21 April 2004
Sometime around now is my anniversary of chucking the whole mess: UCDavis, Lawrence Livermore, grad school, research, physics. Sometimes around now is when I kicked over the traces. It was four years ago, April something of 2000. I know it couldn't have been the 23rd, because that's marked in my journal as Easter, and my folks were in town, and I didn't make the decision until the week after, until after they'd gone home. I wrote in my journal on the 21st, four years ago today, "I keep thinking, 'What am I doing here?' I do not anticipate my second class being more worthwhile than my first. Maybe I'll sneak out early. Maybe I'll run off and join the circus." And yet...and yet. I wrote in my journal every day for the weeks around there. Every day. And not a word about it on that day, whatever the date was, all words about story ideas, about family and friends, scene snippets, but nothing about changing my career and my self-concept in one fell swoop.
Finally on May 2, 2000, we come to, "What if this is too much for me? What if the problem was not physics but me?" Clearly, I have left physics by then. Clearly, it terrifies me. So...sometime in that ten day period, in went the towel.
And I wrote on without a word directly about it.
Guy Gavriel Kay, in The Last Light of the Sun: "We like to believe we can know the moments we'll remember of our own days and nights, but it isn't really so. The future is an uncertain shape (in the dark) and men and women know that. What is less surely understood is that this is true of the past as well. What lingers, or comes back unsummoned, is not always what we would expect, or desire to keep with us."
It's sometimes true, but I don't forget the moment I quit physics, the very moment, the way the light was in the window and what my head felt like and the whole bit. That has stayed with me, as I knew it would. The exact date, though...not the important part. Is the figure lingering in Guy Gavriel Kay's dusk standing two feet away or twenty-five inches? That's not really the key.
Some important days in my past feature the declarative paper journal statement, lines like, "We got engaged." Others are more opaque: "Oh, thank God" and "Well, that's settled" and the like, with no further words about what's settled or why I'm relieved.
All this by way of saying: I make no claims of being a reliable narrator in this forum. Honest, yes; complete, no. If I don't record every important event in explicit detail in my private paper journals, why on earth would I do so here? Like the lady says, we choose what to tell and what to leave out every time we write a sentence; that's how writing works.
But still: late April is when I made my life go off this way. I have a hard time now seeing how I even pictured it before. Still in California? Probably. This many books and stories? I don't know. I don't remember. I wasn't supposed to write Fortress when I did, so probably not. I just don't know how it goes without them any more.
It seems like I should have some kind of celebration, but I don't know what, and when I think about it some more, it feels like the last four years have been that kind of celebration all together. Yay for doing what I like. Yay for books.
I'm in a bit more of a yay mood, having finished this pass through Reprogramming. I still have to type in all the changes and implement the scribbled notes in actual prose. Some of them are things like "check this" on a sequential weather reference. Others are "show this," scenelets that will be half a page or more. I've decided against some major new characters -- they would end up making the book too...wordy, I think. They'd be fairly low action characters in this book but would have things to actually do in the sequel and would not cause problems being introduced there. Also I don't know if the sequel is first-person (as Reprogramming is) and, if so, whether the first-person is the same. That's all right: I don't have to know that just now. Here's the scenario in which I would have to write Command Line as my next book: the editor who receives Reprogramming in the mail next week adores is so much that it will be published immediately, like, rushed to press within the next month because the publisher just cannot wait to get this instant classic under readers' eyes, with the sequel instantly prepared for the hordes of adoring fans flocking to my doorstep. So -- riiiiiight, then. Highly likely. Failing that, I will be writing something else first, most likely several something elses. And happy about it.
Finished The Last Light of the Sun, which I enjoyed pretty well, and made a small start on Sethra Lavode, which I anticipate enjoying. Now: lunch and hanging out and book stuff and house stuff. Okay? Okay.
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