I did get the proofreading done, which is good.
Science Fiction, Science, Politics, Economics, Art and Bird Watching
Back when I was young, maybe about college age, I used to ask myself a question. Do governments reach a final crisis because an idiot is in charge (I was thinking of Louis XVI and Nicholas II)? Or does a crisis somehow generate an idiotic leadership? I'm not sure I have an answer. But looking at the US government, I see what might be called the fatal combination: huge problems and idiots in power. It isn't simply the Republican House. The Senate isn't doing especially well, and Obama seems to have no idea how serious the problems he is facing really are, and Supreme Court is obviously overfull of fools.
Maybe the answer is years of bad decisions, which make the government increasingly rigid and unable to deal with crisis, combined with a system that becomes increasingly crisis-prone.
"The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.”
"There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence.” The feeling haunts people all their lives.
"Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness. The question becomes: What to do with the pieces? Some people hunker down atop the local pile of ruins and make do, Bedouin tending their goats in the shade of shattered giants. Others set about breaking what remains of the world into bits ever smaller and more jagged, kicking through the rubble like kids running through piles of leaves. And some people, passing among the scattered pieces of that great overturned jigsaw puzzle, start to pick up a piece here, a piece there, with a vague yet irresistible notion that perhaps something might be done about putting the thing back together again.
"Two difficulties with this latter scheme at once present themselves. First of all, we have only ever glimpsed, as if through half-closed lids, the picture on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box. Second, no matter how diligent we have been about picking up pieces along the way, we will never have anywhere near enough of them to finish the job. The most we can hope to accomplish with our handful of salvaged bits—the bittersweet harvest of observation and experience—is to build a little world of our own. A scale model of that mysterious original, unbroken, half—remembered. Of course the worlds we build out of our store of fragments can be only approximations, partial and inaccurate. As representations of the vanished whole that haunts us, they must be accounted failures. And yet in that very failure, in their gaps and inaccuracies, they may yet be faithful maps, accurate scale models, of this beautiful and broken world. We call these scale models 'works of art.'"
It's another gray day and I am in another gray mood, in spite of getting a third of the very wet planetary romance revised yesterday. I'm aiming to finish by Thursday, so I can email it out to my writing group. Eek. Thursday is soon. Maybe I will email it Friday.
I have decided, based on a one word comment on facebook, that I am out-of-date, passe, an OF. I suggested to Wiscon a while back that they do another panel on growing old in science fiction, but I can't remember if the panel was supposed to focus on literature or on the human experience of being an aging writer or fan. Worth doing, I think.
What happens when one is no longer cutting edge in a field that is supposed to imagine the future? Though my very wet planetary romance is a pretty darn fine vision of the future, if I do say so myself.
This is not a plea for reassurance. LeGuin said -- or wrote -- that as she aged, she found people ignoring her. If it happens to LeGuin, then no one is safe. It's this phenomenon I'm interested in.
I'm a slow writer, and I take a lot of time off from writing. Because of this, I was never able make a living writing, and I had to work day jobs. I liked them, but they left little time or energy for writing. This was a kind of vicious circle or Catch 22. Many writers experience it. You need to time to write, but how can you get it, if you are not yet making a living at writing? The usual solution is to have a spouse or partner with a good day job -- or you inherit money, or you live in a garret without health insurance, or you have iron discipline and a lot of energy and both write and hold a job.
I'm writing more now that I'm retired. But it took three years for me to get back in the habit of writing and to enjoy it again. Could I have made a living from writing if I had worked at it harder? I doubt it. Not a good living with health insurance. I paid the health insurance bill at my last job. Two years before I left the job, the bill for me -- one person, in an insurance group -- was more than $12,000 a year. In order to live comfortably and safely, I would have had to make at least $12,000 more as a writer than I was making as the financial manager of a small nonprofit. Probably considerably more, since I would have been buying insurance as an individual.
This changed after I turned 65. The cost of insurance went way down, since Medicare took care of hospitalization; and I stopped working shortly thereafter. As it happened, I was laid off. But after I looked around for another job for a while and finally actually realized that I was old enough to retire, I retired.
I think Joe is right about the way to make a living from writing. Do it. And Adam is right that people vary. I am horrified by people who give up writing or don't pay adequate attention to writing, because they don't care enough. But that's my response, and it says more about me than anyone else. There is more to life.
I've never had a really hard physical job, though I unloaded boxes of blue jeans once or twice for a friend who was a truck driver and sick. I went along as the lumper, the technical term. Blue jeans are heavy. I enjoyed it, because it was new and different. And I did a few years working in warehouses, but it was light warehousing, and I mostly liked it. Eight hours of light exercise, for which I got paid. It solved the problem of how to stay fit. And I met interesting people. Most of the time, I worked in offices. At the end of my work life, I did accounting for small nonprofits, which meant waking up in the middle of the night worrying about how I was going to make payroll, and the people who needed to get paid were friends. That is another kind of hard. Writing is easier, and I am better at writing. In the end, I was not a world class warehouse worker or accountant. I was merely okay. It feels good to do something for which I have actual ability and skill.