Back on January 4, I wrote about the projects I believed God was guiding me to work on for 2011. What struck me about them at the time was how mundane they were — no grand public gestures or insurmountable obstacles, just stuff-around-the-house kinds of things. I was a little put out, until I realized that a) part of the purpose was to focus me by getting me to concentrate on fewer activities than usual, and b) the underlying subtext was that I was right where God wanted me for now.
So that’s all right, then. But how am I doin’ with what God has me doin’? Four and a half weeks into the new year, that seems like a good question to ask. So why don’t I take a look, and see how well I’ve been keeping up …
To recap, the list of projects (edited for space) was:
- Write — specifically, finish “Hearts and Souls” (the Iron Man fanfic I’ve been working on since last summer) and the follow-up vignettes I’ve had in mind, working on it every day, as well as doing this blog.
- Read — science fiction in particular, with a goal of reducing the list of Hugo-, Nebula- and Locus-nominated novels I haven’t yet read from its current total of 290 or so to below 200.
- Clean up the office — including sorting all the photographs, storing the dry/canned goods that we can use but don’t have room for in the kitchen, filing away documents, sorting (and sorting out) books, etc.
- Manage my Legends of Baseball fantasy team.
And what’s been accomplished so far?
1. The Writing — that, for me, has been the toughest, and the one where I’ve accomplished the least. Despite being charged to write something each day, there have been many, many days where I didn’t add a single word to the world’s literature. My blog posting has been spotty, not helped by the fact that Sean has had so many doctor’s appointments over the last few weeks that I felt compelled to keep putting off a full update on his condition. (The last of those will be Friday, and I plan to start writing the update Friday night. If it kills me.) Still, I’ve had worse months, I guess.
I got really lazy on “Hearts and Souls,” though, forgetting one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned about writing — namely, don’t let not knowing where the story is going stop you from writing the darn thing. You have to trust God that He’ll use the gift in you, and trust yourself to let Him … and, in a way, trust your characters to do whatever they’re going to do. (As any fiction writer can tell you, characters take on a life of their own, to the point that the writer him/herself is surprised by what they do next.) Finally last Sunday, when Nina and the kids were sorta-watching the Pro Bowl, I locked myself in the office and banged out the rest of chapter 7, posting it later that night. (You can read it here.) Monday, I whipped up a basic outline for chapter 8. And yesterday I … did nothing. I plan to get back on the horse tonight and start the chapter — even if all I get typed is the title and disclaimer.
2. The Reading — much better on this front. In January I completed nine of the novels on my way-too-long list:
- Leigh Kennedy, The Journal of Nicholas the American (very good; I definitely sympathized with the protagonist’s struggles)
- R.A. Lafferty, Fourth Mansions (pretty awful — a disorganized plot, stagy and cumbersome dialogue, and a truly loopy premise; it came out in 1971, and probably wouldn’t have been published five years before or after that)
- Robert Heinlein, Have Space Suit – Will Travel (seriously outdated — the characters still thought slide rules were pretty neat — but a fun yarn nonetheless; I did this one on audiobook)
- Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (very dystopian, but well-written and exciting)
- China Mieville, The City and the City (weird, dark, mind-bending and yet still fun … in short, a China Mieville novel)
- Cherie Priest, Boneshaker (I’m not partial to steampunk, but this was better than most)
- D.G. Compton, The Steel Crocodile (for a 40-year-old British book, it pretty well prefigured our current obsession with national security, and asked some good questions about how to keep one’s faith and freedom in a “voyeur society”)
- John Kessel, Good News from Outer Space (a bit of a sprawling mess — it just felt like it was trying too hard)
- Samuel Delany, Triton (okay for a while, but goes down too many rabbit trails, and the final plot twist lands flat as a crepe)
So, some I liked, some I didn’t, but all of them I finished. Leaving about 279 to go … but at current rate, I should reach my goal (below 200) with a couple months to spare. And I’ve already started Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica …
3. The Cleaning — has gone a little too well, maybe. By January 15, I’d pretty much accomplished most of what I thought would take me the whole month: clearing the boxes and boxes of stuff off of the office floor. A lot of things got hauled away to Goodwill, a lot of the rest got trashed or recycled, some of the rest was transferred to smaller boxes. I found a way to use up 20 cans (close to a gallon) of V-8 by making their contents the base for the World’s Healthiest Vegetable Soup. I moved all of my mom’s photographs to the office closet (space was available once all the Christmas/birthday gifts were given out), with a plan to attack those after we get our tax refund in March so I can invest in a whole lot of photo albums.
Now there are only four boxes left on the office floor: one full of the remaining dry/canned goods that don’t fit in the kitchen cabinets (well, they’d fit, but we wouldn’t be able to get at them too easily …), one small one with some bumper stickers Mom made up and never distributed (anyone want an “Another Pushy Broad for Christ!” sign for their car?), an empty for the next Goodwill run, and a plastic bin containing thirty or so baseball books to take to the next SABR meeting in March. And that’s part of the next stage in cleaning up the office — clearing out all the books we don’t plan to read again, so we’ll have room for more books we do want to read. I thought that might take all month, too … but I’ve already gone through three of the eight bookshelves, so I’m cautiously optimistic.
4. The Fantasy Team — I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was up to my chin in an Excel spreadsheet, planning for the upcoming Legends of Baseball player draft. Well, it’s done now — it took two and a half weeks, but it’s done, as are the “draft boards” I derived from it. The actual player selections start next Monday, one round a day for 40 days, and I feel as ready as I’ve ever felt. Time will tell what the results will be, but I’m (again) cautiously optimistic. It didn’t hurt that in the ballpark draft, where I had the ninth selection, I was still able to get my #1 choice for home park, Turner Field in Atlanta. (Yeah, the simulation software even uses real ballparks and factors their tendencies into the games. It’s a heckuva league.)
All in all, progress is being made. And this isn’t all I’ve done. I installed a new, more secure mailbox so no one can steal my wife’s disability checks or our Netflix DVDs. (Yes, that actually happened. I hope the thief likes the BBC’s 1990 version of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster, ’cause that’s what they got.) I mowed the strip of foliage between the sidewalk in front of our house and the street (there’s no curb there), then poured 80 pounds of rock salt on it so I won’t have to do it ever again. I sprayed enough Weed-B-Gone on the backyard to (I hope) get rid of every bit of ground cover that isn’t Bermuda grass (and I’m planning a second dose for the weekend after next). And I’ve been researching the upcoming Academy Awards for my annual predictions column (we’re about three weeks away from that). Plus cooking dinners, taking care of Sean, playing with Charlotte, balancing the checkbook … all the daily whatnot. No dust on me, that’s for certain. And I still have time for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode or an online game of Scrabble.
Just goes to show that when you follow God’s plan, you never lack for something to do. Good times.