes only from the brave act of living with freedom despite the bindings of society.

Alone on a rock, able to leave whenever it wants. Freedom.
The Brown Pelican, on a rock in the surf, free: Able to leave whenever it wants.

As I wrote what I had to in that notebook, hand sore, finger indented from holding the pen so long and so emphatically, it became apparent to me that I had become exhausted by the world constantly trying to make me one of everyone, that I needed to get away more often, and that my exhaustion was a reward for victory.

The rest and relaxation was simply to continue being a free individual in a society that detests such people – for we are dangerous; we have ideas and thoughts that threaten the status quo. Outnumbered, surrounded…

And unconquered.

Beyond a Camera.

Blue-grey tanager [thraupis episcopus]I’ve made the time to go through my Flickr collection of photos to pull out some of the better ones for my FineArtAmerica page and my Zazzle page – something I had planned to do once I crossed the threshold of 20,000 images.

I’m down to 13,000 after a few days, having culled those that no longer matter or simply didn’t make the grade. It gave me an opportunity for me to look at what I had done and where I’d been over the years, something that we sometimes take for granted, and also my own motivations for photography. I didn’t set out to become a photographer.

Vegetables at Mon Repos marketSo why did I take all these pictures? There are different reasons. Writing on the web does better with pictures, and I couldn’t afford to buy the rights to the images I would have wanted to use – Creative Commons has helped me with that, thank you – but there were less images available online for free almost 20 years ago. To make matters worse, I’m probably one of a handful of people who managed to fail Art as a class (I failed Student Orientations for similar reasons).

So the early photos I posted online were guided by that – I’d take a lot of pictures and upload them because I thought I could use them for writing at some point. Some I did, most I didn’t – and image quality with the elder, lower class cameras I used just didn’t age as well as I hoped, with few exceptions (some are here in this entry).

From top to bottom - blue-grey tanager, yellow oriole and palm tanagerWhen my father died in 2005, I had a slightly better digital camera and had taken up my father’s habit of feeding the birds – and I studied them, their behaviors, and found some comfort in those  things as a distraction from the mess his Estate was, and the fact that the lawyer in charge of doing things was as efficient as stoned molasses moving uphill on a cold day. In a way, it kept me sane. And when I got the opportunity, I got a better camera and did better.

This Revolution Is For Display Purposes OnlyAnd all during this, I remained Nobody Fugazi in Second Life, wrote an eBook through O’Reilly that is now dated and useless, and was also looking at textures for prims in Second Life. Since I lacked graphic abilities beyond straight lines, a budget to afford software or copyrighted images, I pushed forward in that regard too. So, a lot of images of would be textures and a lot of images of my forays in Second Life that were no longer relevant were culled – Second Life is really a novelty now, where once it paid my bills.

Handful of bird peppers.The world changes, we change… and through all of this I had accidentally become a passable photographer. I say that because I noted that there were less and less bad images I uploaded over the years between the good ones.

People were asking to use my photos through Flickr, even NASA at one point, and I was letting them use them. A lighthouse picture paid me for the rights to what I considered a really bad photograph of the lighthouse in Port of Spain. I came to realize that the good photographs weren’t always what made the money. Pictures I have taken of bush-fires appear in textbooks in the Caribbean and some other places. I was actually making money with some really bad photography.

Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday at Presentation College Reunion (2010)And people and companies were actually using my pictures without permission, in contexts I did not agree with – so I had to battle over that, and I never let them pay me after their abuse as a matter of principle. Anyone who takes something without permission and tries to pay for it when they get caught is someone I don’t want to be associated with. But now, I found myself a guardian of something that I never expected to have, and I began to understand better how it feels when things you are emotionally invested in are taken without permission. It made me look at artist’s rights differently. You’ll note that I don’t have cheesy copyright notices on my images – I have my own methods for finding things that work well enough without destroying images.

Sloths gone wild! Arlene the Sloth gets her bearings as the humans leave (3)And during all of this, I traveled. I met other human beings in different places as I grew myself, and found humanity is generally mundane except for a choice few. But the creatures! The stories of the humans!

And so I stretched a little further even as the camera became less of a tool and more of an extension. Not a great extension, mind you, but I was learning through experience… and ultimately staring at some really bad photographs, most of which I have culled.

Other things became apparent. I have an aversion to photographing people – perhaps fodder for another post.

New Smyrna Beach Sunrise 12-22-2014And once it became an extension, photos started getting better.

So much better, in fact, that I sold prints for a while in Florida, bought some more updated equipment based on what I needed of an extension, and my photography got significantly better.
But if you ask me what I do, I won’t say I’m a photographer.

Nope. I still say writer. Neither pays well, but when I look back over the years they have become constants in a life of change.

I’ll be taking a break for a while… but I will be back after a relatively short retreat.

I Was Going Somewhere With That.

Little Green Man says THAT WAYOne of the more ‘fun’ things that happens with writing is the distraction – when you end up off on a tangent because of other things.

Like earthquakes. Introspection because of how you see other people react about earthquakes. And then, because you’re already distracted, you end up writing about an attachment to vehicles.

And that actually fits in with all of what I was getting at. Granted, some people are distracted by the antics of people who they implicitly give authority to with their attention, or have that societal attention deficit disorder as frameworks do what they were designed to.

When the earth rumbles and people realize just how powerless they really are – when they can’t run away from something and there’s nothing to fight – a morbid reality sets in that can’t be so easily dismissed… for a short while, anyway. It’s not as if understanding plate tectonics is going to save you from an earthquake. Breaks in frameworks begin to show, and the ambiguity of how safe one really is seeps into the society.

Time moves along, the ambiguity pumps are manned as people find explanations from either science or religion or that-person-down-the-street-who-knows-everything… they find some comfort, getting rid of that ambiguity.

And suddenly, they’re acting as if nothing happened at all. As if they are safe, as if the few hours of their lives they spent with seismologists was enough – because to them the world is dangerous to know about, it’s dangerous to understand what happens outside of those frameworks.

People don’t want answers. They want comfort.

And, oddly enough, that’s an important point on the way to where I was going.

Victims of The Possible.

second babel towerThe sky is the limit, as the saying goes, yet even on the same planet we see different skies.

What surrounds us limits what is possible.

What we view as possible limits us in a very direct way – and indirectly it limits us what we aspire to, what we dream.

We’ve seen it all our lives, we will see it throughout our lives.

If we look carefully, we can see it right now.

Look around you. Look carefully at the walls that secure you, the window placements and what you can see outside of them, assuming you can.

Where you are right now was framed by an architect and built by contractors. What you see right now guides what you think about.

That is the power of building things, that is the implicit limitation.

Steinebach Sieg - Besucherbergwerk Grube Bindweide - Streckenausbau 01Everyone around you is a victim of what they see as possible. Every single person has their own outlook.

Everyone lives in their own cave, as Plato wrote.

We who travel between the caves know this, but what we convey is rarely trusted within the caves of others only because they have grown accustomed to what they think that they can do, what they may be limited by – physically, socially, economically – so they do not trust easily people who fall into their caves.

They are the victims of possibility. And we are the victims of them.

The Broken Links.

Banksy in Boston: F̶O̶L̶L̶O̶W̶ ̶Y̶O̶U̶R̶ ̶D̶R̶E̶A̶M̶S̶ CANCELLED, Essex St, Chinatown, BostonThe Internet is a strange place, largely because it’s not a place. As a society we reference it as a place because that’s how we’re used to referencing things with addresses.

It makes things easier.

There are ways in which it is like a place – a separate country, born of optimistic ideas that re-awaken every now and then, increasingly divorced from the reality that is there if only so that we can hope that one day we can change that reality. Because if we change reality, we might somehow matter. We want to matter, some of us more than others, but we all want to matter.

Whether we do or don’t matter really doesn’t matter. Whether we think we do or don’t matter really does matter only because it’s about how we view ourselves. And how should we view ourselves?

The Internet has changed that. I’ve seen it happen so far, and I’m certain it will continue changing it one way or another.

As it happens, I got here by looking for old links of some of my writing. They are gone.

For less than a heartbeat, I was disappointed. My writing over the years on various sites, from (later to has disappeared into the ether – some words rewritten in book form by others. My own site, the domain that has been around the longest, suffered a hosting error circa 2005 that it never recovered from.

I, however, did.

And it’s all good. I smiled at that, knowing that much of what I wrote was dated and didn’t matter anymore. We scribble these notes to nowhere and let them loose in the hope that they find a home – maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

This medium lacks the longevity of stone tablets. With every increase of technology, our words become more susceptible to time – a balance, perhaps, with the amount of effort it takes to reach a wider audience. Tapping away here at 4 a.m., having effortlessly stayed up the night thinking about such things, I am fine with this mortality of prose.

Were I to spend time etching in stone, it would last longer – I would write less. And yet, in writing less we sometimes write more.

Those broken links are a salvation of sorts. They were practice for me to become better, to think things through, to etch more carefully into the ultimate medium – the mind.

It is there that we can defy this mortality of words – a necessary aspect of our being. Only the good things should last, only the good things are worth keeping.

Dreams are ethereal for a reason. They do not belong here.

What we do with those wisps of dream is all that matters – and sometimes it means broken links in the stream of a consciousness that our society dares not master.

We simply fill voids.

Evolving The Reality Fragments FB Page

cropped-realityfragments.jpgAs I mentioned earlier, there’s this Reality Fragments Facebook page that was started really because Facebook asked me about it. It evolved into a place where I would share my writing from here, (more tech/DIY/OpEd), TechNewsTT (T&T centric OpEd), and wherever else I scribble an expansion from the void of NULL.

Here’s the thing: I don’t really know what I’m doing with it, so it has it’s own life. A strange one at that. And I don’t really care too much since I’m focusing on writing these days.

It’s a work in progress that has already taught me a lot. For example, despite having at least twice as many posts, articles tend to get more traffic because of the material. Let’s face it, what I write on RealityFragments isn’t for everyone – it’s not nearly as focused.

And strangely, the Facebook page has allowed me a certain amount of freedom. A certain anonymity, and it certainly has gotten more shares than my own network has had. I seem to attract people who don’t like sharing, which is fodder for another post in the future.

So far, after stepping back after more focused writing for about a week:

(1) For and TechNewsTT (the OpEds), my general rule of thumb is, “If it’s not being written about and it bugs me, I should write something about it.”

(2) For life, the universe and everything posts, I write them here on RealityFragments.

(3) As I write more, I actually share less often.

The last one – because people may think I only write what I post on one site or the other – is about the writing I do offline, unpublished so far. This is because I’m seriously focusing on my writing.

So, if you’re interested in this grand experiment that’s doomed to eventually becoming NULL in the great expanse of the Internet, go ahead and hop over to Facebook and like the Reality Fragments page. Or don’t, and only follow the relevant sites.

Or don’t, take your dog for a walk and think about something much more important that you’ve been putting off for days. Yes, everyone knows.

I promise you that it’s not going to be on any particular topic, a rare thing these days.