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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

lifestyle of the independent thinker

Yesterday I worked on both projects. I pushed ahead with more investigation relating to The Mission, and in the afternoon, after lunch and my energizing siesta, I opened up the Word files I've got on my future-fiction opus, and picked up there more or less where I'd left off.

It felt good. I'm able to write the way I read: switching from one thing to another, refreshed by the change when my attention flags. Plus, with the future work (I'll just call in Project B for now), I felt actual creative excitement, something I can experience only in small, controlled bursts with The Mission, hemmed in as it is by the complexities of factual research. With Project B I can let the volcano of my imagination spew forth its forms--which it is well able to do.

In that way I can happily pass a day in complete solitude. I saw no one yesterday from the time Kimmie left in the morning till she returned at dusk. No one phoned. I did not stir from the house into the gray rain. But the day felt productive to me, so I was happy. I moved slowly from one activity to another, but by and large, I did not waste my time.

Commuting to work, for example, is a waste of one's time (apart from all its other negative attributes). I don' t do that. Going out to lunch while one is at work is, generally, a waste of time and money. I don't do that either. Preparing to go to work--dressing, grooming oneself, and so on--may not exactly be a waste of time, but it can be an irksome, unwelcome chore. I don't do that either. I shave, dress, and so on before I leave the house--when I'm ready, not under the gun first thing in the morning.

All these facts make my life appear leisurely. But as I looked at it yesterday, I waste very little time. First thing, out of bed, I make the coffee and then hit the office, studying my PC's operating system, then typing research notes from highlighted books (for example, from The Roman Conquest of Italy and The Cults of the Roman Empire this morning), then writing my blog-post. Next: breakfast. Almost always cereal, taken in the living-room while reading a magazine. No, not Star Weekly; usually one or other of Scientific American, The Economist, MIT Technology Review, Canadian Geographic, or Popular Science. Then some exercises and stretches, and on to my writing day.

I fix myself some lunch, over which I do more (purposeful) reading. Then comes teeth-brushing etc., and my siesta--necessary to make me more alert in the afternoon, and to prolong my shelf-life a bit in the evening. Then it's on to errands, or, if I have no pressing errands, like yesterday, I can get back to the office and (hopefully) do more. Yesterday it was Project B.

At 3:00 p.m. it's back upstairs to start reading. I make some tea and read from about four books I've got on the go. Yesterday it was Angela's Ashes, Letting Go of the Words, The Roman Conquest of Italy, Six Degrees, and The Act of Creation. Each of these is project-oriented. I'm reading Angela's Ashes mainly so I can better help my mother work on her memoir. Letting Go of the Words is a web-copywriting text (and a very good one). The Roman Conquest of Italy is background for The Mission. Six Degrees is to enlarge my general knowledge of what's happening in the world, and is also background for Project B. The Act of Creation, a psychological text on creativity, I'm reading as part of my ongoing research into the nature of identity--which is really a larger philosophical project.

Often, as yesterday, my reading period is punctuated by a fitness walk with Kimmie when she gets home. We do a brisk walk through the neighborhood, and she can talk about the latest office politics. Then, come 7:00 p.m., Kimmie and I have dinner. My "work" day is over, and I'm ready to watch some TV, usually programming I've borrowed from the library. By 9:30 I'm starting to nod off, and it's time to hit the sack.

Sometimes, watching the news and so on, I think I should be doing more in the world. People are out there, doing stuff, and maybe I should be out there doing stuff too.

But that passes. I'm getting to know myself well enough that I don't feel confused about what I should be doing. A few days ago, maybe while I was lying awake in the night, my true job title came to me: independent thinker. If I had to sum up what I think my function is on planet Earth, that's probably it. The other things that I do--creative works and so on--come out of that. I feel I was put here to think independently.

I feel very good about that. It implies a lot. As vocations go, it's quite rare. Looking around me at the world, it appears that very little true thinking is being done. And of the thinking being done, very little is what I would call independent.

So there you have it: the lifestyle of the independent thinker. Not very appealing, perhaps--unless you happen to be one.

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