Tagdial-up

Saturday afternoon, November 22, 2014

First, a gripe.

This is how writing a blog post works in my house:

1. Turn on the computer.
2. Wait five to ten minutes for it to rouse from its unearthly slumber.
3. Connect to internet. (Note: this used to be fun to listen to, up until the speakers died. Now it’s simply a lot of waiting.)
4. Load blog.
5. Load page to make new post.
6. Reload page after it loads as a blank page.
7. Reload page, after it times out while loading.
8. Reload page, after it loads as a mostly blank page.
9. Page loaded after only fifteen minutes of trying!
10. Take deep breath and remind self that there are still many hours left to Saturday afternoon.

Massachusetts, right? I mean, it’s not like we’re not known for our industry, our technology, our education. If I say I’m from Massachusetts, first thing anyone thinks is “poor thing, bet she’s still years and years away from having high speed internet access.” At this point, it’s pretty clear that we’ll be getting rid of dial-up right around the time that other folks are jacking directly into their computers through their artfully designed arm ports.

Anyway, while it is still cold enough to make me cry, there’s blue sky outside. I’ve made a giant box of papers to be sorted into half a giant box and a bag of paper recycling, which deserves a cheer or two. I convinced the cat not to eat a large feather, I convinced the dog to go back to sleep, and I’ll be making cauliflower cheese soup for dinner later. It’s really not a bad day.

And writing? I think I mentioned that I was resculpting The Lost, did I not? I am, and it’s kind of a terrifying, glorious project. It’s not just the how and why aspects of it. It’s examining who I was as a writer in 2008, when I finished the first copy, and who I am now. Crazy stuff, trust me.

People don’t tend to admit that writing is partly about falling totally and inappropriately in love with something that works for no one but yourself. It just is, like loving pumpkin cheesecake so much that some part of you would happily hide it away and pretend you didn’t have it, just so you didn’t have to share. The trick is understanding at what point it becomes unhealthy, as a person, as a writer. Yes, it hurts to peel things apart and rewrite them sometimes, but if your goal is to communicate with at least some of the world, it can be a necessary thing.

It makes my heart ache a bit, though, when I hear writers talk about how their first works were terrible. The Lost was written in multiple tenses, in first person and third, had maybe the worst death scene ever written, and it was perfect for what it was–me learning to tell a story. The second version was better, and the third, and the sequel had some awesome and some not-awesome, and I love them all, and am happy to say that they were exactly what they needed to be, even though they were not what they needed to be to be published.

This is the thing I always tell the kids I work with (and anyone else that will listen): What you are doing when you sit down to draft a story is weaving a bolt of cloth. Not a suit, not a dress, not a tent. Just the cloth. Once you have that cloth, then you can figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, love what you’re doing.

Two final notes. One, my last story for the year, There’s Always A Nuclear Bomb At The End, will be in Daily Science Fiction this Friday. More about it then.

And two, if you haven’t already read Ursula Le Guin’s speech from the National Book Awards, please do. Better yet, watch it. I would, but, you know, dial-up.

Tales of the moderately rural

There’s a cheerful little sign on the WordPress dashboard letting me know that I’m not using the most up to date version of Firefox. It suggests that I may want to update it. You know, just in case I’ve forgotten to do so.

I haven’t. I just haven’t had the six or so hours free to tie up the phone line while downloading it.

Yes, it’s true. I live twenty minutes from a large college town, an hour from multiple cities, ninety minutes from Boston, and I’m stuck with good old dial-up. I also don’t have cell phone service or television stations (since the change to digital). Add in rural phone lines with lots of static, frequent power outages, and a job sometimes requiring me to be reachable 24/7, and you have all the makings of either a comedy or an early heart attack.

It’s not a terrible thing, most of the time. It means I can start opening a website and go away and make tea and read something for a while and come back just in time to see the first text appear on the screen. It means I can cross youtube completely off my list of possible distractions. It means I have ample time to practice meditative calm while waiting for something as simple as saving a blog post.

It also means it can take a long time to email things. To send out a full novel manuscript, for example, leaves time enough to cycle endlessly through exhilaration–mild anxiety–complete and utter despair. Send something you’re unsure about? No worries, you can begin your regret in the long minutes it takes it to leave the outbox.

Today I finally signed up for a twitter account. It took roughly my entire life to wade through the process. I may well never have the patience to access it again. But I did it.

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