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Becoming a Writer

It’s starting to look like I’m going to find a publisher for my autobiography, currently titled, Nested Scrolls: The Memoir of a Cyberpunk Philosopher. I’ll give more details if and when I actually get an offer.

But with encouragement in the air, I’ve started doing a revision of Nested Scrolls, starting with reading through it and patching things that seemed either too roughly phrased or too flat. I’d been a little uneasy that the manuscript might be really weak—given that I hadn’t looked at it since last winter. I’d been almost scared to reread it. But it’s good, I dig it, there’s some great stuff.

I’m going to write a couple more chapters for Nested Scrolls now, bringing it up to the present, and maybe I’ll blog a little of that material later on. Right now, here’s some quotes from my chapter about when I was working as freelance writer in Lynchburg, Virginia, from 1982-1986.


[Today’s photos are shots I took around the house and yard yesterday and today.]

It was an exhilarating time, but stressful. Sometimes I’d feel like a piano with its wires tightened to the point where the surrounding frame is about to snap. Exquisitely overwrought. Bursting with beautiful music.

Every weekday I’d go into that office to write. Nonfiction, stories, essays, novels—I loved it all. At any given time, my current project would be like an immense sliding-blocks puzzle in my head. I’d carry it around inside me all day and all night, fiddling with it, moving things around, working to improve the patterns.


[Hungarian-style embroidered pillow, but with ants instead of flowers, by Isabel Rucker.]

Even when I’d spend time doing other things, the steady river would still be flowing. In my subconscious mind, I’d continue trying things out, thinking ahead, feeling for the best idea. And when I’d focus back in on the work, I’d find that the river had changed a little.

The characters in my fiction would get to be like imaginary friends—I’d laugh to myself about things they’d said or done, puzzle over what they might do to improve their situations, and interrogate them to learn more about their pasts.

The best was when the world around me would begin to merge with my writing. I’d see or hear things that were just what I needed for the next chapter of my book. Conversely, I’d write something and the next day something very similar would actually happen. I came to think of this as the world dancing with me. The intense mental discipline of writing was putting me into such a sensitive state that the soul of the world was beginning to play to me. I was hanging out with the Muse.

But with the Muse at my elbow, it wasn’t like I had to sit at my desk alone all the time. Sometimes, if one of our three kids had a cold and couldn’t go to school, I’d take them to my downtown office with me. I remember Rudy coming along one day. He brought some plastic toy soldiers that he liked—the green kind that come two hundred to a bag—and his battery-operated Japanese robot. He put the soldiers in a circle around the robot and turned on the robot, and it was like seeing an SF flick right there. Later we walked down to a fast-food restaurant for lunch—Hardee’s—I liked their fried chicken sandwich, although Rudy preferred their barbecue.

This particular Hardee’s was entertaining because there’d often be an odd man there wearing an orange knit cap—he’d be with his aged mother, and she’d always be trying to calm him down. The day that Rudy came with me, the guy in the orange hat was excited about his hot drink, and yelling about it.

“Cup of tea! Cup of tea! Cup of tea! Cup of tea!”

We loved it.

4 Responses to “Becoming a Writer”

  1. HAL-1701 Says:

    in many ways the japanese-made movie Ponyo is rudy-ish. faery realm, hole between worlds, living water, sea creatures that aren’t sharks nor dolphins (not simple bad or good, but definitely kinda strange!).

  2. HAL-1701 Says:

    tthis is a web-app-thing that rates a book title, or compares two alternative versions,
    according to some data-driven model of sales versus aspects-of-titles.
    it asks what the title words are, like, verbs or nouns (!) :

    hey actually “dare” you to type in your killer booktitle…

    http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/

  3. Alex Says:

    Really looking forward to reading your autobiography.

    Do you have any favorite autobiographies?

  4. kek Says:

    Oh, meant to say (ages ago) how touching I found that.

    The passing of time n all that. Today becomes yesterday so fast. I’m watching my own kids’ lives accelerate up to light speed.

    I love the embroidered heart w/ the ants on it. I’m sure there’s a market for that.


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