So That Didn’t Work

I’ve said this before, but I don’t set a lot of stock in New Year’s resolutions. So far the only one I’ve ever done that worked was in 2017 when I resolved to listen to at least one song every day without doing anything else at the same time (a practice I would highly recommend for anybody trying to find a quiet moment in the midst of 21st-century chaos or reconnect with art in a meaningful way).

However, this new year happened to coincide with a series of circumstances which have forced me to reconsider the way I operate from day to day. The short version is that the class I was supposed to teach was cancelled due to insufficient enrollment, a glitch in the Matrix which might be attributable to an uninspiring–and apparently immutable–course description, the structure of the undergrad English major, the general devaluation of the humanities in American culture, my own lack of appeal as a person, or some combination of all four. The downside is a significant cut to my insignificant paycheck. (There’s no such thing as job security as a graduate student.) The upside is that this leaves me with a more flexible schedule than I have had in the last six years.

As you may have heard me say elsewhere (by which I mean Twitter), I don’t do well with unstructured time (hence the sharp upswing in my Twitter activity of late). As a result I’ve gotten to be very good at structuring my own time when there isn’t an institutional schedule in place to do it for me. But one of my objectives this year is to become less of a slave to structure. If you’ve been following this blog awhile or already clicked on that link at the top, you know I’ve been down this road before. I tried it last year. It did not work.

However, I am nothing if not stubborn, so here we are again. I’ve accepted that a reasonable work-life balance is an unrealistic goal for me, just because of who I am as a person at this particular point in my life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make some changes to the way I work. In addition to feeling generally burned out and overwhelmed, a lot of the joy that writing used to bring me has been replaced by fatalistic dread about what it will (or won’t) amount to in the end. Is this really worth my time? Will it be worth a publisher’s money? Will it grab a journal’s interest? Worry about that sort of stuff for long enough, and it’ll make you hate something you used to love.

This is not to say I hate writing. This is to say I hate the anxieties that come with writing for publication. Unfortunately, if you intend to make a career as a writer (which I still do, with characteristic stubbornness, despite trying and failing to grab a new editor’s interest for the last four years) marketability isn’t something you can afford not to worry about. But perhaps you don’t have to worry about it all the time.

My abstract and belated resolution for 2020 is to worry less and write more with no other end goal in mind than the writing itself. I want to write about stuff I want to write about without worrying whether anybody wants to buy it. To be honest, I want to write without even worrying whether anybody wants to read it. Over the last few months, I’ve been taking baby steps in the right direction. I’ve been following whims and interests which are largely unrelated to my usual fields and genres, and some of those things have been hugely rewarding.

For example:

I’m writing reviews and interviews for The Vinyl District, an online music mag with a pretty wide reach where I have pretty free rein. If you’re curious you can find links here (and keep an eye out in the coming weeks; I have a long interview with one of my favorite cover bands and a piece on Brian Wilson in the pipeline).

Years ago, I was doing record recommendations based on followers’ favorite books. Demand got so out of hand I had to stop doing it, but now I’m back at it, in a more manageable way. I’ve told nobody about this until now. For months it was a sorely needed creative outlet with absolutely zero stakes. If you want, you can find that here.

After teaching a science fiction class last semester, I’ve taken a much deeper dive into space exploration. I applied to participate in the upcoming State of NASA event at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and–to my surprise as much as yours–was actually selected. On February 10th I’ll be touring the facilities (as Cake might put it) and sharing some exciting stuff about the Artemis program, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and future missions to Mars. If you want to follow along with that, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram.

These are just a few of the proverbial irons in the fire. I may not be teaching again until September, but I still have conference papers and a dissertation to write and a novel to sell and an admin job with my university’s MedRen society. All of that keeps me pretty busy. But finding time to write just for the sake of art and curiosity and the craft itself has helped me remember why I wanted to do this in the first place. To that end, I’m hoping to also start posting writing more regularly here. (Don’t worry, it won’t be enough to be annoying.) I’m not sure yet what form that writing will take or if it will find a consistent form at all. The point is to follow my own creative whims and write without worry.

For anyone else feeling burned out or bummed out or just demoralized by how little real reward there often is for the many hours we spend working, I hope you can find time in your life to chase a few butterflies. Indulge yourself. Take a risk. Waste some time. Resist the urge to map every hour of your day or your month and let life catch you by surprise. 2020 promises to be a rough year. If we don’t want to go crazy, we might just have make our own rules and make our own fun and find the things that remind us why we’re toughing it out in the first place.

Good luck and godspeed.

M

Witching Hour Giveaway

Spooky season is upon us, and we’ve loved seeing all your ghastly IWWV snaps, so we’re giving away three signed copies this month! To enter, tag me in your best ghoulish Villains grams and use the hashtag #IWWVwitchinghourgiveaway.

WHGiveaway

Winners will be chosen by the Villains team in the three days leading up to Halloween. First place will have their first choice of English language editions (hardback, paperback, or UK edition), second place will choose from the remaining two, and third place takes the last one. Open to anyone, anywhere. Happy snapping!

M

Shakespeare’s Birth/Deathday

If you’re looking for the perfect gift to celebrate the Bard’s birth/deathday, here are a few ideas. All three of these are now on sale, and you can find them here!

Happy reading.

Dellecher Classical Conservatory 

“We expect you to be dedicated. We expect you to be determined. We expect you to dazzle us. And we do not like to be disappointed.”


Welcome to Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Enrollment begins April 11th, with If We Were Villains.

In the meantime, here’s a look at the school’s coat of arms. Hope you think it’s as awesome as I do.

P. S. It’s pronounced [dell-uh-ker].

–M

Green Eggs and Hamlet

(with my deepest apologies to Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss)

Can I kill my Uncle Claude?
Yes, I can, I can, by God!
I will kill my Uncle Claude!

Should I kill him in the house?
Should I kill him while he’s soused?
I could kill him here or there
I could kill him anywhere
Would I, could I, while he prays?
Kill him! Kill him! Wherefore stay?
I would not, could not, while he prays!

Not in the house, not when he’s soused,
Not with his sister, now his spouse!
Not while he prays, not while he feasts,
O, incestuous, adulterate beast!
I do not like my Uncle Claude,
I do not like that bloody bawd!

Say! In the dark? Here in the dark!
Would I, could I, in the dark?

Should I kill him in his bed?
Should I there strike off his head?
Kill him with his nightcap on?
Kill him when the churchyards yawn?
Should I kill him where he lies?
I will kill him, by and by!
I do not like my Uncle Claude,
I’ll kill him, i’ th’ name of God!

The play! The play! The play’s the thing!
The thing wherein I’ll catch the king!
No more ‘to be or not to be,’
I will kill him, you will see!

Kill him while he wears his crown
Kill him while his guard is down
Kill him with some poisoned wine
Kill him with this sword of mine
O, is the point envenomed, too?
I’m dead–Horatio, adieu!
But tell them, tell them, more or less,
Who it was that made this mess!

I did not like my Uncle Claude,
I killed him in the name of God!
Good friend report my cause aright–
A now, goodnight goodnight goodnight!