I want to write a book titled The Stained Glass Conspiracy. It will be about monks who live in isolation, devoting their entire existence to crafting stained glass windows depicting Biblical events. Except the conspiracy is that they actually just buy the stained glass windows from a thrift shop next door, and behind the barred doors of their monastery, they really spend all day playing Hearthstone and drinking Bourbon.
That has nothing to do with what this post is about, except for a weird metaphor at the end. Instead, I’m going to talk about accepting things I’ve known to be true for a long time, and actually practicing what I preach for once.
Writing Day to Day
Last Real Talk, I talked about how I was closing in on finishing and publishing my first novel. I’ve been sick the past week and my freelance jobs have been taking up a fair amount of time, but I’m still making progress. The biggest step has been acknowledging how far I still have to go and keeping my pace steady.
This close to the end, I am tempted to rush. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, If I sit down and write for the next sixteen hours, I might finish my book today. That might be right, but it’s not the best approach. Instead, I’ve been trying to treat my writing sessions as if nothing had changed since I started the book. The goal is to be consistent, not fall into the trap of intensity followed by burnout.
I’ve been talking about lagom in my Skyrim posts, and applying it to great success in my writing. I like to think of myself as some sort of uberwriter who doesn’t need breaks, who can write for six hours at a stretch, but of course I’m far more productive when I take twelve-minute breaks here and there. These breaks are so small that the actual action of taking them is laughably easy. The only roadblock is in my mind: it feels like admitting defeat, or else I’m afraid that if I stop writing for twelve minutes I won’t be able to start again. Making decisions out of fear of how my future self will behave is an insidious trap I fall into all the time, but of course it’s far more productive to have faith in future me and do what I can to set him up for success.
Side note: I’ve started writing with music. I used to do this all the time and I think 99% of writers already know how effective this is. At some point I spontaneously regressed to a lower life form who doesn’t understand how focus works, and decided just listening to coffee shop ambiance was fine. Anyway, my meditation app, Calm, has a great library of monotonous trance music and nature ambiance, and taking advantage of it has hugely boosted my productivity. Anyone else who belongs to the 1% of the population who don’t already do this, take note.
Owning Your Lair
The other topic I talked about last time was how I was searching for a new apartment. Shortly after that post I found out how much I owed in taxes. I still pay taxes as a Canadian resident even though I live in Mexico. Canada, being a pseudo-communist country, has some breathtakingly high tax rates. As an independent contractor, I pay these taxes twice–I pay as an employer and as my own employee. Altogether, it was more than I expected, and I had to reevaluate some things.
In the end, I was only admitting what I already knew: it doesn’t make sense to look for a new apartment anytime soon. My rent is unbelievably low and I don’t pay for utilities or internet. If I stay here for the next five to ten years, I’m in a good position to save up and buy an apartment outright, and never pay rent again. But if you read the last Real Talk, you’ll remember me describing an untenable living situation. Can I live her for five more years and would the pain be worth it?
Now that I’ve accepted this as my long-term home, I can. Many of the problems resulted from the idea that I would move in the near future, so I didn’t want to make any investments in the space. Since the last post, I’ve traded out my bed for a new one. Well, my “new” bed is also a very old piece of furniture, but the frame isn’t down a leg and the mattress isn’t full of broken springs. The new bed is also smaller, making my room less cramped. After moving around all the furniture I even have room to do yoga! I also moved furniture away from the window to maximize natural light, and fixed a broken curtain rod so I can actual let in said light. Finally, a new internet connection means I don’t have to burn gigabytes of data to use my computer in my room.
This is also an application of lagom. I’ve been living with the expectation that a larger space would solve my problems, but that would probably have turned out to be false. If I can’t own and manage a small space, a bigger space would just be a bigger, more disorganized mess. Not having the ideal lair is no excuse to leave your lair in disorder. When I do eventually buy an apartment of my own, I hope this experience leaves me ready for it.
Desdenada Is: Stained Glass
As I continue to flesh out the Desdenada Core Values, one thing is apparent: I need to nail down a naming convention. So far the values are Ridiculously Slow, As Real As It Gets, and Stained Glass. I feel they lose something if I convert them all to the same syntax: Ridiculously Slow, Unflinchingly Real, Openly Biased. Maybe the answer is to come up with flowery metaphors for the other two, like I have for Stained Glass. Hmmm. Desdenada Is: Chilled Molasses. Canadian Winter. Yeah, I’m going to have to workshop those.
Meanwhile, you might be saying, “Wait, did he just say being openly biased is one of his core values?” Yep. Keyword, openly. Bias means letting your thoughts seep into something, so any being that thinks is, by definition, biased. That’s not necessarily bad. The key is accepting bias, learning to recognize it in the world around you, and cultivating the right kind of bias.
I’ve always loved stained glass. It’s a beautiful, underutilized art. Not only is a stained glass window beautiful in what it depicts, it also lends a certain tone to the interior of a building. The light that filters through stained glass can be warm and comforting, or perhaps create a sense of gravity and somberness. The important word here is “filter”. Stained glass doesn’t create light of a certain color. It blocks out all the unwanted colors and leaves only few chosen wavelengths.
I used to do “Hall of Heroes” posts, talking about individuals I’d designated as Heroes. I think most news is either useless filler or else exaggerated or spun beyond recognition, but I don’t think the answer is to avoid news altogether. My solution was to filter all of my news through a set of Heroes. If everyone I admire and want to emulate is talking about a story, then it’s something I’ll look into.
Initially I was hesitant to implement this solution, because I think “echo chambers” and “internet bubbles” do a lot of harm. We all create our own bubble, though. Even if you follow a lot of people who disagree with you and with each other, you’re still selecting certain sources of information. Unless you want to consume all news without worrying whether it’s real, fake, quality, or clickbait–the equivalent of staring directly into the sun–the goal should be to identify what shade of stained glass you want to build. If you have liberal views and create an echo chamber full of only other liberals, you are saying, “I value feeling like liberal views are correct more than I value hearing both sides”, and I think that’s dangerous. But if you like geek culture and follow mostly other geeks, you’re saying “I value the opinions of geeks more than the opinions of mainstream reviewers who think the movies I like are overrated”, and I think that’s fine.
I might bring back the Hall of Heroes column occasionally, although I realized when I first did them that I might as well just write a name and the rest of what I was writing could be learned with a simple google search. Instead, I’m thinking of trying out some sort of “Desdenada News” column, sharing news and editorials from my very narrow, very biased perspective. I’ve said plenty of times how I love video games and other geeky things but don’t really relate to mainstream geek culture, which means I don’t really enjoy and geeky news outlets. In the spirit of creating the product you wish you could buy, I’ll cover stories from the perspective of someone who is equally obsessed with fantasy and with real-world success–no matter how small the audience for that might be.