This is the second or third time I’ve started today’s post. Hopefully this one will take…. I have snippets of ideas for today, but nothing that seems willing to cohere into a full post. So it looks like you’re going to get snippets.
Snippet 1: I started today by writing about ritual. My girls both start school tomorrow, and I’ve been reflecting on all the back-to-school, end-of-summer rituals that we go through in our household, from shopping for school supplies to taking a First-Day-of School picture of the girls the morning of that first Monday. We have photos going back years, marking their growth, their different hair styles, their favorite clothing at any particular age.
And I thought it would be fun to write about my work rituals, the things I do every day to stay productive and positive in my work. Turns out though that they’re more like routines than rituals and they’re really not very interesting. In fact, they’re about as mundane as you can imagine. And in a way there is some value in pointing that out. This is not glamorous work. I sit and I write. I do a bit of research, I read other books, I check my email and comment here at MW. But there’s not nearly enough there to make a post.
That said, though, I should mention one crucial daily ritual. At the end of the day, just before I get up from computer and start being Dad and Husband again, I back up the day’s work. I put it on a flash drive and on an external hard drive. Every day. You should do that, too.
Snippet 2: It’s common these days for professional writers to speak ill of Google, and particularly of their book project — their effort to digitize every book in existence. Google has done this with some books that are still in print and still covered by copyright protections, and the resulting lawsuit and Google Book Settlement have been in litigation for ages now. I see great danger to writers in what Google wishes to do, and I think it is going to force all of us into a lengthy and painful re-examination of the very meaning of copyright and intellectual property.
That said, Google’s digitization of old and out of print books — volumes that are no longer covered by copyright protections — is an invaluable tool for writers doing research on the web. The other day, as I was searching for information about pre-Revolutionary Boston, I stumbled across something utterly priceless. I had been trying to find any information I could about a gentleman named Stephen Greenleaf, who was the Sheriff of Suffolk County in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the 1760s. And I had found nothing beyond descriptions of specific things he did in enforcing royal decrees. Nothing about his personal life, or his personality. Nothing about what he looked like, which would have been enormously helpful.
Until…. A cryptic Google search reference led me to a book published in 1915 that mentioned Greenleaf. I clicked on the link and found the table of contents and then a list of illustrations. Including an illustration of Sheriff Greenleaf. I clicked on the appropriate page, and it took me to the drawing. Suddenly there he was, staring out of the page at me. Without Google, I never would have found this.
Snippet 3: The Google thing is just one example of ways in which we live in a wondrous age. Yes, I know: our world is filled with problems. The technology that surrounds us every day often seems more like a curse than a boon. But a few days ago, while reading a history book about Boston, I stumbled across some information of great importance to my Thieftaker books. Really big stuff that would mean extensive rewrites on book one and a serious rethinking of book two. I had many questions, and didn’t know who could answer them. I live in a small university town and there is no one here with the level of expertise I needed.
But I knew the name of the author of the book in question, and I knew that he was an emeritus professor at a college in California. It took me about three minutes to find his email address. I sent him a lengthy email apologizing for disturbing him and asking him my questions. I figured that maybe I’d hear back from him in a couple of weeks.
His email arrived the following morning. It was gracious and unbelievably informative, and it included an invitation to write back with any other questions I might have. And in a PS he mentioned that he had mentioned my email to his son, who reads SF and fantasy. His son, it turns out, is a fan of my work. It is, indeed, a small world after all.
That’s about all I have to offer today. As I said: snippets. But these are the things I’m thinking about. I’m working, and starting to enjoy that again. I’m watching my girls grow up and am blown away by how quickly times slip by. I’m fascinated by this wondrous and great and terrible world in which we live, and by the changes I’ve witnessed in my 47 years. Those are the things on my mind right now.
What’s on your mind? What are you thinking about this Monday morning? Care to share a snippet or two?David B. Coe http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://magicalwords.net