“I like this one specific thing an awful lot, I just can’t figure out why.”
Case in point: I enjoy a bonfire, but not hot weather. Why? Bonfires are cozy. Sometimes you cook food on them. Hot weather–and humidity–make me feel as though I’m walking through hot soup. Mystery solved.
Figuring out just what it is I like about certain stories or genres, or what I don’t like, takes a little more mental calisthenics. I’ll go through some warm-up moves first.
I first listened to this story when it aired on the Clarkesworld Magazine Podcast back in April of 2015. That’s about a year and a half ago at this point, and out of all the stories that have aired since, this is the only one I revisit at least once every couple of months. “Postcards” keeps me company on my congested morning commute to my day-job, occasionally during my lunch break, and often during the quiet hour or so I have to myself before I go to sleep at night. It’s pairs excellently with my late evening cup-of-tea-and-cuddling-with-my-cat routine, and so I can reasonably extrapolate that it would pair well with people who have similar morning routines, too. (I don’t understand Morning People, but my partner assures me that they are not a myth and do actually exist.)
…That’s an understatement. I’ve actually got any number of ideas cooking at any given time, but most of them just hang out on the back burner.
But anyway, about this particular idea: Witches in the city. What sort of life would a trainee witch experience living in a run-down urban tenement? What work would she do to pay her rent while eking out precious time for her craft? What kind of friends would she have? Family? …A cat?
Definitely a cat.
I like this idea a lot, which could be a problem, because at present I have morethanenough other ideas simmering in various states of incomplete-ness over at my AO3 account. Interspersed amongst time spent on those fics are various and sundry original ideas that have taken the form of both short stories and outlines for longer works. Many of these ideas I have chosen to let go, and I do this in large part thanks to an article I read some time ago on the concept of idea debt. Here’s the most salient point from that article:
“Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.“ -Jessica Abel, “Imagining your future projects is holding you back“
The concept of idea debt hits home for me because it has been applicable to almost every creative endeavor I’ve ever undertaken. …or, more to the point, every creative endeavor I’ve devoted lots of thought towards undertaking, but barely managed to scratch out more than a few hundred words towards an actual draft. In my experience, it’s a terribly intoxicating headspace to occupy, and I compare it a lot to worrying: my brain turns the project ideas over and over again in my head to such an extent that I feel as though I have accomplished something towards completing my project (or solving my problems). But in reality, just as with worrying, when I stop thinking about my project and don’t begin working on it (or solving my problems), I’ve made no tangible progress. And sometimes–or, in my case, nearly always–the guilt sets in, and I create nothing.
You can imagine how that guilt builds and builds upon itself, the more idea debt I accumulate. …possibly it has this in common with actual debt, but that’s a bit beyond the scope (and emotional capacity) of this blog.
So how does one alleviate some of this debt? The solution as outline in Jessica Abel’s blog is deceptively simple, and is one that she obviously struggles with: let the ideas go.
“But,” some corner of my brain protests anxiously, “what about This Idea? This Idea is so good! You’ve had This Idea for so long! You just haven’t had the chance to properly explore and work on This Idea! Don’t throw it out just yet!”
I strongly believe that the answer to this needy corner of my brain is, on the whole, a very firm no–but! I do like that Jessica Abel explores a very important aspect of the debt allegory by discussing idea investment. Because she highlights two things that distinguish idea debt from idea investment: a work plan with steps in it that the writer actually completes, and the production of a deliverable.
So, to bring this meandering detour of a blog post back to the original subject of my city witches idea–which is it? Idea debt or idea investment?
At this point, it’s kind of hard to say. (To be fair, it’s hard to determine which is which with my WIPs on AO3, too.) But that’s why I’m going to follow Jessica Abel’s model and make a plan, even if that plan is just a promise to myself, on this blog post, that I will:
continue working on my AO3 WIPs as I am able; I am a full-time, part-time writer, after all.
decide whether my city witches idea debt might pay off this November during NaNoWriMo. Did I mention that I’m participating in that this year? Hey, I’m participating in that this year!
…and with that, I think I’ve just about reached the end of this blog post. Let’s end by highlighting what’s on the radio.
That’s what I am. I think it’s just about time that I fully embrace the mantle of the part-time writer, without passing a value judgment on this decision.
In the spirit of both embracing the reality of things as they are (and in an effort to act decisively instead of dithering around, as I have been), I’ve decided to use this space as a kind of amalgam of what my Goodreads account used to be, and what my more informal blogs ought to be. I’ll record here what I’m reading–or, more accurately, what I’m listening to, as most of the fiction I consume currently comes to me in podcast format–and also discuss, a bit, my existing writing projects.
I know. Groundbreaking stuff. Throw a rock into the internet ether, and you’ll hit at least a dozen blogs just like this one. That’s all right; fortunately, this exercise is more for me, and to keep me motivated to critically analyze my tastes and my fiction-writing habits. Think of it as a meandering roadtrip; I’m happy to have guests along for the ride, but it is, at the end of the day, my ride, and I’m behind the steering wheel. Don’t touch the radio.
Speaking of what is on the radio, here are a couple channels my radio is most often tuned into:
Pseudopod, hosted by Alasdair Stuart and part of EscapeArtists, Inc., a podcast devoted to short works of original horror fiction. All podcasts produced by EA, Inc. are excellent, but I discovered Pseudopod first and, as such, it will always be my favorite. Each week, different voice talent is brought on to narrate stories, and I especially appreciate Pseudopod’s willingness to seek out narrators from diverse backgrounds. The stories published to Pseudopod are different flavors of frightening and include elements of Lovecraftian horror alongside the things that unnerve us about every day living. Nothing published here is horror for the sake of shock value, which I appreciate, and works with particularly disturbing content come with trigger warnings.
The Clarkesworld Podcast, hosted and narrated by Kate Baker, is a podcast produced by Clarkesworld Magazine, which publishes works of original science fiction and fantasy. Clarkesworld stories run the emotional gamut and often playfully bend genres in order to tell a compelling story, but the ones that most stick with me are the ones that end with optimism. Kate Baker is gifted at conveying each character she voices.
My personal writing projects (both in progress, and what’s coming down the tubes) will have to wait for the next leg of this weird trip. There’s lots to talk about–fun stuff, silly stuff, gratingly intolerable stuff–and this was just supposed to be my way of saying hi/hello/get out while you still can, etc.